Architecture
Oldest frame house in Asheville.
 
 
    Architectural Description and History
 
The Rankin House was built between 1846 and 1848. It is the oldest surviving wood-frame house in Asheville.
 
The following description is taken from the Historic Landmark Report.
 

The Rankin House was a showplace for its time. The house evolved from a four-room center hall configuration, with a separate kitchen and servant quarters, with additions being made to the rear of the home. It is framed from oversized timbers that are mortise and tenon, then pegged together. Roman numerals are still visible at several of the joints, indicating that slave labor was probably used in its building. The siding is lapped pine plank and the house sits on an American Bond brick foundation. The roof is enamel (painted) steel, low sloped, with three vent dormers. The shallow hipped roof is deemed appropriate to the Greek revival style.

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The house originally was a five bay two-story home.  Now the simple Greek revival style entrance with sidelights and transom sits amidst an elaborate two-story porch with large paneled wooden columns and colonial railings. It is graced with a pair of hand-molded, pegged, wooden doors outlined by sidelights and a transom. Mock columns serve as the architrave. An upper-story pair of exterior doors also bears the same hand-molded panel configuration and sidelights, mirroring the main doors. There is a total of eight exterior doors, serving 900 square feet of covered porches and 400 square feet of open balconies

While the rear doors also display raised panels and transoms, the back of the house reflects the craftmanship of the post-Civil War era, when modifications were made (circa 1875).  The exterior details include six  different configurations of decorative brackets.  Some obviously are Victorian/Italianate and help to date the later work.

 

 

 

 

Four brick chimneys serve seven large woodburning fireplaces . The patterns are unique and the bricks are original. The windows of this antebellum mansion are single-hung sashes with five different pane configurations. The original interior doors are four-panel and are custom molded.   All are pegged and all are over-sized. The walls were plaster over hand-split lath, with the exception of two rooms that were the original kitchen and servants’ quarters, at one time a two-story outbuilding. These rooms consist of wide plank walls and ceilings.

 

 

 

The floors throughout the house are 5/4-heart pine of  random widths. The entrance foyer and the formal parlor have narrow oak flooring laid over the heart pine. We believe the Rankins had the oak floor put in as they became more prominent in Asheville society and entertained.

 

 

 

 

The mantelpieces throughout the house are heart pine and are original, except for the parlor and slave quarters. The wide double scalloped door and window casings, concave corner blocks, paneled window skirts, and giant baseboards are typical throughout.

 

 

 

The expansive upper hallway lends itself to use as a  public space. Centered between the two original bedrooms, it is adorned by the double doors with sidelights that open onto the upper balcony.    

Historical Background and Significance: In 1846 The Town of Asheville was a small mountain village (population approximately 500) accessible only by stagecoach, wagon, carriage or foot.   William Dinwiddie Rankin and Elizabeth Lightfoot Roadman Rankin rode into Asheville from Newport, Tennessee. As they passed a wooded hillside overlooking a small stream, Elizabeth exclaimed that she would like to have a house there. William, having “made a good sum of money in a frontier store just outside of Newport,” bought the land and built her the house.  Purchased in 1847, the property housed a dairy and one of the largest tanneries in the region. Over time, the Rankin home place became approximately 75 acres and was accessed via a carriage path that created a semi-circular entranceway. The property fronted on North Main Street (now Broadway) just off the Buncombe Turnpike. It was the home of the Rankin-Bearden family until 1912.

 

 

 

The Rankin’s family tract began to be divided when the Asheville Loan, Construction and Improvement Company bought 42 parcels from the Rankins, the Beardens, and others in the late 1800’s and began to sell lots. The ALC&I Co operated from 1889 to 1894, and then sold its interests to George Willis Pack. This area became known as the Town of Montford, but was incorporated into the City of Asheville in 1905. Montford grew rapidly in the early years of its development. Those who built in Montford in the late 19th and early 20th century were, for the most part, lawyers, doctors, architects, politicians and businessmen; hence Montford became Asheville’s leading middle class neighborhood.   Today Montford remains the city’s largest intact period neighborhood; the Rankin-Bearden House is its oldest building.

Note: See separate history  “section” for Civil War era information and family history

                                                                                     Rankin House Inn