Step Back In Time at Asheville’s Oldest Home

The exterior of Smith-McDowell House.

The Smith-McDowell House owns several WNC distinctions. It is Asheville’s first mansion, the oldest surviving house in Asheville, and the oldest brick structure in Buncombe County.

The house was constructed in 1840 (a full 56 years prior to the completion of Biltmore House in 1896) by businessman James McConnell Smith. Mr. Smith’s daughter Sarah Smith-McDowell and her husband, William Wallace McDowell bought the house after her parents died. Since then, the house has had a number of owners and uses. The house is currently owned by the AB Tech. The house is ran as a museum and serves as the offices for the Western North Carolina Historical Association.

Smith-McDowell House is a unique blend of architectural styles dating from its original 1840 construction and several additions completed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The floor plan is typical of Adam style, better known as Federal style in America. It is a double-pile plan, Flemish bond, five-bay mansion that features a double-tier porch semi-engaged beneath an extension of its gable roof. Each three-bay end wall has a pair of interior chimneys. The brick walls are 12 to 20 inches thick. The original Federal character that dominated the house’s exterior remains in the large fanlights above the front doors and in the delicacy of the front porch that is supported by twelve slender fluted columns (six on each level). The house has corbelled cornices that feature dentils. The exterior of the building at one time displayed penciling, and remnants remain in several spots.

Although much of the dwelling’s original Greek Revival interior woodwork was replaced during a Neoclassical style remodeling in 1913, the second floor’s mantels, window frames, and door frames are original, dating from the 1840s. A one-story semicircular sun-room was added to the southern end wall in the late 1880s.

Plan your visit today! Call 828-253-9231 or visit www.wnchistory.org/smith-mcdowell-house/ for more information. Smith-McDowell House is open for tours Wednesday – Saturday 10 AM – 4 PM. Guests should arrive by 3 PM to allow time to adequately tour the museum and grounds.