Historic Baird House Finds a New Home

WEAVERVILLE – With a lift and a 97-ton tug, a house moving company hauled a 127-year-old Victorian toward a new home Monday to make way for a convenience store.

The new location for the historic Baird House will be several hundred yards away, but far enough to save it from demolition and make it ready for offices.

An eccentric radio repairman named Zebulon Baird is said to have built the house in 1878, which would make it one of the Asheville area’s oldest houses and one of the most original.

The house’s architecture breaks the mold in the then-unheard-of style of “gay Victoriana” construction with unique rooflines, shutters and asymmetrical layout, said Bill Wescott, president of the Preservation Society of Asheville and Buncombe County.

In a time when his scattered neighbors lived in small houses and cabins, Baird dwelled in his two-story Victorian.

“It’s one of the most historically significant homes in the last century in Buncombe County,” Wescott said.

Go Grocery bought the property off U.S. 25 in Weaverville and donated the house to the preservation society. The preservation society helped Go Grocery get tax incentives to save the home.

The preservation society still had a precious house located on strategic land for commercial development, so they needed a partner. Michael Bryant, the owner of Estate Realty and Mortgage Max, bought the property.

“A couple years ago, they were talking about trying to take it and move it,” Bryant said. “They were basically trying to get someone to buy it outright and move it, but the size of it made the move hard.”

Bryant said that once the Preservation Society parceled off a smaller plot onto which the buyer could relocate the house, then he was enticed to buy it and move his businesses there. “Right now we are in Pack Place and paying about $1,000 a month, so we figured it would be a nice move economically,” Bryant said.

Bryant and the Preservation Society contracted the Crouch-Mitch House Moving Company to do the work, which will cost about $28,000. The company has been moving houses for four generations and was involved in the relocation of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, Wescott said.

To be moved, the house had to have space dug under it, where steel beams that could be mounted on a truck were inserted. Even then, the house wasn’t ready to roll. “It’s been up on steel beams for a year,” Wescott said. He added that the project has been stalled often in the three years he has been in charge. His goal, Wescott said, is to have the project finished when his tenure as the president of the Preservation Society expires.

Bryant said the process started about 18 months ago for him, and that the house has been ready to move for about six weeks. Six weeks also is the timetable Wescott placed on finishing the move, which requires the house to travel another hundred yards or so to its ultimate resting place.

When the house was hauled toward its new location Monday, a small group of people gathered to watch.

They recounted stories about the way Baird would supposedly turn blue from drinking to much seltzer and the huge amount of property he owned, a swath which supposedly ran from Beaver Lake to Stony Knob.

Wescott said Asheville and Weaverville residents have been enthusiastic about the project. “It’s a major historic and personal investment of the people,” Wescott said, adding that the most common sentiment has been “thank God we saved the Baird house.”

Contact Phillips at 232-5928.

History on the Move

Robert Wyatt
July 21, 2005 12:15 am

MCDOWELL COUNTY – An 1830s chestnut and heart pine farmhouse became a “mobile home” when an Asheville house mover, Crouch-Mitch, was contracted to transport it more than 1 1/2 miles to an eco-tourism bed-and-breakfast in McDowell County.

Arthur and Zee Anne Campbell, owners of The Cottages at Spring House Farm, discovered the home.

Arthur Campbell was greatly surprised by the good condition of the building.

“When I was told there was an old house in the middle of a field near our bed-and-breakfast, I frankly wasn’t expecting much,” he said. “We drove, then walked, then bushwhacked our way out to the house. It was almost totally camouflaged by kudzu and other vines.”

The home was on land belonging to the Harris family, and as the story of the house unraveled, it became even more interesting.

“The house was built between 1835 and 1840,” Campbell said. “I immediately noticed a good deal of German influence in the intricate work. As it turns out, there was a family of German immigrants living here. They moved out of the area, but one of the girls stayed behind and married into the Harris family. The intricate work was her German influence to the project.”

Zee Campbell even learned of a connection to the Campbells’ own home at Spring House Farms.

“As it turns out, one of the Harrises’ grandson’s married the niece of the builder of our home. I guess you could say we’re keeping the house in the family,” she added.

The house was moved to the farm and placed on a foundation built to resemble an 1800s foundation. Once the house is restored, the Campbells will add it to the collection of cabins and rooms available for rent.

House Move Ends Ordeal, County Moves Closer to New Landfill

Jason Sandford
July 26, 1995 12:15 am

Carolyn Gunter will watch this week as a house moving company literally uproots the 31-year-old home her father built in northern Buncombe County and moves it to make way for a new county landfill.

“It’s been emotional. I’m glad it’s soon going to be over with,” Gunter said recently as she stood outside the Murray DeBruhl Road house. The road is named after Gunter’s father.

The house-moving will mark the end of Gunter’s personal saga and another chapter in the county’s nearly five-year quest to get a landfill built in the Alexander community. The county must be out of its landfill, also in the county’s north end on N.C. 251, by October 1996, according to County Manager Bill McElrath.

The 557-acre land tract commissioners have chosen for the new dump is off Murray DeBruhl Road near the Madison County line.

Gunter and her husband, O.C. Gunter, took ownership of the three-bedroom house and a 46-acre tract of land in 1988. The Gunter’s began renting the house.

Carolyn Gunter said she remembers her father, a carpenter, building the house. She especially recalls a bedroom paneled with pine harvested from the property. The land and house “was something I thought I could always keep because I was raised here,” she said.

But in 1990, commissioners decided to put the county’s new landfill in Alexander. After the initial announcement, commissioners went back and reviewed their decision, chose the Alexander site again and began planning a landfill. In the summer of 1994, state officials finally told commissioners that the site was suitable for a landfill to be built.

McElrath said the county expects approval of its landfill construction permit “any time now” so workers can begin building the new dump.

The county bought the Gunter’s property in April. “We hated to have to move the house,” O.C. Gunter said.

The county has spent $2.1 million to buy out 19 property holders at the landfill site, according to County Attorney Joe Connolly. The county has yet to settle with about a dozen other property owners, Connolly said, including Champion International Corp. Champion, which owns about 211 acres, is the biggest landowner at the site, Connolly said.

Carolyn Gunter said the county has negotiated in good faith.

“At first, everybody was just at each other’s throat. But they’ve not hollered and shouted and cussed at us. It was as pleasant as they could make it,” she said.

Dennis Hensley, supervising the house moving for Fairview-based Crouch Mitch House Moving Co., said his crew has been working about five days to get the brick home ready to move.

Workers finished chipping away the house’s cinder block foundation Monday and plan to move the house about a mile to its new Flint Hill Road location Wednesday.