The Asheville Supply and Foundry Company in North Carolina was established in 1915 and produced steel and other supplies used to build area landmarks, such as Biltmore House, the country’s largest home, and Asheville City Hall. When the foundry closed in 1950, its collection of buildings was abandoned and initially slated for demolition.
In 2017, the Preservation Society of Asheville and Buncombe County announced plans to transform the historic site into a top hospitality destination. After decades of vacancy, the buildings were in extreme disrepair, but a team was assembled to give the project a new vision and save the discarded site.
The Christman Company served as construction manager and partnered with Encore Lodging and Studio Z Architecture to preserve the historic nature of the site’s existing three buildings and construct two new structures to cohesively fit within the site. Guidance was provided by the North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office and the National Park Service.
The result is a boutique hotel, now called The Foundry Hotel, an 87-room, 80,258-square-foot luxury property.
Decompress and Dine in Style
Positioned in an area known as “The Block,” the hotel, located at 51 S. Market Street, includes five buildings with a project cost of $24 million. The hotel is now part of Hilton’s Curio Collection and includes a 100-seat restaurant called Benne on Eagle, a nod to historic Eagle Street for being an integral part of the community’s history.
The hotel’s website, foundryasheville.com, lends insight into this area and the restaurant: “For much of the twentieth century, Eagle Street was the place to be on The Block. Local businesses helped weave the collective fabric of our predominantly African American neighborhood. Serving as the heart of The Block’s thriving social scene, Eagle Street was home to an abundance of gathering spots for food, drink, live music and entertainment. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, our once-thriving neighborhood fell into disrepair. Since then, The Block has remained largely untouched and its business community in decline. We … are proud to be a part of the revitalizing new energy on Eagle Street.”
Benne on Eagle’s Executive Chef Robert Alexander says he “is proud to continue the evolution of the restaurant’s theme of Sankofa—‘go back and get it’ in the Twi language—progressing forward and integrating new food techniques and methods while looking back to history to learn and bring awareness to culinary traditions from the African American culture of The Block.”
Old and New
The Foundry Hotel is a stunning example of melding old and new: The juxtaposition of modern touches amid the environs of a century-old complex provides visual interest and places of luxurious comfort at every turn.
Every nook, guest room and common area features modern conveniences for today’s travelers that preserves the past grandeur of the buildings while seamlessly delivering on today’s design and uses.
This project was particularly gratifying because of the historic buildings the team was able to help save. Working closely with the North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office ensured the team followed its mission to promote the preservation and reuse of historic architecture. The neighborhood is undergoing revitalization efforts, and everyone was honored to be a part of its resurgence.
The strategy of the construction elements was clear: Utilize durable, high-quality materials to preserve the historic fabric of the neighborhood and craftsmen who replicate materials found in the existing buildings to ensure integrity and withstand the test of time. Simple at a glance but a labor intensive—and rewarding—challenge for the parties who were bringing the site back to life.
The brick façade and large windows of the existing buildings were preserved, and the name of the original company remains visible on an exterior wall. Brick, mortar and aluminum storefront systems were chosen to match the existing buildings as closely as possible. Exterior exposed structural steel was included as an architectural feature to maintain the appearance of an industrial foundry. The steel elements were galvanized and coated with a high-performance finish to increase their life expectancy.
For the existing structures, the interior and exterior brick finishes were cleaned with a water-vapor blast to maintain the finish. Reclaimed, historic brick was used where possible. Even the historic granite curbs were saved, refurbished and reused.
PHOTOS: Bruce McCamish unless otherwise noted