By Frances Figart
Situated on a hillside at the intersection of Tunnel Road and Swannanoa River Road, you might be surprised to stumble upon a group of historic log cabins. Originally developed as a mountain resort almost a century ago, this rustic neighborhood is home to an eclectic mix of residents and has recently become revitalized.
“Over the past 20 years, Homeland Park has transformed from a somewhat sleepy neighborhood to a vibrant community,” says Susan Rhew, who owns three of the cabins, and lives in a carriage house she designed and built in 2009. Residents chat from their covered front porches, help one another with lawn care, offer assistance if someone has a crisis and get together for community gatherings with shared food and music provided by neighborhood musicians.
The old-timey butt-style log structures, set quite close together on narrow lanes, are solidly built with chinking construction, fieldstone fireplaces and heart-ofpine flooring. Architecturally interesting because the logs are not hewn but whole stripped (the ends aren’t even notched), the cottages are home to students, teachers, health practitioners, corporate employees, retirees, business owners, artists and designers, as well as many others who love Asheville’s inclusive lifestyle.
The 45-acre Homeland Park Resort was developed in the early 1930s and boasted about 65 fully furnished cabins and cottages where vacationers from Florida, Georgia and South Carolina could stay to experience the temperate climate and the beauty of the mountains. Back then, the resort was located just outside Asheville, and had its own 200-capacity restaurant, gift shop, mail room, porter and maid services and a laundry piping underground steam heat to the cabins. Guests could enjoy hiking trails, picnic grounds and horseback riding. The recreation park on Lake Craig just across the hill offered residents a swimming pool and music/dance venue.
By the 1950s, Asheville had expanded to literally surround the once remote resort. For a time part of the development was owned by the enterprising Vaughn J. Cannon, referred to in newspapers as ‘the slot machine king of Buncombe County.’
A later owner, W.H. Rhodes, sold Ruth Sult her cabin in 1954 for $5,000. She raised four children in it and still lives there today; her son Fred and daughter Judy both live nearby in the neighborhood. “My house was built in 1935,” Sult recalls. “When we moved in it was fully furnished and there was a shuffleboard court right out back.”
Eventually all of the cabins were sold as private residences. A few fell into disrepair, but nothing could diminish the rustic charm provided by the architecture of the original structures and the close-knit design of the little neighborhood on an oak-shaded knoll. Now many have been completely renovated to provide modern amenities.
“My house used to be just a little two-bedroom cottage but it has doubled in size today,” says Sult.
Each of Rhew’s cabins has been redesigned and renovated. Sarah’s Cabin is named for Sarah Groves of Jacksonville, FL, who bought it in 1952 after visiting the resort for many years. Rhew calls one Love Cabin because “tenants tend to conceive while living here.” Home Cabin was Rhew’s home for 13 years before she built one of the few new homes in the neighborhood.
Mary Castiglione of Black Mountain makes her three fully renovated cabins, Robin’s Nest, Hooty’s Roost and Silver Moon, available as furnished monthly rentals. She says maintaining the neighborhood’s original vintage flavor with modern updates was a creative process.
“You never know what you’ll discover when you begin the renovation process,” Castiglione says. “I found several early 1950s issues of the Asheville Citizen Times that were used as insulation behind sheetrock walls that had been installed over original logs in one cabin and a couple of faded love letters that were hidden away in the flooring of another. It has been gratifying to observe and be part of the revitalization of this unique little neighborhood.”
For more information, see ashevillecozylogcabins.com.