By Emma Castleberry
In recognition of National Preservation Month, the Preservation Society of Asheville and Buncombe County (PSABC) will host the Griffin Awards recognizing outstanding projects and individuals that further the goals of historic preservation in and around Asheville. “So often our work is in response to a threat: an important place is going to be demolished or new development is threatening the historic character of a neighborhood,” says Jack Thomson, executive director of PSABC. “The Griffin Awards are a chance for us to recognize and celebrate the successes in our community. These are people dedicated to preserving what makes Asheville so special—one house, church, or restaurant at a time.”
Also in May, PSABC will announce the distribution of its first-ever preservation grants. These grants will support projects in three categories: brick and mortar, research and education, and planning, survey and designation. “As PSABC grows, we have the exciting opportunity to offer more support to the preservation efforts in Buncombe County,” says Thomson. “We are always looking to respond to the needs of the community and what better way than through a grant program?” Thomson says these grants also provide a tool for preservation work in undeserved and rural communities. “We tend to hear from the masses about a threat in our downtown, for example, but we also want to lend a hand, when appropriate, to the folks out in Sandy Mush,” he says. “The biggest challenge we face in this effort is to get the message of the grant program out to the people who need it the most.” This round of grants will be chosen from six applications and another round of grants will be distributed later this year.
PSABC is constantly working behind the scenes to preserve the beautiful structures that make our communities special. Here are three long-term preservation projects that are worth celebrating:
Patton Parker House
Built in 1869, the Patton Parker property has a long and storied past as a Civil War camp, home to Asheville mayor Thomas Patton and the location of the first meeting of the North Carolina suffragettes. The Parker family recently decided to sell the home after 140 years of family ownership. PSABC helped the Parkers market the home with a preservation easement, or permanent protection by deed. It took three years, but the Patton Parker House has now found new life as a law office.
The Kent Building
Located in the River Arts District (RAD), the Kent building was built in 1923 and named for local businessman Fred Kent and housed the Biltmore Wheat Hearts breakfast cereal company. As the industry died off, this building, like so many others in the RAD, fell into disrepair. It was recently saved in 2018, when developers purchased the building and through PSABC used a preservation easement to protect it permanently.
Thomas Wolfe Cabin
In the summer of 1937, Thomas Wolfe finally did “go home again” to Asheville, renting a log cabin in Oteen, where he stayed to focus on his writing. The City of Asheville owns this 1920s-era cabin and it has long sat deteriorating. In 2014, PSABC contributed the funding necessary to stabilize the cabin and is now partnering with the City to find a sustainable next use for this important place.
For more information, visit PSABC.org.