We work through advocacy campaigns to address challenges to the historic built environment and to our community’s culture and heritage. Some current examples of our advocacy work include:
The Montreat Conference Center, also known as the Mountain Retreat Association (MRA), has proposed a large new structure for accommodation and meeting space on the property where Galax House, Chestnut Lodge, and the Lord Apartments now sit. Their proposal includes the demolition of these three existing lodges and destruction of 59 mature trees on the property.
What is at stake with this proposal is not just a few old buildings, but the historic marker of the birth of this community. Now, the Town of Montreat holds the power to solidify Montreat as a charming historic mountain retreat. The alternative will be a signal to developers that the door is wide open for the destruction of what makes Montreat so special. There is no doubt that this is a crossroad.
Members of the community have proposed an alternative approach, a Village Concept, however, the MRA has rejected this alternative and officially and explicitly closed the door to any further dialogue with those who seek an alternative. MRA has submitted a permit application to the Town of Montreat for their original proposal and as of this publication, the Board of Adjustment hearing is ongoing.
Saving these buildings may not be the easiest or the most profitable way for the MRA to reach their goals, however, it is what is best for the future of the entire community and will not prevent the MRA from developing a successful project. We urge the MRA and the Town of Montreat to make decisions with the whole community in mind.
PSABC has provided support and expertise, but the fight has been led by the local community including the Montreat Stewards. We thank them for their dedication to this important effort!
For more on Montreat and these lodges, visit our website at PSABC.org and read Dale Slusser Architectural Tidbits on the topic.
For more information about how you can get involved and updates on this demolition threat, visit montreat-stewards.org
Thomas Wolfe Cabin
In the spring of 2012, PSABC proposed a Partnership Agreement with the City of Asheville to perform documentation and provide recommendations for preservation of the Thomas Wolfe Cabin. PSABC undertook a conditions assessment and a visioning process to identify potential future uses of the site. PSABC formed two task forces from the ranks of staff, Board, members and volunteers to document the physical condition of the structure with recommendations for stabilization and to provide suggestions for uses that would celebrate the unique cultural significance of the site while also providing for a new and vital use.
In the summer of 2012, PSABC mobilized a volunteer work crew to clear away overgrowth, facilitate access to the building and slowing moisture-related decay. City staff removed equipment, surplus materials and debris immediately adjacent to the Cabin, which allowed better access for the documenting team as they photographed, examined and prepared drawings of the building.
Because the roof system was in extreme decay, causing extensive water damage to the interior of the cabin and threatening collapse, PSABC secured a donation of temporary roofing materials to aid in stabilization of the structure. Following a hearing by the Historic Resources Commission in April 2014, the City of Asheville removed deteriorated roofing (including tarps applied to the roof within the last ten years) and the rear kitchen addition, which was determined to not be of historic significance to the Cabin. With funding from the city General Services Department and utilizing the donated roofing materials, city staff installed a temporary roof and shored up the front porch and rear log wall, buying time for additional planning and design for the site.
In the fall of 2014, PSABC’s Board of Directors voted unanimously to offer continued support for preservation of the Wolfe Cabin. That support continues today through the work of our Endangered Properties Committee which seeks to determine and fund the best possible long-term solution for the preserving the Cabin.
The Ivy building is the last historic building that remains from the Catholic girl’s school, Saint Genevieve of the Pines (SGP). Sited on the existing Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College, they have been awarded 1.5 million dollars from the state to renovate the building. Alumni from SGP/Gibbons Hall are working with AB Tech to fund an additional $500,000 to support a true restoration of the first floor auditorium/gym. The lower level that housed the locker room and cafeteria will be the new home of the Foundation and Advancement offices for the college.
Stephens-Lee High School Museum and Equity Loop Trail Proposal
Stephens-Lee High School Museum: The Stephens-Lee High School will house a museum whose dynamic programming will provide inspiration to youth and facilitate an appreciation for the significant role of African-Americans in Asheville’s history. The mission of the Museum is to educate the public about the school, its students and administrators’ contributions and experiences; to provide research materials for scholars, students and others; and to promote public programming, educational opportunities, interactive informational exhibits and community outreach in the framework of social well-being and collective, positive impact.
Equity Loop Trail: Equity for Asheville’s rich African-American heritage through a 0.7 mile expansion (an Equity Loop) of the Urban Trail to include six African-American cultural and historical markers and four original free-standing artworks. The loop will begin and end near the current Urban Trail endpoint in the historic and dynamic area “The Block”. The route would extend from Market Street to the Historic Stephens-Lee Center, through the George Washington Carver-Bountiful Cities Gardens, to the Historic Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church and 1830s Slave Village.
Contact Jack Thomson at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about any of these projects.