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Erle Stillwell House I

 Erle Stillwell House I

1300 Pinecrest Drive

Set on a hill above Blythe Street, the Tudor Revival/Normanesque style Erle Stillwell House is located just west of downtown Hendersonville, in an area which developed during the 1910s and 1920s. The nominated property consists of the 1926 house and an extensively landscaped garden, occupying the northern half of a lot that runs from Pinecrest Drive on the north to Iowa Street on the south. It is bordered by Blythe Street on the east, and Wetmur Street and large undeveloped lots to the west. The nominated tract is .88 of an acre, and consists of the northern portion of the original lot which Erle Stillwell purchased in 1920. The northern portion of the lot and the nominated house were lost in the Depression, but Stillwell retained ownership of the southern portion and later built a second residence ca. 1935. An original stone retaining wall and slate footpaths wind through the garden that surrounds the house on the east, south and west sides.

 Erle Stillwell House I black and white photo

Facing south, this two-story Tudor Revival/Normanesque style brick house is an L-plan with the main entry located at the juncture of the two wings of the building. Although the entry faces southeast towards Blythe Street, the entrance to the property is from the drive at the northeast corner which fronts onto Pinecrest Drive. The house was built almost exactly as shown in the architectural plans drawn by Stillwell. Tudor revival elements of the house include the single, double, or triple multi-light casement windows, all of which are leaded glass with built-in screens. Windows on the first floor have fixed transom lights. The brick walls still display some evidence of parging, a technique used by Stillwell in many of his brick structures. The current multi-gable and hip roof with flared gable ends is covered by asphalt shingles, but the original drawings called for tile. Two brick chimneys with chimney pots were also built as shown on the original drawings. A ribbed copper roof covers the front and rear entries and the sun porch to the south. The only apparent changes to the exterior of the building since its construction is the enclosure of the sun porch on the south side by French doors, and the replacement of the rear entry door. The drawings show the sun porch as an open porch framed by an arched lattice.

The garden that surrounds the house on the east, south, and west sides retains many of the original landscape elements. One of the main features is the approximately 4'-high retaining wall which runs along the eastern edge of the property above the sidewalk on Blythe Street. A second 5'-high retaining wall, shown on the original plot plans drawn for the property, is set back from this east boundary of the lot. This wall wraps around to the south side of the drive and forms the boundary for the driveway and part of the garden, and turns north towards the house near the front entry and stops at the southeastern edge of the front terrace. This level terrace area above the retaining wall was originally a more formal garden which was a "bow tie" shape. The area to the south below the driveway and terrace continues at a lower elevation and opens into a large side garden on the west side of the house, including a sitting area at the northwest corner of the property, several curvilinear planting beds, and a rose garden added by the current owners. Many large trees remain on the property, including a spectacular collection of cedars, Carolina spruce, and hemlocks. The current owners have followed as closely as possible the original location of pathways, and have restored them in place with slate walkways. The current owners also added the granite piers framing the entrance to the driveway. A privacy fence was added along the south boundary of the property in the 1990s, dividing this house from the later Stillwell house to the south. The original driveway was gravel, but was converted to concrete at a later time.

Inside, the house has an irregular floor plan which is consistent with the overall L-plan of the exterior. Interior rooms consist of a living room/dining room/bedroom wing which runs north-south, and a garage/kitchen/bedroom wing which runs east-west. There is also a finished attic space and a full basement. In the basement, the fireproof masonry construction of the building is evident in the concrete walls and floors. Granite bedrock forms a portion of the foundation. In the basement, the boiler room and remainder of the original trash incinerator are still evident as shown on the drawings. All doors in the house are eight-panel cherry, except for the former maid's room which contains single panel doors. Much original hardware remains in the house, including many wall sconces, brass and glass doorknobs, and brass switchplates. The walls are all metal lath covered with plaster. Closets are all cedar-lined, and floors throughout are oak.

On the first floor, a small entry foyer opens into a large living room to the west and into a narrow stair hall to the east. Set at an angle to the house, the front door within the entry foyer is v-board, with multi-light leaded glass above. Small, narrow leaded glass windows flank the entry. The living room walls are covered with cherry paneling. The ceiling is rough plaster, and the fireplace is carved limestone. French doors lead from the south wall of the living room to the sun porch. The floor of the sun porch is slate, with windows and doors added after the original construction to enclose the room. To the north side of the living room is the dining room, with a decorative crown molding. Maid call buttons are still located on the floor. To the east of the dining room is the kitchen, which originally consisted of a butler's pantry and a cooking area. Renovated in the early 1990s to create one space, the kitchen retains some original cabinetry. The downstairs bath, located just off the stair hall, retains its original tile floor and walls. The stairs have simple balusters with concave sides and an applied scroll pattern up the sidewall. Upstairs, there are three bedrooms, a former maid's room, back service stairs, and a sewing/ironing room, all built as shown on drawings. Baths appear to have their original wall tile.

The Erle Stillwell House at 1300 Pinecrest Drive was built in 1926 as the residence of Erle Stillwell, prominent Hendersonville architect. It is significant for its association with Stillwell at a time when he designed some of the most architecturally sophisticated buildings in Hendersonville. Stillwell was a prolific, well-educated architect with the ability to design in many different styles from the Neo-Classical Revival to Art Deco. His contribution to the architectural fabric of Hendersonville is immense and many of these buildings remain today as a legacy to his genius. The nominated property located at 1300 Pinecrest Drive is a highly intact example of his work, showcasing the use of top quality materials and design elements. It is one of two residences designed and built by Erle Stillwell for his own home, and is representative of one of the most prolific and significant periods of the early years of his career in Hendersonville. The second house Stillwell built, located on the lot just south of the nominated property, is associated with the latter part of his career from the late 1930s into the 1970s and is not part of this nomination.

Erle Gulick Stillwell was born in Hannibal, Missouri on August 29, 1885, the son of Amos John Stillwell and Frances Anderson Stillwell. He attended the U. S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, and then studied at the University of North Carolina, Cornell University, and the University of Pennsylvania. In addition to his academic studies, Stillwell traveled extensively in England, Scotland, France, Italy, and Greece. He visited Hendersonville in 1905 and decided to stay. In 1907 in Hendersonville, he married Eva Douglas Smith. Eva Smith was the daughter of William A. Smith, the developer of Laurel Park, just outside the city limits of Hendersonville. In 1916 Stillwell opened an architecture practice. He became a member of the American Institute of Architects in 1916, and served as Treasurer/Secretary of the North Carolina Chapter from 1917 to 1921, and again from 1934 to 1937. Stillwell also served as president of the North Carolina Chapter from 1922 to 1923 and again from 1942 to 1944. In 1942, he became a Fellow in the American Institute of Architects. Stillwell continued in private practice until 1942, when he became a founding partner in the Asheville-based firm, Six Associates. Only the larger firms were being granted government work at the time, so Stillwell joined with Charles E. Waddell, a civil engineer, and architects Henry Irven Gaines, Anthony Lord, William W. Dodge, and Stewart Rogers to form the company. The company was, and still is, located near Biltmore between Asheville and Hendersonville on Highway 25. Stillwell continued for thirty years as part of Six Associates, retiring in 1971. In addition to his architecture practice, Stillwell was an active member of St. James Episcopal Church in Hendersonville, along with several clubs including the Masonic lodge, the country club, and the Kiwanis Club. Eva Stillwell died on November 12, 1971, and Erle Stillwell died on October 22, 1978.

Erle Stillwell's early practice of architecture took place during one of the most economically rich times in the history of Hendersonville. Among his clients were some of the most prominent businessmen and women in the city. In Hendersonville and the surrounding area, Stillwell designed the Michael Schenk House (ca. 1910), an addition to Rosa Edwards School (1912), the Queen Theater (1915), a bungalow for Dr. J. L. Egerton (1917), the Kantrowitz bungalow (1917), St. James Episcopal Church (ca. 1917-1919), the Gillican Residence (1919), the F. A. Ewbank Residence (1920), the Brownlow Jackson Building (ca. 1920; 1926), First Bank and Trust Company (1922), State Trust and Citizen's Bank (1923), First Baptist Church (1923), Hendersonville High School (1926), Blue Ridge School for Boys (1926), the A. Patterson Residence (1926), the A. A. McCall Residence (1926), alterations to the R. P. Freeze Residence (1926), bungalow for F. S. Wetmur (1926), Hendersonville City Hall (1927), Etowah Grade School (1927), Citizen's National Bank (1928), Edneyville Grade School (ca. 1920s), Flat Rock School (ca. 1920s), Fletcher Elementary School (ca. 1920s), Mills River District Public School (ca. 1920s), the Tuxedo School Building (ca. 1920s), the W. M. Sherard Residence (ca. 1920s), the Hafford Jones Residence (date unknown), a showroom and service station for Hendersonville Brick Company (date unknown), the Ewbank & Ewbank office building (date unknown), a store building for Ewbank Brothers (date unknown), and the E. W. Ewbank Residence (date unknown).

The 541 Blythe Street house is more directly associated with the latter part of Stillwell's career, when he still worked some in Henderson County but also became active all through North Carolina and the southeast, especially in the design of numerous Art Deco and Art Nouveau theaters, and was a founding principal in the firm Six Associates, based in Asheville. Since Stillwell's death, the property has changed hands several times. Stillwell willed the house to his niece, Helen G. Rake, and her husband Lorraine P. Rake. The Rakes sold the property on December 20, 1978 to Jennifer F. McConnachie. Jennifer McConnachie sold the property to William H. and Joan L. Bell on June 1, 1979. The Bells sold the property on November 15, 1982 to Patrick L. McNutt. Patrick McNutt sold the property to David S. Cowan on June 26, 1986, and Janet and James Johnson bought the property from the Cowans in 1999.

(Excerpts from the Local Historic Property Designation Report 4.25.01)