I am proud to share the news that Blake House has just been accepted to the National Register of Historic Places! Yes, after a long 3-year process, the consulting firm, Terracon Consultants, Inc., prepared the nomination and it was accepted in August. Many thanks go to Lorraine Norwood, M.A., CRM Manager, Courtney Vuturo, M.A., Historian, and Nancy McReynolds, MHP, Architectural Historian for their tireless work and for putting up with my inquiries. It was all worth it!
I found these great ladies of Terracon when Courtney stayed at the Inn in 2007 and we got to talking about my desire to get the house on the National Register and Courtney mentioned their desire to break into the area. Based in Atlanta, doing this job in Asheville would be a great opportunity for their company and I had no idea where to start, so I took it as a sign that this relationship was meant to be. And it was!
I still have no idea of all the work that went into this nomination and the research they had to do to dig up some of the history they did, but I am excited to share some of the information from the application. I am making a copy for the Inn’s history binder so guests are encouraged to check it out during their stay.
Here’s some of the more interesting facts:
- There are 4 areas of qualification where an applicant to the NRHP can base their significance on – Blake House is significant based on #3 below.
- Event(s) – a property is associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history.
- Person – a property is associated with the lives of persons significant in our past.
- Architecture – a property embodies the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction or represents the work of a master, or possesses high artistic values, or represents a significant and distinguishable entity whose components lack individual distinction.
- Property has yielded, or is likely to yield, information important in prehistory or history.
- The application includes a Summary and Setting, Exterior description, Interior description, and Integrity Statement which sums up the architectural significance of the house.
- Under the Statement of Significance, there is a section on Historical Background (this is the good stuff on the Blakes and all other owners). Here’s what I learned about the Blake family:
- The opening of the Buncombe Turnpike in 1828 promoted travel between Greenville, TN & Greenville, SC and encouraged more people to come to the mountains in WNC. This Turnpike brought many wealthy landowners from SC to visit Flat Rock and Hendersonville.
- Between 1827 and 1840, Daniel Blake acquired over 5,000 acres of land in Henderson and Buncombe Counties.
- Daniel was descended from a prominent SC family, whose founder, Benjamin Blake, arrived in the province in 1683 and was given large land grants in Colleton County, SC where he established large plantations.
- Benjamin’s son, Joseph, became the proprietary Governor of SC from 1694 to 1695 and 1696 through 1700. He acquired even more property, 6,000 acres, and his wife, Elizabeth, was given a plantation called Newington in 1711 from her mother (this is significant later). After her husband died, Elizabeth lived in the home with her son, Col. Joseph Blake. The Newington mansion burned down in 1845 and remained in ruins until it was sold in 1875 and leased to the US Government for an experimental tea farm. The land now makes up the Newington Plantation Estates in Summerville, SC.
- Joseph’s son, Daniel, was born in 1803 in England and was educated at St. Johns College in Cambridge. Daniel married Emma Rutledge and they had 6 children, Frederick Rutledge Blake, Francis Daniel Blake, Arthur Middleton Blake, Henry Middleton Blake, Frances Helen Blake, and Henrietta Louisa Blake, but Emma died in 1853. Daniel married Helen Craig of New York in 1856 and they had three more children.
- Daniel Blake is listed in the 1860 Census as owning 527 slaves in SC. WHAT?!! This comes from The Sixteen Largest American Slaveholders from 1860 Slave Census Schedules. I must admit to being ashamed to know this information about this family that has been so romanticized in my thoughts.
- In 1870 Blake House eventually ended up with Daniel’s son, Frederick Blake, a commissioned officer in the Confederate Army who was wounded at the Battle of Cold Harbor, and he named the mansion Newington, in remembrance of the Newington home that had been in his family until it burned down in 1845. Frederick married Olivia Middleton in 1865 and they had four children: Edmund Molyneux Blake, Daniel Blake, Emma Rutledge Blake, and Eliza Fisher Blake.
- In 1891, Dr. Blake and his wife sold the property to their daughter, Eliza Fisher Blake for $3,000. Eliza was called “the spinster in Newington” and she was the last Blake to occupy the house. She lived in the house until 1925 when the estate was sold for $60,000 and the 516-acre parcel was subdivided into a planned division called Royal Pines. The Royal Pines community was advertised as a high class residential section from one of the Oldest and Finest Estates in NC. These plans may have come to fruition had not the Great Depression hit the country in the late 1920s and 1930s. By 1940, the developer that had bought the land, defaulted on its loan and the subdivision was sold to the highest bidders.
- In July 1940, John DuBose purchased several parcels, including Blake House, for $2,500. Mr. DuBose sold Blake House to his niece, Ms. Rainsford Fairbanks DuBose MacDowell in July 1943. Ms. MacDowell, from Gaffney, SC, used Blake House as their summer home. While the house had been empty during the Great Depression, it had become quite dilapidated and the MacDowell family had to do a lot of restoration on the inside, although most of the exterior had stayed intact.
- Ms. MacDowell lived in the house until she sold it to Mr. Jonathan Jones in 1973 for $29,000. The Jones family resided in the house until they sold it in May 1980. Between 1980 and 1990, the house was bought and sold 3 times, until it was turned into a bed and breakfast inn in the mid-1990s. Since then, it has remained a B&B.
I have the entire application, including the full description of the property and it’s available for anyone interested in reading about this fascinating property.
I’m not exactly sure what all the benefits are to having a National Register property, other than the satisfaction and prestige in knowing that I had something to do with getting it there. I’ve been told there are certain tax benefits as they relate to renovations to the property, but I have some questions to ask to find out how this works.
For now I will bask in a little of the glory and will make some plans to celebrate this nomination with a party at the Blake House. I’m not sure when that will be, but I will post something as soon as I know!