The Smith-McDowell House Museum is the oldest home in Asheville, North Carolina as well as the oldest brick structure in the county. The Antebellum home is on the National Register of Historic Places and is now a nonprofit museum. The Smith-McDowell House was built in 1840 was the Buck House. Composed of brick, it was a rarity in Asheville, where most of the home were made from wood.
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The mansion was constructed on 308 acres of land that was owned by Colonel Daniel Smith whose son, James McConnell Smith wed Mary “Polly” Patton. The home was built for the pair who would go on to build an expansive real estate business which included the unique brick mansion.
The home was passed into the McDowell family and after the civil war was purchased by Alexander Garrett in 1881 who founded Victoria and became its Mayor. The home exchanged hands many more times over the next several decades belonging to many different families from friends of President Roosevelt to millionaire businessmen and other. Several updates were done to the home including a new roof being added in 1915 and most of the interior woodworking being redone in the same year.
The Catholic Diocese purchased the house in 1951 to use as a boy home. The house had not been maintained and was purchased by Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College almost 25 years later in 1974 who was going to demolish it. The Western North Carolina Historical Association stepped up to lease the building from the college and restore it for use as a heritage center.
The Museum opened in 1981 as the Smith-McDowell House Museum and today is included in the National Register of Historic Places. The home is the oldest brick structure in the county and the oldest surviving example of a brick, antebellum home in Asheville, North Carolina.
Visit The Smith-McDowell House Museum
The Smith-McDowell House Museum is open Wednesday through Saturday from 10am-4pm. The Museum is closed on select holidays. Details and admission information can be found online.
The Smith-McDowell House Museum is not fully handicap accessible. This site is a historic structure with multiple levels that are only accessible by staircase. The first floor of the home can be accessed by all visitors and includes rooms adorned with period furniture, galleries, exhibits, program rooms, and an area where visitors may watch a video that shows the rooms featured in the upper levels of the home. The walkways surrounding the Smith-McDowell home are gravel, however at the back-entrance handicap parking is available.
The exhibits at the Smith-McDowell House Museum include rooms that are outfitted with period furniture that is authentic to the time that the house was built and the Civil War period. There are also galleries with temporary exhibits that educate visitors on different aspects of history related to North Carolina, the history of the Smith-McDowell House Museum and the region. Some of the past exhibits have included Aftermath of War, Civil War in Western North Carolina, Jame McConnell Smith, Slavery in Western North Carolina, The Gilded Age, The land of Sky, The Native American Footprint on the Land and War Letter From T.M. Garrison.
Educational events and programming are hosted by the Western North Carolina Historical Association. Which is the association that also maintains the Smith-McDowell House.
Traveling Trunks and Kits- This youth program brings the museum to you. Trunks can be rented that include artifacts and a week’s worth of lesson plans. Kits can be rented that contain only 2 or 3 days’ worth of plans. These materials can be picked up at the museum on select days and supplies are limited. Program guides can be found on the website.
Tarheel Junior Historian Association- This program is sponsored by the North Carolina Museum of History and Smith-McDowell House and meets monthly. The club is open to all school aged kids and focuses on history of the Smith-McDowell House, reenactment, a service project, and state contests.
Crafty Historian events- These events are held on the third Saturday of each month and prior reservations are required. Each event is an art focused activity that showcases a history or educational lesson.
Field Trips- School field trips are based on the North Carolina Essential Standards for Social Studies for grades 3-9. Fields trips can be adapted for other grades easily and each trip includes pre-and post trip materials for further learning experiences in the classroom. Educators should expect each trip to be up to 2.5 hours in length. Field trips are also available to home school groups, scouts and youth groups.
283 Victoria Road, Asheville, North Carolina, 28801, Phone: 828-253-9231