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Brexton Boarding House

Photo courtesy of City Development, City of Asheville, North Carolina

With the arrival of the railroad, tourism boomed as thousands of visitors boarded trains to Asheville's region for a restful stay in the cool of the mountains. Some came to spend the entire season and built ever more elaborate summer residences. But thousands more could now come by train to enjoy a few days or weeks in a furnished boarding house. Many families expanded their homes or built especially spacious dwellings to accommodate summer boarders. Women, who extended their domestic skill into the new marketplace, usually ran such enterprises.

There were several boarding houses located throughout the Montford residential neighborhood, one of which was located at 33 Starnes Avenue. Constructed to accommodate tourists c. 1895, this three-and-one-half story vernacular Queen Anne style dwelling has symmetrical massing with pitched pressed-metal roofs and notable "half-timbered" gables. Its first known name was "The Brexton," which had been run by various women during the first decade of its operation. In 1906, St. Joseph's Hospital operated a sanitarium for tuberculosis patients out of the building, run by the Sisters of Mercy. During the time the hospital owned the house, it added sleeping porches and two engaged three-story porches to the building. These porches provided plenty of sunlight and soothing mountain air, believed to provide tuberculosis patients with natural therapeutic medicine.

After 1910 the building began serving tourists again as a boarding house under several names such as "The Willard." In 1924, the boarding house turned into the "Osborne Apartments," as more single tourists were looking for year-round occupancy. The house remains an apartment building with 11 units, each retaining its historic "therapeutic" porches.

The Brexton Boarding House is located at 33 Starnes Ave., off of Broadway St., within the Montford Area Historic District. The house is now apartments and is not open to the public.

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