There is nothing like a memoir to learn the history of a place, and the Albemarle community is lucky that the children (of which there were 10) of William and Mary Wadley Raoul wrote about their family and the development of Albemarle. The Family of Raoul: A Memoir by Mary Raoul Millis, contains Mary’s writing and includes excerpts from her brothers Thomas Wadley and William Raoul. The family lived in Macon, Georgia, Savannah, New York and Atlanta and often summered in various places. They came to Warm Springs (Hot Springs) the summer of 1880, and then took a boarding house in Asheville circa 1884 or 1885 and in 1886 they were in Asheville for the opening of the Battery Park Hotel in July.
As Thomas tells the predestined story, his mother Mary had taken several of the children on a walk from their boarding house to a farm on Charlotte Street to get some milk. “They sat by the spring house to drink it, and the children fed the fish in the nearby pond. Mother was captivated with the place, sensing its possibilities as a permanent summer home. The plan appealed to father, and the purchase was made. Mr. Deaver’s
small farm house was converted into a temporary residence for the family.” The property had been an investment for Mr. R. M. Deaver. The Asheville Citizen-Times reported the purchase on August 13, 1886. The tract was for 34 acres “lying on North Charlotte Street, and running back to Smith’s Mountain.” The price paid was $6,000. The family occupied the house the following year, but not foreseeing it themselves, were not to return to Asheville for another ten years.
In 1896 Thomas was struck with tuberculosis. His father sent him out west for the good air for five months, and then back to Asheville. Part of William’s plan was to keep Thomas interested in something, and he suggested to Thomas that he begin to cut out and clear the Asheville Place “with a view to the possibility of cutting it into building lots and selling it.” He began clearing in August. “At that time Charlotte Street was the ragged end of nowhere, and the boom having petered out shortly before, there was but little chance of selling the property.”
Shortly after, Thomas and his father were sitting on the porch at the Battery Park Hotel discussing their property with Col. Frank Coxe. Coxe told them “the one thing that can be sold or rented in Asheville was a boarding house.” At the time, Thomas and his father both thought this was out of the question. While staying at a boarding house himself, Thomas came to change his mind and talked with his father that Christmas.
William Raoul meanwhile had discussed the plans with a close friend Bradford L. Gilbert, a New York architect, and then through him, with Samuel Parsons, landscape architect of Central Park in New York. A tentative lay-out of the plans for the Asheville Place was made.
In November 1897 Thomas and his brother Gaston made a survey and began laying out the roads. It must have been as good as a cure as any for a person with tuberculosis. Knowing well enough that they’d need a good name for the property, they had decided to call it Albemarle Park, from the “Duke of Albemarle, one of eight who held the original grant from the Crown to the land which was to become North Carolina.”
Mr. J. A. Tennent was chosen to build the lodge. Named the Manor House, it was completed first and opened for guests as a boarding house in January 1, 1898. The gatehouse was built and the Albemarle Clubhouse was completed in 1902 and by 1905 ten cottages had been built and were offered to rent
fully furnished with meals taken at the Manor. The Club offered bowling, pool, billiards, tennis and clock-golf and also has reading and lounging rooms.
* In 1913 an addition was built extending towards Charlotte Street.
* In 1914 the northern wing was built
* The Manor’s northwest wing burned by fire March 1920 but work rebuilding it begun just two hours after the fire.
* In April of that year Thomas Raoul sold the Manor and 11 cottages to E.W. Grove for a half a million dollars.
* Asheville hotel man Albert H. Malone bought the property in 1930
* A group of five Asheville businessmen purchased the Manor and five cottages in 1944.
* A Florida hotel man, John H. Chamberlin purchased the property in 1947 for $125,000.
* Thomas Wadley Raoul, born in Macon, Georgia in 1876, died in Asheville at age 76 in 1953. He served as president of the Biltmore Forest Company and served many years as director of the Asheville Chamber of Commerce.
* Several more sales followed until in 1963 the Manor was converted into a retirement hotel.
* In 1977 the Manor and Cottages became listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
* The Manor fell into economic decline through the 1970s and 1980s and up against foreclosure the Preservation Society of Asheville and Buncombe County purchased it.
For further reading see: The Manor & Cottages Albemarle Park Asheville N.C. by Jane Gianvito and Rich Mathews; Asheville’s Albemarle Park by Stacy A. Merten.
Did you grow up in Albemarle Park? Live there now? We want to hear and preserve your memories! Reach out to the NC Room to find out how your local public special collections library can help you!