Few neighborhoods express the rich architectural heritage and vitality of Asheville better than the Montford Historic District. During an era of remarkable growth in Asheville and in an environment of a few powerful individuals with enormous personal wealth, Montford grew as a residential neighborhood for middle-class people. Businessmen, lawyers, doctors, architects and the retired all came home to Montford. The origin of the name Montford is unknown. An area of about 300 acres, Montford was a tiny sovereign community just north of Asheville center consisting of about 50 people. James E. Rumbough became the first and only mayor of the autonomous village of Montford when it was incorporated in 1893. The creation of the neighborhood as we know it today was shaped by the development group called the Asheville Loan, Construction, and Improvement Company, chartered in 1889. However, it was not until lumber industrialist, philanthropist and benefactor George Willis Pack took over and rehabilitated the failing business that Montford became a prominent residential development.
Montford retains more than 600 buildings, most of which were built between 1890 and 1920, and includes a variety of architectural influences reflecting the cosmopolitan character of Asheville during the turn of the 20th century. Victorian, Queen Anne and Arts and Crafts styles combined with Neoclassical, Colonial Revival and castle-like motifs, result in an overall complex quality of designs and artistic talent throughout the neighborhood. Asheville architect and supervising architect of the Biltmore House Richard Sharp Smith produced numerous residential homes in Montford. Smith's preference for pebbledash, shingles, high-pitched roofs and heavy stone foundations contributed to an overall form for the neighborhood. Even with the variety of designs throughout Montford, consistent patterns and use of materials like shingles, stucco, pebbledash and half-timbering comprise a cohesive Montford impression.
Montford's history has largely been residential; however the neighborhood maintained a mixed use of several boarding houses and sanitaria for tuberculosis, mental disorders and other ailments. As a destination for meditation, retreat and personal health, Montford has matured with a significant stock of charming bed and breakfast inns with beautifully landscaped gardens, large sleeping porches and finely detailed rooms. Also home to Asheville's Riverside Cemetery, Montford is the final resting place for authors Thomas Wolfe and William Sydney Porter (better known as O. Henry) as well as Confederate General Robert B. Vance and North Carolina Governor Zebulon Vance, among others.
Together, the houses in Montford and the neighborhood's many uses reflect the variety and vitality of Asheville during one of its most exciting periods of growth. Montford was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1977, and in 1981 the Asheville City Council designated Montford as a local historic district. Montford's success has been fostered by its proximity to Asheville's city center. The district is located an easy walk or bike ride from downtown.
The Montford Area Historic District is located off Montford Ave,. roughly bounded by I-240, I-26 and Broadway Ave. The houses of the district are private residences and not open to the public. The commercial buildings that house stores are open during normal business hours. Visit the Montford neighborhood's website for further information.