Archive for the ‘NRHP’ Category

4 Reasons to Stay at a B&B Instead of a Hotel When Visiting Asheville, NC

January 15th, 2011 by Skyla Grimes

2011 is shaping up to be a year of ups and downs.  Many things are going up in price, including gas and groceries. Airfare rates and fees are also looking to increase.  On the bright side, the economy appears to be inching slowly into a recovery and people can afford to take vacations this year. As a small B&B owner and local resident of Asheville, I am doing my part to help our guests maintain a reasonable vacation budget.

Room rates at Blake House are not going up this year and all rooms in the main house are $150/night or less (double occupancy).  PLUS, a full gourmet breakfast is included in the nightly rate.

While you can find cheaper places to stay like an area motel or hotel, if you are looking for a complete experience, why not stay at an Asheville B&B?  Blake House is pet- and child-friendly. The perception that B&Bs are exclusive and too expensive is just not true.  Let me list just a few of the things about a B&B that recommend it as an accommodation people need to consider:

  1. Uniqueness – Every B&B is different from every other B&B. In other words, no two B&Bs are alike and no 2 rooms within a B&B are alike.  That’s because the majority of B&Bs are in historic homes where the craftsmanship and quality of construction tend to be better (thus, the reason they are still standing after hundreds of years), making each room a study in history. I have nothing against hotels, but if the walls could talk in a hotel, what do you think they’d say? In a historic B&B, you may very well find out what the walls have said because many are on National and/or Local Historical Registers and much of the historical information has been researched and provided for guests’ entertainment. Also part of the character of an historic house are the quirks and creaks that make it unique. Some houses may even be haunted by past occupants (if you’re into that kind of thing).
  2. Personal Service & Area Knowledge – Some of the best tour guides and keepers of knowledge about all things Asheville are your local innkeepers. Innkeepers are fantastic resources of information on where to go to eat and experience this wonderful city.  They have intimate knowledge of the good, the great, and the avoidable places and they are more than willing to share their opinions and experiences with their guests.  This is an often overlooked benefit for guests, but its priceless when you consider your overall experience.  The average hotel concierge may or may not even live around the hotel where they work and, therefore, may or may not have intimate knowledge of the area.  Hotels tend to refer guests to the big attractions and places where the hotel has a financial interest.  If you really want to have a great time in Asheville, trust your innkeeper to provide personal service with a strong desire for you to enjoy your entire trip.
  3. Home-made Gourmet Breakfasts – While breakfast is also offered at hotels, most are offering breakfast buffets for hundreds of guests. The average B&B is serving breakfast to a much, much smaller group of guests and you know it was made fresh and brought to you straight from the oven and had not been sitting under heat lamps for extended periods of time. Innkeepers are quite adept at working around dietary restrictions (with advance notice) and in a city like Asheville, it is not uncommon to have guests with food restrictions. When you look at breakfast in the context of the overall B&B experience, it becomes a more personal experience as well. Guests get to meet and chat with other guests, sharing their experiences in the city thus far and trading information about where they live, what brought them to Asheville, etc., etc.  Do you ever speak to anyone at a hotel breakfast other than your server?  I have seen so many guests make new acquaintances/friends during breakfast and exchange contact information afterwards. How cool is that? Yeah, MacDonald’s and Denny’s are cheaper, but can they really compare to the B&B breakfast experience?
  4. The Best in Amenities – While historical houses suggest that everything inside is antiquated, that couldn’t be further from the truth.  The majority of B&Bs have been retrofitted and renovated with modern conveniences, including individual bathrooms for each guestroom, central heat and air conditioning, wi-fi, TVs and DVD players, ipod/cd docking stations, and so on.  Yeah, some do it better than others, but in some cases, it’s not possible to totally modernize a centuries-old house without defiling the integrity of the original structure. So, we work around those inconveniences as best as possible. B&Bs also include many freebies that the average hotel/motel does not, including snacks and homemade goodies for the guests, free movies for guests to watch and games for guests to amuse themselves with. Think any of these things are free or even offered at hotels?

So when you consider your next trip, be it for business or pleasure, consider the B&B. They may not be out of your price range. Call and speak to the innkeeper before making your reservation so you can “meet” first and you can get a feel for that particular B&B and whether or not it fits with what you are looking for. Remember that every B&B is different so if one is not to your liking, there are many more to choose from.  Figure out what is most important to you in your stay and find out from the innkeeper if they can fill your needs.

Blake House is located in the city limits of Asheville, but we are not in downtown and while a 15-minute drive to downtown from the Inn doesn’t seem like a lot of time, for some it is and I understand that.  What’s great about South Asheville is that it is building up quickly, having added the Biltmore Square Town Center with a modern movie theater, a handful of restaurants, and boutiques. South Asheville also has several fabulous independent restaurants and some of the downtown restaurants are opening South Asheville locations (Tupelo Honey Cafe and Fiore’s Ristorante Toscana is coming soon).  Before long, South Asheville will be as big as downtown and guests will have to think of reasons to leave our south location. This South Asheville B&B plans to keep its room rates affordable and our guests as happy and comfortable as possible.

Mention this blog post when making your reservation and receive $10 off your total, in addition to any other special/discount you may qualify for.

Making the National Register of Historic Places

September 28th, 2010 by Skyla Grimes

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.
    1. Event(s) – a property is associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history.
    2. Person – a property is associated with the lives of persons significant in our past.
    3. 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.
    4. 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!

Series: National Register of Historic Places Nomination

February 17th, 2010 by Skyla Grimes

S. Lorraine Norwood, MA, RPA
Senior Associate
Manager, CRM/NEPA Department
Terracon
2855 Premiere Parkway, Suite C I Duluth, Georgia 30097
P [770] 623-0755, ext. 304 I F [770] 623-9628 I M [678] 372-3770
slnorwood@terracon.com

I’m happy to report that we’re coming down the home stretch on listing the marvelous Blake House on the National Register of Historic Places. Ann Swallow, the National Register Coordinator with the State Historic Preservation Office, has completed a second review of the nomination and supporting documentation.  She has requested some additional information and research, and once this is done, the nomination will be reviewed by the Certified Local Government before heading toward an April deadline for submittal to members of the NRHP review board who meet in June.

As you can see, there are a lot of hoops to jump through to get a property on the National Register!  Before we got to this point, we had to take measurements of all the rooms, windows, and doors, and note whether any architectural changes had been made and when.  Tracking down dates has been very difficult.  We have records from the Buncombe County Tax Assessor and the Deeds Office, but nailing down some subtle and not-so-subtle changes to the house is impossible due to the death of previous owners.  Fortunately we have newspaper clippings, diary entries, old photographs, and archival documents.

One of the most interesting things to come out of the second NRHP review is Ann Swallow’s happy “accident” at finding an exact replica of the Blake House in an 1842 book of house plans called Cottage Residences by Andrew Jackson Downing.  It’s amazing to think that in the 1850s, the Blakes had access to a book of house plans, much like modern consumers have access to plans in “Southern Living” or other architectural books and magazines.  Downing’s drawing of “a cottage in the English, or Rural Gothic Style” is a dead ringer for the Blake House down to the kitchen wing on the rear and the bay window off the parlour.  Downing designed the cottage for what he called “internal convenience”.  By that he meant that there are “many families mainly composed of invalids, or persons advanced in years, who have a strong preference for a plan in which the kitchen, and at least one bedroom, are upon the same floor with the living rooms, and in which there is little or no necessity for ascending or descending stairs; an exercise which, though of little consequence to the young and robust, is of all others the most fatiguing to the infirm, or those in delicate health.”

We’re not sure if the Blake family had a member in delicate health who needed the downstairs bedroom, but that’s part of the additional information which we hope to dig up in the next few weeks.  We do know that at some point, the downstairs bedroom was turned into a doctor’s office for Dr. Frederick Blake, the son of Daniel Blake, a rich South Carolina rice planter, who built the house.  The Blakes were a fascinating family who had ties to Charleston, South Carolina and Hendersonville, North Carolina.  More details and hopefully good news about the nomination in our next blog.

Added by Leslie:

This NRHP nomination has been very long and arduous I’m sure for Lorraine and her team. They first started in July 2007 and so I am very anxious at this point for a resolution.

I have the book that Lorraine mentions above and have taken a few photos so that you can see the similarities. The Parlour and Library are now the Inn’s Dining Rooms, the Bedroom is now the Inn’s Parlor and the entrance from the parking lot, the Kitchen is the Inn’s Rose Room which was my Gift Shop before that and the Labrador Landing Pub when I bought the Inn. Lastly, the Closet & Pantry are now the Inn’s Breakfast Room so you can see they are one room and are closed off from the Dining Room/Library on the other end which used to be open.

This book is available to guests so you will have to check it out when you come.Enjoy the photos!

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