If you seek the warmth and energy of Asheville, but the words “new” and “condo” aren’t quite your speed, the neighborhood of Montford offers many opportunities to Live the Life You Choose. Take a quick walk from the heart of downtown, and you will find yourself in the midst of a close-knit, historic neighborhood with large old trees, lush lawns, and diverse architecture.
The beautiful Montford Historic District is just a stone’s throw north of downtown Asheville. Within easy walking distance to all of downtown’s amenities, this neighborhood has long been known to tourists for its charming Victorian bed and breakfasts and tours of its unique and painstakingly restored historic district. And yet, Montford is so much more than beautiful old homes. It boasts a tight-knit community with beautiful public spaces and thriving community connections.
“We were attracted by the historic tradition of Montford,” said Sharon Fahrer, Montford resident and local historian. “I think the appeal of the neighborhood is its variety. Few houses look the same. Each one is different, it has its own personality. We have sidewalks that make walking easy. People love to walk around Montford.”
A portion of this neighborhood was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1977, and in 1981, the Asheville City Council designated Montford as a local historic district. Montford retains more than 600 buildings, most of which were built between 1890 and 1920.
“We see a diverse variety of architectural styles,” said Fahrer. “The earlier houses, the 1895 kind of houses, they were Queen Anne Victorian. We had people like Richard Sharp Smith, the supervising architect of the Biltmore Estate. He designed over 72 houses in Montford, and he brought more of the Arts & Crafts influence.” The result is an overall complex quality of designs and artistic talent throughout the neighborhood.
With a wide main thoroughfare, sidewalks, and its own selection of attractions, Montford offers residents many walking opportunities. “Montford was Asheville’s first trolley suburb,” said Fahrer, “and that’s why Montford Avenue is so wide. The trolley came down the middle of the street, and you needed two lanes for the horses and carriages that were going by.”
Historic Riverside Cemetery is a Victorian rural garden cemetery, as well as one of Buncombe County’s treasure tree repositories, according to Fahrer. Riverside is the final resting place of a number of famous people, including authors Thomas Wolfe and William Sydney Porter (better known as O. Henry), Confederate General Robert B. Vance, North Carolina Governor Zebulon Vance, and many others.
Neighborhood cultural events include the Montford Park Players, North Carolina’s longest-running Shakespeare troupe. “We have the Hazel Robinson free Shakespeare theater,” where the Players perform, said Fahrer. “They do performances Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays [while in season]—you just bring a picnic, you bring your wine, whatever you’d like—and that’s been going on for 40 years.”
Each May, Montford residents come together for the Montford Music & Art Festival. This unique festival features more than 100 vendors of art, crafts, plants, and food; 20 groups performing across two stages; and a children’s area. If running is your passion, the Hot August Night 5K is a great way to tour the neighborhood.
“Even though we’re a historic neighborhood, we’re not a static neighborhood,” said Fahrer. “There’s always new things happening. We have older people. We have younger people. We have students. We have renters. We have homeowners. We have vacationers. We have bed and breakfasts that house over 250 beds here, so that brings a lot of tourists. And there’s always something going on in the neighborhood—a music festival, a tour of homes, an Easter egg hunt, a 5K race. There’s always something going on because we want to keep that feeling of living in a traditional neighborhood.”
See the beauty and history of Montford for yourself! Read more about Montford, see more photos, or search for homes in the area, from our Beverly-Hanks Montford community page. Learn more about Montford’s history and architecture from Sharon Fahrer through the History at Hand: Historic Montford Tours.