Monday, October 16, 2017

Franklin Park Was Once a Lake By a Hotel

The Franklin Hotel, built by J. Frances Hays around 1900 on East Main St., was surrounded by an expansive lawn, acres of trees, and a small lake.  In 1909 Hays sold the hotel and 80 acres to the Franklin Park Improvement Company for $35,000.

This early photograph of Franklin Lake way
likely taken while Hay still owned the
Franklin Hotel, circa 1900-1909.
A survey prepared by A. L. Harden and R. C. Bailey at the time shows details of the proposed neighborhood from E. Main Street to King Creek and Rice Street to Park Street.  Included within the area are Lakeview Ave., Hilt St., Robinson Ave., and Cascade Ave., which is East French Broad Street today.  At its center is a four acre park with a two acre lake.  The dam for the lake runs across the east end of the park.  There are 89 lots of varying sizes identified on the survey. 

However the project did not appear to be very successful as only a few homes were built at the time.  A comment in the May 24, 1912 Sylvan Valley News stated, “The bed of what used to be the Franklin lake is now a blot on a bit of landscape otherwise very attractive.  The ground is seamed and cracked in an unsightly way, and near the broken dam a good deal of water has accumulated to stagnate, have a bad appearance, and more unsanitary than the lake itself.”  Over the next several years sale notices for the property regularly ran in the newspaper.

In April 1922 it was announced that C. C. Yongue would purchase the property and restore the lake.  By the end of June work was completed.  Yongue advertised, “Spend the Fourth at Franklin Lake and Park.”  It offered picnic tables and benches, private dressing rooms and lockers, a new confectionary store and rest room, and ample parking.  The two-acre lake was up to 20 feet deep, featured a 100 foot long sandy beach and a 100 square foot enclosed space for small children.

The venture again ran into trouble, taxes went unpaid, and by the Great Depression the lake was gone.  In late 1933 Brevard Building and Loan in conjunction with the town and county undertook creating a park with a swimming pool, tennis courts, and playground facilities.  Funding originally came through the Civil Works Administration with R.P. Kilpatrick as the construction manager.  Later it was transferred to the Federal Emergency Relief Administration and a new construction manager, Ernest Miller, was named. 

The pool was 45 feet wide and 105 feet long with a depth ranging from three-and-one-half feet to nine-and-one-half feet.  The Town of Brevard hired Coach Ernest Tilson to operate the pool which opened on June 28, 1934.  Over the next several weeks the bath house was completed, lights were added, and work continued on the surrounding park.

Sadly on July 18 before the entire project was completed, 39-year-old construction manager Ernest Miller collapsed and died of an apparent stroke while on the job.

Chuck Gilmore's Today photograph was taken
looking across the pool nearly straight toward
where the dam was located.
Don Voltz took his Today photograph beyond the pool
and included the Girl Scout House on the right.



























Today Franklin Park covers 4.4 acres at the location of the former park and lake.  Participants in the “Yesterday’s Places Today” contest took their photographs from several different locations and angles on the property.  All entries will be on display on the 2nd floor at the Library throughout the week.

Photographs and information for this column are provided by the Rowell Bosse North Carolina Room, Transylvania County Library.  Visit the NC Room during regular library hours (Monday-Friday) to learn more about our history and see additional photographs.  For more information, comments or suggestions contact Marcy at marcy.thompson@transylvaniacounty.org or 828-884-1820.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Taking a look at "Yesterday's Places Today"

This early photograph of the Clayton Hotel was use for the
"Yesterday's Places Today" photography contest.
Over the course of the next five weeks Picturing the Past will feature the five photographs used in the “Yesterday’s Places Today” photography contest sponsored by the Local History Room at the Transylvania County Library and the Land of Waterfalls Camera Club.  Each week will focus on one of the original photographs including some background information and share one or more of the entries of the location as it looks today.

Shortly after marrying Belle Wood in 1894, Joe Clayton built the Clayton House Hotel on the corner of Main and Caldwell streets.  At that time Caldwell Street was the main north-south route through Brevard.  Clayton had a general mercantile on the first floor and rooms to rent on the second floor.  He also operated a livery which delivered businessmen and tourists arriving at the nearby depot right to his doorstep.

Belle Clayton and later the Clayton’s eldest daughter, Jackie, ran the hotel/boarding house. The lobby and dining room for guests, as well as the kitchen were located on the first floor on the west side of the building, opening on to a spacious lawn and garden.  Originally the building had a second floor porch across the front and down both long sides, allowing the Clayton family and their guests a place to enjoy the cool summer evenings.  The third floor, with the mansard roof, was added in the spring of 1906.

Josephine Clayton recalled that the family had rooms on the second floor, including a parlor and four bedrooms.  Josephine, born in 1910, was the ninth of eleven children, eight of which survived to adulthood.  More stories about the close knit Clayton family can be found in “Clayton Family Memories” by Josephine Clayton, Jocelyn Clayton, Rob Tolleson, and Jocelyn Clayton Tolleson.

Photographer Ken Williams' view of the corner where the Clayton Hotel
stood for about 50 years was selected as the best overall "Today"
shot of the site.
In later years a millinery shop and feed store replaced Joe Clayton’s general store.   Later still a jewelry and watch repair shop, part of Wheeler’s Hosiery operation, and Carl McCrary’s auto parts shop were located in the space.  Tankersley’s Floral Shop also got its start in the old Clayton Hotel.

An article in the November 3, 1949 Transylvania Times stated that the Clayton Hotel was being razed and a modern two-story building was planned in the future.  That building was never constructed.  For many years the Brevard Monument Company was located on the corner though.

Photographs and information for this column are provided by the Rowell Bosse North Carolina Room, Transylvania County Library.  Visit the NC Room during regular library hours (Monday-Friday) to learn more about our history and see additional photographs.  For more information, comments or suggestions contact Marcy at marcy.thompson@transylvaniacounty.org or 828-884-1820.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Directories Provided a Wealth of Information


Old business and city directories provide a wealth of material for historical researchers and genealogists.  They offer a snapshot of neighborhoods and the larger community as a whole.

In the mid-to-late 1800s Levi Branson compiled and published Branson’s North Carolina Business Directory.  Each volume contains facts, figures, names, and locations of businesses throughout the state.  There are illustrated advertisements from many of the more prominent businesses of the period. In addition they contain an array of statistical information.

For family and local researchers the value is in the details provided at the county level.  Included are county and city officials; colleges and schools; churches, pastors, and ministers; hotels and boarding houses with proprietors; farmers, lawyers, merchants, mechanics, physicians, and teachers; manufacturers, mills, and mines with owners; newspapers; and post offices with post masters. 

Branson’s 1867 directory lists four Transylvania County physicians—Brooks, Harris, Jones, and Lyday and two lawyers—Duckworth and Whitmore.  The 1890 directory lists the three largest communities by population in the county as Brevard (350), Calhoun (215), and Cherryfield (129).

Hill's Brevard City Directory, 1962.
City directories offer similar details for citizens.  They contain names listed alphabetically, as well as by street address.  Generally the head of household, address, occupation, the wife’s name, name of the deceased husband if widowed, and business partners’ names are stated.  City directories typically include government officials at all levels, information on schools, societies, churches, post offices, and various other data of local interest.

Only one city directory for the Town of Brevard was ever compiled.  Published in 1962, it includes the areas of Forest Hills, Fortune Cove, North Brevard, and Pisgah Forest but does not cover the entire county.  It is made up of five parts—advertisements, a business directory, an alphabetical listing of citizens and businesses, followed by the same listed by street address, and a telephone directory in numerical order. 
This Know Your Directory tip explains, "The wife is listed with her husband,
and also is listed separately if steadily employed."

There are also four pages of statistical and historical information with facts such as, “Total street mileage 15, with 12 miles paved and .5 miles under construction.  Miles of sewers (storm and sanitary) 15.  Number of water meters 1,450.”

While content varies in both business and city directories depending on the time and place covered, both can provide the next step in leading genealogists and researchers to more of the story.  Many historical directories are available online through DigitalNC, the Digital Public Library of America, and Ancestry.

Photographs and information for this column are provided by the Rowell Bosse North Carolina Room, Transylvania County Library.  Visit the NC Room during regular library hours (Monday-Friday) to learn more about our history and see additional photographs.  For more information, comments or suggestions contact Marcy at marcy.thompson@transylvaniacounty.org or 828-884-1820.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Stillwell Designed Several County Schools

Architect Erle Stillwell designed his first school while he was partners with Hans C. Meyer.  The drawings for the classroom building at Blue Ridge School for Boys in Hendersonville are dated February 1914.  After Meyer left Henderson County Stillwell continued to do work for that school and others.  He designed all of the Henderson County public schools from the 1920s through 1950s. 

When Henderson County built several schools in the 1960s they were designed by Six Associates, the Asheville architectural firm of which Stillwell was a founding partner.  In addition Stillwell designed buildings for several private schools in Henderson and Buncombe counties.  Stillwell himself, and later Six Associates, also did a large amount of work for Western Carolina Teacher's College.

Six wooden pilasters gave the front of Rosman High School a classical appearance.
The first Transylvania County school Stillwell designed was Rosman High School in 1926.  The design was for a typical symmetrical two-story brick classroom building with a one-story auditorium at the back.  The building was used until the mid-1970s.  When the current elementary school opened in 1975 the high school moved into the former elementary building while the present day high school was being constructed on the site of the 1926 building.

In 1940 Stillwell designed the Pisgah Forest Elementary School, today the Davidson River School.  Although the school is very traditional in style it does have a unique feature in the Aztec-Deco entrance.  The exterior of the building is uncoursed cut-stone. 

Pisgah Forest Elementary School (top), December 1940 and
Rosenwald School (bottom), August 1946 used the same basic drawings.
However Rosenwald School, today the Morris Education Center, has
a traditional entrance.
During WWII Stillwell and five others joined together to create the Six Associates architectural firm in order to compete for government defense contracts.  They went on to be one of the most successful architectural agencies in North Carolina.

As a Six Associates partner, Stillwell designed Rosman Elementary School in April 1948 and North Brevard and Lake Toxaway elementary schools in December 1950.  North Brevard, later named Straus Elementary, is today part of Blue Ridge Community College.  Lake Toxaway Elementary was named for longtime educator and school superintendent, T.C. Henderson.  The two original schools were identical.

Erle Stillwell had a long and productive career in private practice and in partnership with Six Associates.  Several of the buildings he designed remain a piece of Transylvania County's architectural history today.


Photographs and information for this column are provided by the Rowell Bosse North Carolina Room, Transylvania County Library.  Visit the NC Room during regular library hours (Monday-Friday) to learn more about our history and see additional photographs.  For more information, comments or suggestions contact Marcy at marcy.thompson@transylvaniacounty.org or 828-884-1820.


Monday, September 18, 2017

Erle Stillwell Designed Local Movie Theaters

Erle Stillwell built a successful architectural design agency in the early 1900s.  However, like the businessmen he designed homes and businesses for Stillwell struggled to stay in business following the stock market crash and throughout the Great Depression.

These two similar shots show the Clemson and Co-Ed theaters 50 years apart.
Top photo--1941.  Bottom photo--1991
Stillwell had designed Hendersonville’s Rex Theater in 1924 and he did the redesign work when it burned in 1932.  Through this work he met Robert Wilby and Mike Kincey who managed most of Paramount’s southeastern movie theaters.   This relationship would lead to work for additional theaters in North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.  Most of his theater designs featured Art Deco facades, a few were Streamline Moderne, but all were uniquely Stillwell’s.

Although designs for Brevard’s Co-Ed Theater are not included in the Henderson County Library collection an article in the December 8, 1938 Transylvania Times identifies Stillwell as the architect.  The theater design featured 500 seats, plus a semi-balcony for groups or private parties.  In addition there was a “cry room” where mothers could take disruptive children and continue to watch the movie.  The Co-Ed featured an Art Deco sunburst front.

Undated drawings by Henry Gaines, one of Stillwell’s partners with Six Associates, in the Pack Library collection in Asheville appear to be for renovations to Brevard’s Clemson Theater.  A June 29, 1939 Transylvania Times article covers the opening of the new Co-Ed and improvements to the Clemson.

A few years later, after new owners took over the Brevard theaters, Stillwell was hired to redesign the Clemson and Co-Ed into one large theater.  A picture of his drawing for the building’s exterior was found in the August 22, 1946 Transylvania Times.  This work was never undertaken though.

Stillwell was able to keep and expand his business during and after the Depression by designing over 50 theaters in the 1930s and 1940s.  He also got work through Roosevelt’s New Deal projects for government buildings and schools.  Next week's Picturing the Past will take a final look at Stillwell’s work through the local schools he designed.

Photographs and information for this column are provided by the Rowell Bosse North Carolina Room, Transylvania County Library.  Visit the NC Room during regular library hours (Monday-Friday) to learn more about our history and see additional photographs.  For more information, comments or suggestions contact Marcy at marcy.thompson@transylvaniacounty.org or 828-884-1820.