New Gunston Hall
By Dasha Morgan- The Preservation Society of Asheville Buncombe County is once again planning a Traveling Gala with festive music and food all along the way.
On Saturday, September 29th, is the third annual event, and there does promise to be an unexpected “surprise this year.
Approximately 250 guests will be attending this gala, which starts at the historic house, Fernihurst Mansion, on the AB Technical campus, then they will be transported by trolleys to two other stunning houses for more fun and frolic.
Cynthia Watson, who is chairing the event with the able assistance of Jessie Landl, Director of Development, said, “This is one of the most fun evenings I have ever enjoyed! – 3 different parties, at 3 different venues, and a historic trolley to get you there! We are pleased to offer our supporters a different kind of fundraiser- not your usual “rubber-chicken dinner.
This is a way for the Preservation Society to showcase the kind of properties we work so hard to preserve.”
Houses not normally open to the public will be the trolley destinations.
After about an hour of meeting at Fernihurst with its remarkable vistas, visiting with fellow preservation members and learning about the building and its current use, the guests will board a trolley.
Passengers will thoroughly enjoy the ride with live entertainment and perhaps a glass of beer or wine. They then head to either the Chiles House, which was built by the founder of Kenilworth, or to the new Gunston Hall, which is a replica of the original Gunston Hall in Virginia, home to George Mason, father of the Bill of Rights. Altogether, there will be 7 trolleys, half of which will go to one and the other half to the other.
Later in the evening they will be visiting the other house as well.
Over the past few years, the community has given the Preservation Society tremendous support and enabled it to raise funds to preserve the historic charm of Asheville and the surrounding areas.
The Ellington Realty Group, Gray Line Trolleys of Asheville and Biltmore Wine Company are all strong supporters of this gala. Thanks to the generosity of Wendy Newman Designs the sponsors will receive a beautiful “Swag bag” with an approximately value of $300, as they ride to their destinations.
The two houses on the tour, while both steeped in history, are both notably different in style. The Chiles House is a Spanish Revival Villa—with stucco walls and a tile roof; the new Gunston Hall is classic Georgian architecture—symmetrical and made of brick. Both are located in South Asheville and privately owned and lovingly cared for.
James Madison Chiles was a colorful real estate developer of the Kenilworth neighborhood, who hired Ronald Greene, a local prominent architect to design it in the early 1920’s. Greene also designed the iconic Jackson Building in downtown Asheville.
At the end of the 20th century the house fell into disrepair until it was purchased by Vanessa Cram (now Vanessa Cram Byrd) who was honored with the Griffin Award by the Preservation Society of Asheville & Buncombe County for her renovation of the property.
The house is currently owned and cared for by Kevin Broadwater and James Vaughn, who helped to see that The Chiles House became officially listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The New Gunston Hall, also known as Franklin Hall, is a remarkable replica of Gunston Hall in Virginia and located in Biltmore Forest. The house has been totally rehabilitated by James and Sherry Taylor and is filled with remarkable period furniture.
There are large expanses of graceful gardens and building structures around the fenced in property. The PSABC gave the New Gunston Hall a Griffin Award this year.
Both these homes, as well as Fernihurst, of course, will be the site for an evening of festivity and fundraising for a worthy cause. There will be live music at every location, cocktails by Chris Fabre of The Times at S&W, and period-inspired food by Chef Michael’s Catering, together with Biltmore Wine Company’s best selection of wines, and beer by Catawba Brewery, Guests will then be returning to Fernihurst for dessert, coffee and a final toast to the Asheville and the Preservation Society.
A Short Recap of the Preservation Society
The PSABC mission is to sustain the heritage and sense of place that is Asheville and Buncombe County through preservation and promotion of the unique historic resources of the region. They are working to keep Asheville a unique and desirable city by retaining the character of our community in four key ways:
-Preservation Easements and Advocacy to protect endangered properties.
-Technical Support for owners of historic properties.
-Hosting the Griffin Awards to recognized projects that have utilized a preservation ethic.
-Preservation Education Programs to inform the community about our shared history.
In recent years, PSABC’s Easement Program has permanently protected Asheville Supply & Foundry Buildings, Mast General Store, The Pioneer Building, Ravenscroft School and B & B Motor Company.
The Patton Parker House was protected and fully rehabilitated for an adaptive reuse as an office and $10,000 of contributions raised at the 2016 gala were devoted to the temporary stabilization of the Thomas Wolfe Cabin while negotiations continue in pursuit of a full restoration by the City.
This is just some of what PSABC does on a daily basis to preserve Asheville and to make it a place that visitors and residents alike can enjoy for generations to come.