#TBT: 100+ years of the Kenilworth Inn

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Photo by Special Collections UNC Asheville

Not too far from Biltmore Village is a Tudor Revival, stone building full of local history. What began as the Kenilworth Inn has changed names, hands, and functions since 1890. The original Kenilworth Inn was built in 1890 by a Pennsylvania Senator, Joseph M. Gazzam who had moved to Asheville in 1889.

After creating this luxury inn at a cost of $140,000, Gazzam approached the Asheville Street Railway Company to extend its tracks from Biltmore to the top of Kenilworth. Since then, the area of Kenilworth became a well-known area in Asheville. One spring night in April of 1909 the original inn burned to the groundand luckily, all 75 guests had escaped. The amount of money lost from Kenilworth Inn on the 151-acre property was pretty detrimental. It wasn’t until 1918 when the new Kenilworth Inn, which proudly stands today, was opened by James Madison Chiles. He vowed that “a new inn would rise Phoenix-style” from the ashes.

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The original Kenilworth Inn around 1890. | Photo by Special Collections UNC Asheville

Learn how Kenilworth Inn burned to the ground, served as a military hospital during two wars, became a private mental health facility, served as a luxury hotel, and later turned into 93 apartments for locals here.⬇

James Madison Chiles was a prominent Asheville developer who moved to Asheville around the time the original inn burned. Chiles envisioned his new inn as an equal to other luxury inns in the area such as Grove Park Inn, The Manor + Battery Park Hotel – all which catered to wealthy visitors and those seeking Asheville for the areas health treatments.

From 1918 to 1919, right after the inn was completed, the US Army leased the inn to serve as a military convalescent hospital for World War I and became known as General Hospital No. 12 while the Veterans Administration Hospital was under construction. In order to run the inn as a hospital, the Army made extensive renovations including adding a surgical room, examine rooms + more. Before returning the hospital back into an inn, the Army had to decontaminate any trace of diseases and tuberculosis by replacing all ceiling, wall + floor tiles. The process took 2 years.

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Kenilworth Inn as General Hospital No. 12. | Photo by Special Collections UNC Asheville

After the first war, Chiles regained control of the inn and it served as a resort hotel from 1923 until 1930 when the Great Depression hit the Asheville area – the vacation market quickly dried up.

Not too long after shutting its doors as a resort, two doctor brothers, Mark and William Griffin purchased the Kenilworth Inn and turned it into a mental health facility called Appalachian Hall in 1931. Appalachian Hall was formerly located on French Broad Ave. from 1916 to 1931 but needed more space. At the time, Appalachian Hall included a mixture of treatment practices such as recreational, occupational + physical therapies that were more advanced for the time.

In 1943 Appalachian Hall was moved to the Princess Anne Hotel (Furman St.) and the Forest Hill Inn (Kenilworth neighborhood) so that the U.S. Navy could take over the inn and turn it into the U.S. Naval Convalescent Hospital, Kenilworth Park during World War II,where it expanded from it’s former name of U.S. Naval Rest Center. DYK: Before the U.S. Naval Rest Center was moved to Appalachian Hall it was at the Grove Park Inn.

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Kenilworth Inn today as Kenilworth Inn Historic Apartments. | Photo by @xionlion

After WWII, Appalachian Hall reoccupied the building and served as the mental facility until the 1980s when it was sold to Magellan Enterprises (a real estate holdings company). Kenilworth continued to be known as Appalachian Hall until 1994 when the name changed to Charter Behavioral Health System. This 139-bed psychiatric hospital closed in 1999 and the current owner purchased Kenilworth Inn and 25-acres in October of 2000. It was added on the National Register of Historic Places in 2001.

Also in 2001, the Kenilworth Inn changed yet again – this time to be apartments. The Kenilworth Inn Historic Apartments house 93 apartments in the 6-acre building, which has been upgraded with contemporary features. Offering studios and one-three bedroom floor plans, prices start at $999. Click here to see the floor plans.

While currently being used for apartments, the many names and functions of Kenilworth Inn have preserved both the property + building as one of Asheville’s lasting treasures.

Which of the following functions do you think was most notable? Serving as a resort hotel, military hospital, mental health facility, or apartment complex – let us know by commenting below.

And, for those of you local to the area, we have heard the Kenilworth area is haunted. Is that true? Calling all of you Helen’s Bridge goers near Zealandia Castle. Tell us your ghost stories.

Happy #ThrowbackThursday, Asheville.

–Audra + Kristie (AVLtoday Intern)

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