What in the world is a hundred-year-old perfect specimen of a New England Style home doing in the Montford Area Historic District of Asheville, North Carolina? I discovered the answer when I was researching the original owner, Captain John Adams Perry. Perry was the classic army brat. He was born in Leavenworth, Kansas during his father’s deployment to the base. He came from a long line of military men and heroes. His father, Alexander James Perry, went on to become a Brigadier General. Perhaps the most famous of the Perry men was Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, the Naval hero who defeated the British Navy on Lake Erie in the War of 1812. While the Perry men served throughout the nation and abroad, their family roots were in Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New York. They were New Englanders.
When 44-year-old Captain Perry was disabled in 1903 during his Army service in the Philippines, he retired to Asheville for his health with his wife, Charlotte, and daughter, Anne. While his exact medical condition is not known, he probably suffered some type of lung damage, possibly TB. He purchased the site for his home on Cumberland Circle in 1908. The site is on the northern edge of what is now the Montford Area Historic District adjacent to downtown Asheville. The property rises to a knoll that the Captain selected as the site for his house. It overlooked the rolling agricultural lands stretching north along the old Buncombe Turnpike and offered a wonderful view for the new home. That view unfortunately has been lost behind growing trees and the continued growth of the city; nevertheless, the grounds surrounding the house still provide an enjoyable view and experience.
Perry hired the Asheville architect, William Henry Lord, to design the residence. The original architectural house plans with changes and notations in pencil are over 100 years old and remain with the home today. The house was completed in 1912. Perry’s strong family history and ties to New England is evident in his architectural choice. The Early New England Style Colonial Revival is a 6000 square foot two-story structure of frame construction with a stone masonry foundation, cedar shake siding featuring a pediment entrance supported on Doric columns and flanking porches. The foundation was laid by the same stonemasons who worked on the Biltmore Estate The floors were pine throughout.
Captain Perry has been characterized as a charming man who was amused by the children in the Montford neighborhood. He was to have delighted them by making kites and whittling windmills out of red cedar. He added a Captain’s walk to the west roof ridge reached through a skylight so he could watch the weather and survey Montford from high atop the knoll on which the house sits. When Captain John Adams Perry died in 1939, his daughter, Anne, and her husband, Dr. Eugene M. Carr, continued to live in the house until 1950. Since then, there have been nine different property owners:
- The first non-Perry owners, E. Lyndon Mckee, Jr. and wife, Ernestine, purchased the home in 1951 and lived there until 1958. Mr. McKee, nicknamed Red, was Vice-President of Wachovia Bank and Trust and an active civic leader.
- The second owners after the Perrys, were Rufus H. and Helen M. Page. Mr. Page was with the Forestry Service. The had several children. The family occupied the house throughout the sixties.
- The third were Michael D. and Peggy S. Smith who lived there from 1970 to 1986. Mike, as he was called, was Vice President of R & W, Inc., an Asheville air-conditioning contractor.
- The fourth owners were A. James and Linda N. LoPresti. It was the LoPrestis who in 1987 converted the property to a Bed & Breakfast Inn and christened it as the Applewood Manor—presumably because of the abundant apple trees on the property and perhaps in favor of the house’s apple red siding. They added two bathrooms to the second floor to have a private bath for each guestroom. The unattached garage was converted to a private cottage, and three balconies were restored to their original state. Each of the guestrooms were named after apple varieties—Granny Smith, Northern Spy, York Imperial and MacIntosh on the second floor, Winesap Suite on the third floor and the converted garage became the pet friendly Cortland Cottage.
- The fifth owners were Maryanne Young and Susan Poole who acquired the Manor on June 24th, 1991. They had been working at the Pathology Department of the Centre community Hospital in State College Pennsylvania as cytotechnologists dealing primarily with cancer. They owned and operated Applewood from 1991 to September 21, 1995 when it was sold to the Verheij family.
- The sixth owners were the Verheij family. Johan Verheij and wife, Jacoba, lived in the Manor from 1995 to 2006 and most of that time operated Applewood as Innkeepers. At least for some of the time, it appears that the Inn was managed by relatives of theirs, Johan and Coby Verheij. Johan Verheij, who passed away on July 4, 2007, had been active in Asheville’s local theater.
- Next in line, the seventh after Perry, were Larry and Nancy Merrill. Nancy managed the Manor from 2006. to 2016. According to her, a LoPresti son visited Applewood and told how he restored all the wooden floors. He told Nancy that he had lived in the basement and at that time there was a brass tube that ran into the kitchen to communicate. In 2016, the Merrills sold it to AJ Grein.
- The eighth owner was Dr. AJ Grein—a pediatrician at Rutherford Regional Health System in Rutherfordton, North Carolina, who purchased the Manor in 2016. However, the onsite operator of the Inn was Chase McWhorter who called himself the Horticulturist, Head Chef, Master Grower, and Innkeeper of Applewood Manor.
- In 2020, Stephen and Robin Collins became the ninth owners after the Perrys. They began a major remodeling and redecorating project in 2021 to elevate the property to an elite class. And they are repositioning the Manor as an event B&B site with emphasis on Cycling, Culinary and Business Leadership and Management training.
Applewood has its own stand alone appeal as an historic Bed & Breakfast in the breathtaking mountains of North Carolina, but it owes a measure of its popularity to Asheville as a destination—historic buildings and architecture, home of some of history’s most dynamic personalities and beautiful mountain vistas.