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Kenilworth Inn

Kenilworth Inn
Kenilworth Inn located in Asheville, North Carolina is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is a towering example of large-scale Gothic Tudor architecture overlooking downtown Asheville and the Blue Ridge Mountains and serves as tribute to American architecture over the past 125 years. grounds, and a golf course. The lengths to which Kenilworth Inn went to pamper visitors became part of its renown. One personal account seems almost to have been taken from a hotel brochure: “Each room has an entirely separate flue, and the air is changed in every room each five minutes throughout the entire twentyfour hours. The inside finish is in native hard wood. Kenilworth Inn has all of the modern conveniences, with everything for comfort, pleasure and luxury. A superior cuisine, the purest water, no back rooms, rare views from every room, electric lights, elevator, billiards, bowling, tennis, laundry and livery. Particular attention has been given to plumbing and drainage.” The property included an additional 140 acres of woodland drives and walkways, providing the perfect environment for guests to take in the crisp morning air. One visitor practically gushed with wonderment at Kenilworth’s peaceful grounds: “A superbly wooded tract of the most varied forest growths, containing grand old Spanish and stately white oaks, health-giving pines, delicate dogwoods, spice-wood, luxuriant rhododendrons, azaleas, sweet shrubs, larkspurs, and small flora too numerous to mention. The native birds, gray squirrels, partridges, and wild rabbits are here protected, and afford unlimited entertainment.” This original inn remained in operation into the early 1900s. The structure was destroyed by fire in April 1909, ending Kenilworth’s grand first era. A New Kenilworth Inn, From the Ashes At the time of the Kenilworth Inn fire in 1909, James “Jake” Madison Chiles had been living in Asheville for a year. He had come to Asheville to establish himself in the furniture business and purchased the property known as the old Patton Farm, where he settled and began buying up land. Chiles may well have been early Asheville’s most avid developer and the site of the original Kenilworth Inn held an attraction for him. His aunt had filled his head with ideas about Kenilworth Castle in England, made famous by Sir Walter Scott’s novel,

The Original Kenilworth Inn
The original Tudor-styled Kenilworth Inn was a multi-gabled structure that catered to wealthy travelers visiting the Asheville region to seek rest and improved health in the mountain air. The eight-story hotel was built during the city’s railroad-driven boom period and opened for business in 1890. Described in various accounts as magnificent, handsome and luxurious, the inn was built atop the second highest vantage point in Asheville, overlooking the junction of South Main Street and the Swannanoa River Road. Visitors to the inn were treated to idyllic views of the Swannanoa during a five minute ride via carriage or on horseback up Macadam Drive on their way from the train depot to the top of the knoll. Upon arrival they passed through the inn’s imposing stone porte cochere and into an expansive lobby. Inside the entryway to Kenilworth’s main floor, guests found contemporary amenities and services at their disposal, including a newsstand, telephones, telegraph offices, pharmacy, music hall, billiard room, various parlors and drawing rooms, and dining facilities. Extensive porches along the front were a perfect area for socializing. The inn’s many guest rooms commanded splendid views of the surrounding Craggy and Black mountain ranges, including distant glimpses of Mt. Mitchell and Mt. Pisgah. Along the valley floor to the south stretched the private park of George W. Vanderbilt, a 7,000 acre tract that would eventually become Biltmore Forest and Biltmore Village. The hotel and its environs boasted sumptuous appointment, 20 acres of lawn, tennis


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Kenilworth, which included a picturesque lake and a decaying castle. In 1919, those same romantic notions also led Chiles to declare his determination to rebuild another inn on the original Kenilworth Inn foundation. For Chiles, it would be like a phoenix rising from the ashes. Funding was provided initially through a company that Chiles incorporated in 1911, The Carolina Nova Cola Company. The following year, Chiles sold Carolina Nova and purchased a 151 acre tract from Joseph M. Gazzam, a former Pennsylvania State Senator and the owner of the original Kenilworth Inn. In 1913, Chiles formed Kenilworth Development Company to bring resources together to construct the new Kenilworth Inn. By September everything was in place and work began in earnest on the old Kenilworth Inn foundation. Chiles also formed Kenilworth Park Company- created especially to facilitate the incorporation of the town of Kenilworth. Under Chiles’ vision a small suburb named Kenilworth was established with its own fire, police and sewer services. Chiles became Mayor of the community- one that was considered experimental at the time. Within this large property, work on the new Kenilworth Inn, (partially funded by Canadian investors), continued over the next five years. It was during this period that Asheville began experiencing a second period of growth in tourism, fueled by the increasing railroad commerce from the South and East. During 1916, the year of the great area flood, Asheville was proud of its reputation as a city where fresh mountain air could relieve various pulmonary diseases, primarily tuberculosis. The city’s established hotels were experiencing a combined 250,000 visitors a year. Chiles, in the midst of constructing a 500 guest per day resort hotel, felt his new inn would be able to hold its own and could hardly wait for opening day. The new construction got a shot in the arm during 1917 with help from newly established Asheville architect Richard Greene, and the inn was completed by Carolina Wood Products Company the following year, along with the addition of a separate Boiler House to provide utility services. The primary architecture of the newly constructed resort hotel was Tudor Revival, including rough stone masonry and a reworked porte-cochere entranceway. Masonry contrasted nicely with stucco and a half

Kenilworth Inn
timbered exterior, while the half hipped and gabled dormers created a dramatic roof line. Terraces and verandas were built to flow into open porches on all sides, allowing guests to take in the mountain air from all sides of the Inn. Furnishings were modern and elegant, recreational facilities were varied, and the social atmosphere of the main floor and lobby, including a ballroom, solariums, tea rooms, billiard lounges, and fireplaces ensured that guests were satisfied all around. Unfortunately, before Chiles could capitalize on his dream of a new Kenilworth Inn, the Army saw the new construction as the perfect place for a wartime convalescence hospital. U. S. Army General Hospital No. 12 James Chiles leased Kenilworth Inn to the U.S. Army in February 1918, just one month after the building’s construction was completed. The Army had been expressing their interest in Kenilworth since 1917, when they announced their plans for a hospital to be built in Azalea, NC. But the hospital would not be completed until September 1919. The Army’s decision to lease Kenilworth Inn while their new hospital was being built in Azalea stemmed primarily from the emergent need for a facility that could house sick and wounded soldiers, primarily those suffering from tuberculosis. So Chiles leased Kenilworth to the Army and the building became US. General Hospital No. 12, alternately referred to as U.S. Army Convalescence Hospital No. 12, or more plainly: Biltmore Hospital. Chiles, through circumstances brought about by the needs of a wartime military commitment, found himself unable to provide the Asheville community with a luxury hotel. He would have to wait to re-acquire the building once the military’s lease expired in September 1919. Meanwhile, the Army began making significant interior renovations that would convert the luxurious building into a hospital. This work included extensive changes to the building’s electrical and plumbing systems to allow for autopsy rooms, dark rooms, various examination rooms, x-ray rooms, surgical rooms, as well as changes to some administrative offices and storage spaces. Of primary significance to Kenilworth Inn’s history during the period of its occupation by the Army is the admission of sick German aliens from the Hot Springs, N.C.


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internment camp during the summer of 1918. These prisoners were described by the Army as “civilians under governmental but nonmilitary control.” Hot Springs had long been nationally renowned as a resort and spa area. It was conveniently located on the main railroad line and the Mountain Park Hotel was a major tourist attraction for the area. In 1917, the Army saw Hot Springs as a suitable area for their internment camp and leased the hotel for $1,500 a month. They began holding prisoners at the newly constructed camp in June. Nearly 3,000 Germans were held at Hot Springs until August 1918, when the Army transferred them to Fort Oglethorpe, Ga. A typhoid outbreak among the internees resulted in 180 of them being transferred 50 miles to the Inn. The cases of typhoid were so severe that 18 of the patients transferred to Kenilworth eventually died. According to Army records, “The epidemic was directly traceable to accidental contamination of the water supply of one section of the camp, which was connected, for fire-prevention purposes only, with an intake from the French Broad River, afterward found to be contaminated.” While it may be speculated by some that those prisoners who acquired typhoid may have deliberately drank contaminated water to avoid being transferred from Hot Springs to Fort Oglethorpe, Ga., there is no record extant that reveals this to be true. In fact the Asheville newspaper account at the time clearly states that, “no suicidal evidence is disclosed…even though the alien enemies expressed bitter disinclination to being transferred.” Kenilworth Inn, 1923-1929 After resuming control over Kenilworth Inn in 1923, Chiles operated the resort hotel with great success until the stock market crash of 1929. Hotel services offered at Kenilworth were contemporary with other Asheville resorts, such as the Grove Park Inn. Both hotels provided rooms that were replete with modern conveniences for the well-paying guest. Throughout the Inn’s successful six-year run, it was the setting for social activities and events that maintained a strong tie with the communities of Asheville and surrounding Kenilworth. Luxury accommodations at Kenilworth Inn in the twenties provided sterling views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and

Kenilworth Inn
guests were encouraged to participate in tennis, golf, horseback riding, Easter egg hunts, fireworks displays, and billiards. Kenilworth Inn brochures and pamphlets invited and encouraged the general public to visit the inn “any day or night of the week for dance, music and family fun” including picnics on the front lawn and lavish holiday celebrations. The Chiles family strongly advocated this sense of community through music concerts, radio broadcasts and other noteworthy performances, including a performance by the escape artist, Houdini. Kenilworth Radio Concerts were broadcast from Kenilworth on local Asheville station WFAJ. These concerts featured the Kenilworth Inn Orchestra, the Spenser Orchestra of New York, and the famous Jan Garber Orchestra. Garber (billed as “The Idol Of The Airwaves”) led a big band that was the epitome of that era’s “sweet” music). Kenilworth guests were encouraged to “get out and see the Asheville area” through complimentary passes to Biltmore Forest and Asheville Country Clubs. Kenilworth Inn hosted the first annual Kenilworth and Biltmore Forest Horse Show in August 1923, as well as several art exhibits – most importantly the 1928 exhibit by Kenilworth Galleries. The 1928 exhibit at Kenilworth was the largest showcase of paintings in the South to be held at the time. More than 100 artists from 12 states and three foreign countries presented their works, including Kiffin Rockwell, A.C. Wyatt, and Mrs. R. P. Royer. Noted Italian and German artists exhibited their works in the U.S. for the first time during this event. In the fall of that year a lavish art show was held on Armistice Day and included guests of honor from the American Legion. The Annexation of Kenilworth In 1929, the onset of the Great Depression caused many banks to close and others to severely curtail business. This financial belt tightening brought the heady era of luxury resort living and notable community events at Kenilworth Inn to a halt. With many of its own banks closing, the city of Asheville sought to protect itself financially by annexing area suburbs, including Kenilworth. Kenilworth Mayor, Leah Chiles, agreed with the city’s plan for stability, but she fought any annexation unless the people of the Kenilworth community were allowed to vote on the issue.


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After many public meetings and much debate, Kenilworth residents were granted the right to a vote and the results were nearly unanimous in favor of annexation. On June 30, 1929, Mayor Leah Chiles, surrendered the town of Kenilworth to the “bigger, better, and wealthier” city of Asheville. Soon after annexation of Kenilworth, bank closings in Asheville caused the Kenilworth Inn Company to default on its payments to Carolina WoodProducts Company. The assets of the Kenilworth Realty Co, including Kenilworth Inn, were sold on the Court House steps for $1200. The Chiles’ holdings were essentially wiped out. Appalachian Hall, 1931-1943 After being sold, Kenilworth Inn sat empty for one year before reopening as a sanatorium. The old structure, with its spacious interior, drew the attention of two local doctors, William Ray Griffin, Sr., and his brother, Mark Griffin, who purchased and then converted the inn into a mental health facility in October 1931. With an increasing number of patients in need of treatment during the depression, the two doctors were challenged. Their burgeoning practice had outgrown Appalachian Hall, the facility which had operated on French Broad Avenue in Asheville from 1916 until 1931. The Griffin brothers quickly found that Kenilworth Inn, with its generous use of space, quiet halls, and impressive exterior grounds, suited their method of treatment for mental disorders. The building was renamed Appalachian Hall to maintain the connection with their previous facility. In order to preserve the layout of the original construction as much as possible, little was changed beyond the name and the addition of examination and treatment rooms. The Griffins also resisted changing the surrounding property so that patients not needing to be placed in isolation might be encouraged to participate in the same outdoor activities as guests of Kenilworth Inn had enjoyed in previous years. In an era when many of their contemporaries were still providing treatments solely upon physical ailments, the Griffins approach to psychiatry went beyond the standard treatments of hydrotherapy, thermo therapy and electro therapy. The facilities at Appalachian Hall provided a means for treatments that were varied according to the individual and

Kenilworth Inn
usually included a mixture of approved recreational, occupational, and physical therapies. There were other privately owned mental health facilities in Asheville, but Appalachian Hall, under the supervision of the Griffin brothers, fostered a more forward thinking approach to treatment of psychiatric disorders. U.S. Naval Convalescent Hospital, Kenilworth Park During the Second World War, the United States government again found it necessary to seek locations for battle weary and wounded soldiers to convalesce. In February 1943, Kenilworth’s Appalachian Hall was pressed into service as “U.S. Naval Convalescent Hospital, Kenilworth Park,” and the Griffin brothers’ treatment center was temporarily moved into two Asheville area hotels, the Princess Anne Hotel on Furman Street and the Forest Hill Inn in Kenilworth. The Navy’s previously maintained convalescent center had been located at Grove Park Inn Asheville and while both Grove Park and Appalachian Hall facilities shared a common practice of treating convalescing soldiers and sailors with rest and relaxation, the Kenilworth Park hospital added recreation to the program. Patients were sent to Kenilworth Park Hospital after reaching the convalescent stages of recuperation from injuries or illness contracted during duty and enjoyed the same amenities as Kenilworth Inn guests and Appalachian Hall patients had in previous years, in addition to new recreational fixtures added by the Navy. Significant changes made to Appalachian Hall by the Navy were construction of a stage in the building’s ballroom so patients could watch motion pictures and a bowling alley in the basement. The building once again became a social center for dances, picnics, motion pictures and stage shows, all hosted by the U.S. Navy. In addition, the dining hall was opened to the public to support the idea that public interaction with convalescing soldiers and sailors would boost patient morale and promote a quicker recovery. According to accounts printed in the Asheville Times, as many as 7,000 patients of all nationalities were treated at the Navy’s Convalescent Hospital, Kenilworth Park during the government’s tenure. Appalachian Hall In 1946, the Navy vacated Appalachian Hall and the hospital there was deactivated.


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The building was then reoccupied by Dr. William Griffin and his brother, Dr. Mark Griffin, and reopened as Appalachian Hall. In the early 1950s, the Griffins helped to incorporate the latest medical advances and treatments at Appalachian Hall, including the use of tranquilizers, application of newly developed diagnostic methods, and labs set up for neurological science and diagnosis. From the 1950s through the early 1970s, the Griffins made Appalachian Hall a leading light in the Asheville community as a place where patients were provided the latest diagnostic and treatment methods, as well as a relatively secluded and relaxing atmosphere where recreation was as significant to recovery as psychiatric method. Recent Kenilworth History Economics again played a roll in Kenilworth’s history when, in the 1980s, the Griffins sold Appalachian Hall to Magellan Enterprises, a real estate holdings company. The sale of Appalachian Hall can be attributed to increasing costs of maintaining such a large structure as a viable hospital, as well as increasing pressure from major insurance companies looking for shorter treatments and faster results, which naturally went against the grain of the Griffin brothers’ long standing treatment philosophy. Charter Behavioral Health System purchased Kenilworth Inn in 1994 and the

Kenilworth Inn
building became known as Charter Asheville. Charter Asheville operated as a 139 bed psychiatric hospital employing 175 people until it closed in 1999. The Kenilworth Inn Apartments E. F. Howington, the building’s current owner, purchased Kenilworth Inn and the surrounding 25 acres from Charter in October 2000 and was successful in his bid to place the building on the U.S. Department of Interior’s National Register of Historic Places. Located in the historic suburb of Kenilworth, the property at Kenilworth Inn still impresses visitors with views of deep green magnolias, shady oaks, evergreen trees and a panoramic view of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains. For 117 years, from its first construction in 1890, to its rebirth on the original building’s foundation in 1923; from its use by both the Army and Navy as convalescent facility during both World Wars; from its various uses as a psychiatric hospital and through its current configuration as a collection of 93 unique apartments - the many names and functions applied to Kenilworth Inn have continued to preserve both property and building as one of Asheville’s lasting treasures.

External links
• Historick Kenilworth website

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