To the rescue

A historical rescue tops the list of projects recognized by this year’s Griffin Awards.

Sallie Lee Cottage
photo by Bill Wescott
Proud to be a Victorian: Rescued from the wrecking ball, the Sallie Lee Victorian Cottage (now in Montford) was the first house in Western North Carolina owned by a woman, according to The Preservation Society of Asheville and Buncombe County.

In 1880, Sallie Lee built a stick-style Victorian cottage on Ashland Avenue. With that act, Lee (whose husband was an indirect descendant of Gen. Robert E. Lee) became the first woman to own a house in Western North Carolina, says Preservation Society President Bill Wescott, who served as preservation consultant on the project.

After Sallie Lee sold the house for the second time in 1885 (having bought it back following the initial sale), the cottage was eventually turned into a rental property. And though the interior features were preserved, the exterior deteriorated into a moldering wreck.

A little more than two years ago, Asheville attorney (and former Mayor) Lou Bissette, who had purchased the house with his business partners, approached The Preservation Society about donating the cottage and thereby qualifying for tax credits, Wescott recalls.

The society leaped into action, borrowing $38,000 in revolving funds from the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina and working with the Historic Resources Commission of Asheville and Buncombe County to move the house — a feat accomplished on Christmas Eve two years ago.

Nowadays, the rehabilitated cottage resides in Montford and is the picture of historic health, sporting a new paint job and roof — and energizing its new street in the process.

Score one for preserving an important piece of Asheville’s past.

— Tracy Rose

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