Montford, a neighborhood of about 300 acres, sits a country mile away from the hustle and bustle Asheville, N.C.'s once-again thriving downtown. Originally developed around the turn of the last century, Montford is home to more than 600 structures, most built between 1890 and 1920. Although the trolley line that allowed neighborhood residents to "commute" downtown is now buried under asphalt, the neighborhood still accommodates pedestrians, bicyclists, and buses. It was spared significant loss of its architectural fabric after becoming a nationally registered historic district in 1977. Restrictions slowed demolition and guided renovation, and more recently, new construction.
After 30 years of scraping lead paint, shoring up footings, running off flophouses, and converting cheap apartments back into single family residences, Montford again has many of the amenities that made it a desired destination during its initial development, including its convenience to downtown, schools and parks, mature trees, a diversity of housing and uses, and lots of restored architectural gems. Most of these buildings, however, have little insulation, drafty single-pane windows, and musty basements.
As an architect and automobile-culture refugee, I jumped at the opportunity to purchase one of the few large lots in the neighborhood. The lot once held a large rambling home that was consumed by fire in the 1960s. After the fire, the lot was vacant until I bought it and made plans to build a new house there. Despite historic-design guidelines in the neighborhood, my initial vision for the house was adapted to its final design.