Richard Sharp Smith’s architectural legacy in Western North Carolina
All Things Biltmore • 08/27/14
Written By Judy Ross
Tracing the spread of Biltmore’s architectural influence in Western North Carolina begins—naturally enough—with George Vanderbilt. He brought favorite family architect Richard Morris Hunt to the area to design Biltmore House. Hunt in turn collaborated with other notable architects to create not only America’s largest home but other estate buildings.
Two collaborators—Richard Sharp Smith and Raphael Guastavino—remained in the Asheville area and contributed their talents to many homes and buildings around the region. Today, we’ll take a look at Smith’s work in the Asheville area, and follow with Guastavino in a few days.
After receiving architectural training in England, Richard Sharp Smith came to America in 1882, joining Richard Morris Hunt’s New York office in 1886. A pivotal point in his career came when he was assigned as Biltmore’s supervising architect, responsible for overseeing construction onsite.
Once this major project was completed, Smith started his own firm in Asheville, raising a family and becoming one of the area’s most popular architects until his death in 1924. At the time of his passing, the Asheville Citizen said, ‘after long years of residence in Asheville, Mr. Smith has done more than any other person to beautify the city. He came to Asheville just at a time when he was needed, and was really a pioneer architect in the community…”
Smith worked in styles ranging from Arts and Crafts to Tudor to Colonial Revival. And not surprisingly, many of these homes and buildings are reminiscent of Biltmore House and other structures on the estate.
“Two beautiful examples of his residential style—the Annie West House at 189 Chestnut Street in Chestnut Hill and the Charles Jordan House at 296 Montford Avenue—include pebbledash stucco, archways, and rooflines, much like his buildings in Biltmore Village,” said Leslie Klingner, Curator of Interpretation.
In downtown Asheville, Smith was the architect for the E.W. Grove Office at 324 Charlotte St., the Elks Home (aka Hotel Asheville) at 55 Haywood St., the Vance Monument, Masonic Lodge, and the YMI on Eagle Street. Saint Mary’s Episcopal Church on Charlotte Street, Grace Episcopal on Merrimon Avenue, and All Soul’s Cathedral in Biltmore Village are also his creations.
Smith’s work is evident throughout Western North Carolina, including homes in Flat Rock and county courthouses for Henderson, Jackson, and Madison counties.
“Many of the buildings that define Asheville today were designed by Smith,” said Leslie. “It’s enjoyable to see these structures and worth taking the time to notice the arches, tile work, pebbledash, and architectural features that relate to Biltmore House.”
Top: All Souls Cathedral, ca. 1910, designed by Richard Morris Hunt. Photo courtesy of North Carolina Collection, Pack Memorial Public Library, Asheville, N.C.
Upper left: Biltmore Post Office, ca. 1900, designed by Richard Sharp Smith.
Middle right: Biltmore Passenger Station, ca. 1900, designed by Richard Sharp Smith.
Lower left: Young Men's Institute, ca. 1905, designed by Richard Sharp Smith. Photo courtesy of North Carolina Collection, Pack Memorial Library, Asheville, N.C.