Updated January 26, 2018
We received word today that after a year of research and planning, the James Madison and Leah Arcouet Chiles House is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places….we’ll do more updates when we get the chance. We’re thrilled to be part of the effort to preserve this slice of Asheville history!
The Chiles House is one of the most unique homes in the city of Asheville. James (Jake) Madison Chiles, who made his fortune in the furniture industry, was the original developer of the Kenilworth neighborhood in Asheville, and decided to build himself a home in the middle of the neighborhood he conceived. Chiles House is a unique old home with an indelible connection to the history of Asheville. The current owners have been working on sprucing up the house and gardens. We’re just two guys who like history and old houses and we invite you to follow our progress as we unlock hidden secrets about the past of Chiles House, catalogue its history, and work to put our own stamp on it. For current updates see our Facebook page!
Jake and Leah Chiles constructed their home in Kenilworth over four years beginning in 1922 at a cost of over $80,000. Kenilworth, the neighborhood and town founded by Jake Chiles, is close to downtown Asheville, with numerous parks and ancient majestic trees. Leah Chiles, Jake’s wife, became mayor after Jake’s death in 1925, making her the first woman mayor in North Carolina. As mayor, Leah ultimately presided over the decision for Kenilworth to become part of Asheville. After Jake’s death, the assets of the business were sold at auction on the courthouse steps for $1200. With the ensuing Great Depression, the home fell on hard times, serving as a boarding house for a number of years. The home then was rumored to be owned by the de Medici family until 1951. John Chiles, the son of James Madison Chiles, and his wife Anne, purchased the home from Marie K de Medici. John and Anne Chiles owned the home until 1964. The house was subsequently bought by the Ryan family, who owned it for about 40 years until 2003. By that time the house was in a state of disrepair and was rumored to be condemned for demolition.
Vanessa Cram (now Vanessa Cram Byrd) and Jason Eller undertook an extensive renovation of the house and grounds. Working 7 days a week, Jason Eller and his small crew saved the house from almost certain demolition. The renovation was honored with the Griffin Award by the Preservation Society of Asheville & Buncombe County.
Designed by well known architect Ronald Greene, who also designed the Jackson Building in downtown Asheville, the romantic Chiles House evokes old world European charm and craftsmanship. It features a covered front entry with Baroque details, three balconies which overlook three private walled courtyards and several outbuildings, original quarter sawn oak floors, a library made of black walnut paneling, quad leaf doors, and mahogany raised panels and trim throughout the house. The home also features original doors and rare and original hardware thought to have been produced by Anthony Lord, a well-known local architect and iron worker.
The grounds feature a walled garden with wrought iron accents and an outbuilding affectionately known as the summer cottage.
A single story carriage house has three sets of french doors and the original exposed terra cotta hollow bricks in the interior. The remains of the former maid’s quarters attached to the carriage house still exist and are now a cozy outdoor seating area with a fireplace adjacent to the walled garden.
Chiles House has been published numerous times, having been featured in architectural publications alongside Biltmore House and The Grove Park Inn. Chiles House has most recently been featured on Home and Garden Television and in Carolina Home and Garden Magazine. The home has also previously been included in the 2006 home tour sponsored by the Preservation Society of Asheville & Buncombe County.
We are still researching the history of Chiles House with the goal of getting it listed on the National Register of Historic Places and welcome your input. Do you know any past residents? Are you a contractor or tradesman who has worked on the house? Have you been to a big party here? Are you an amateur historian with any interesting tidbits about the era when Chiles House was built? Let us know. Think of this website as our online scrapbook and add your thoughts, suggestions, photos and stories. Feel free to comment below or Contact Us with any information you may have. Thanks!