Douglas Ellington at the Asheville Center for History

Every once in a while I still volunteer at the Smith McDowell House, Asheville’s first mansion and oldest surviving house, located on the campus of A-B Tech and run by the Western North Carolina Historical Association. I hadn’t been there for a while, and when I finally made it back yesterday  – everything had changed!

Usually the two rooms to the left of the front entrance are filled with information on the families that occupied the house, but now they were filled with an exhibit:


And as soon as I turned the corner I was immediately brought into the exhibit by this amazing light.

courthouse light

It is so reminiscent of Asheville: Art Deco – highly influenced by Arts and Crafts. In fact, it is from Asheville’s iconic City Hall, designed by Ellington, and on loan from Bruce Johnson, one of the foremost authorities in the American Arts and Crafts movement.

I was brought further into the exhibit by this – a set of Art Deco “boudoir lamps”. A quick search through Google showed me that this style was very popular, often referred to as “bullet,” “candlestick” or “skyscraper.” We’ll leave it at that?

art deco boudoir lamps

Besides showcasing Ellington’s architectural imprint on Asheville, the exhibit also displays information on other important structures built during the 1920s boom in Asheville like the Battery Park Hotel, the Jackson Building (Asheville’s first skyscraper), and the Flatiron Building.

battery park ellington

Your admission to the exhibit also grants you access to the self-guided tour of the Smith McDowell House, taking you through time with period rooms from 1840-1890. I’ve given tours dozens of times, and somehow every time I’m there I learn something new. Yesterday, for the first time, I noticed this cool light in the 1880s parlor.

light in parlor

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