North Carolina Room Database Getting New Software Update!

The end of June marked the end of a year-long $68,000 Digitization Grant awarded to the North Carolina Room, Pack Memorial Library, by the State Library of North Carolina, made possible through funding from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).  The main part of the grant enabled us to begin the scanning of our Six Associates Architectural Collection. As of today, over 6,000 architectural drawings have been added to our database and are available to view online.

A special part of this grant was also the purchase of a new web publishing software system, Presto for DB/TextWorks. This robust upgrade to our software will give us more internet visibility and will allow us to provide quicker and more user-friendly searches and image delivery. The North Carolina Room staff worked for several months with a Presto software instructor to learn how to create and use the new software.

The NC Collections online database may be offline for just a few days while Buncombe County IT installs the new system, and we plan to go live with the new site in mid-July.

We hope you will like it. Please feel free to call or email us if you have questions. Below is a teaser–a screen shot of our new home page.


The Friends of the North Carolina Room Social at the Rankin House Inn

A Social for the Friends of the North Carolina Room was held Wednesday, June 24th, 2015 at the Rankin House Inn. The oldest frame house in Asheville, it was built in 1848 by William Dinwiddle (1804-1879) and Elizabeth Lightfoot Roadman (1804-1908) Rankin. It was the perfect place for a gathering of people who love local history.

The traditional front-porch-photo was taken.


Friends of the North Carolina Room Social at the Rankin House Inn, June 24th, 2015.

The Rankin House Inn was also the perfect setting since the North Carolina Room recently received a donation of the Rankin-Bearden Collection, donated by Walter Diehl and his mother Lynne Diehl.


Lynne Diehl


Walter Diehl

Friends enjoying the food and drink, the porches and patios, the beautiful old rooms . . . and conversation.






The North Carolina Room staff provided displays highlighting some of the Rankin and Bearden family members and other materials in the collection, such as Civil War letters written by W.D. and Elizabeth Rankin’s son David Rankin and their daughter Amelia’s husband, M.J. Bearden.  Our post last week previewed some of these letters. Click here to view the last week’s post on the Civil War Letters. All of the Civil War letters and their transcriptions can be viewed by going to our website at and entering MS250.001* in the search box. [The asterisk will bring up all of the records in that folder.]


NC Friends Joe and Wanda Newman played a few songs fitting to the time period of the house: Keep on the Sunny Side of Life (Carter Family, 1938), Hard Times Come Again No More (Stephen Foster, 1855), and Wayfaring Stranger (traditional British melody with words written in the U.S., early 1800s).


The house, known in the preservation world as the Rankin-Bearden house, 32 Elizabeth Place, fell into neglect and bad repair and was actually condemned by the city in the early 1990s. Fred Eggerton, contractor extraordinaire, fell in love and bought the house in 1993. He then spent the next 20 years renovating it. The city of Asheville placed the house on the local landmark list in 2006 and the Preservation Society of Asheville and Buncombe County gave it a 2007 Griffin Award for Residential Renovation. Fred opened the house as an Inn in 2014, but died unexpectedly, December 14, 2014.

MtnXpress-Rankin House 002

“Mountain Express,” October 9-16, 1996.

Mayor Esther Manheimer made an official proclamation proclaiming June 24, 2015 as the Rankin House Inn Day. The Mayor was called to Raleigh at the last minute and could not attend, so Asheville City Councilwoman Gwen Wisler read the proclamation in her stead.


L to R: Gwen Wisler, Walter Diehl, Susan Eggerton (Rankin House Inn owner), and Lynne Poirier Wilson (President of the Friends of the North Carolina Room board.)

“Now, therefore, I, Esther Manheimer, Mayor of the City of Asheville, do hereby proclaim the city’s appreciation for the North Carolina Room, the Rankin and Bearden family’s lives, work and contributions to the city, Walter Diehl’s donation of family materials, and Fred Eggerton’s work to save the Rankin House Inn, I do hereby proclaim Wednesday, June 24, 2015 as the Rankin House Inn Day.”


What a nice touch it was, having our very own proclamation. Thank you Friends of the North Carolina Room, Rankin and Bearden family members, Mayor Esther Manheimer and Councilwoman Gwen Wisler, and many thanks to Susan Eggerton for hosting this social.

Rankin House Inn Website

Photographs taken by Kathryn Temple, Lyme Kedic and Brenda Murphree

Post by Zoe Rhine, Librarian

Civil War Letters from the Rankin-Bearden Collection

“My Dear Father, Richmond is sad to day,” begins the letter that Major David Rankin wrote to his father, William Dinwiddle Rankin, on May 11, 1863. “The news of the death of that great and good man Stonewall Jackson was received at a late hour last night and spread universal gloom over the whole city. The stores are all closed today in token of the sad event.”   Rankin relates particulars of the Confederate general’s death, then wonders, “Who is to step in to the place made vacant by his death?”

MS250_001C Rankin letter 5-11-1863 p1 093

Letter of May 11, 1863 from David Rankin to his father W.D. Rankin. MS250.


David Rankin was born in Asheville in 1832, the son of William D. and Elizabeth Roadman Rankin. The Rankin family home was called Meadowbrook, built in 1848, it survives today and is known of as the Rankin House Inn. As a young man, David moved to New York City to manage his father’s mercantile business there. When the Civil War began, he returned home to enlist in the Confederate army. Rankin’s abilities were recognized by the new government in Richmond. He was appointed to the rank of Major and assigned to the staff of General Braxton Bragg in the Quartermaster’s Department. That position gave him good access to war news as it was reported in the Confederate capital.   In his letters, he relayed that news back home to his family in Asheville.

 david rankin

 David Rankin 1832-1897

 Fourteen of Rankin’s handwritten letters from the years 1862-1865 have been donated to the North Carolina Collection at Pack Memorial Library as part of the Rankin-Bearden Collection, MS250.   In this era of immediate news reporting, they stand as a reminder of the slow, often unreliable pace at which news once traveled. They also bring to life the events of a distant war, reframing historical events as personal history. They give us a chance to know David Rankin, a Southern partisan, within the context of his time and place.

Most of Rankin’s Civil War letters were addressed to “My dear Father.” They conveyed news of battles, generals, and strategies, along with his commentary. Those written in 1862 and 1863, the earlier war years, often reported Confederate victories. This letter written May 7, 1863 is an example:

“Since writing you last the smoke of battle has lifted to some extent and given us a feeble glance at the blood-stained field of Chancellorsville. I have seen and conversed with several participants in that bloody drama and all accounts concur in representing it the greatest and hardest fought battle of the war. The Yankees are said to have fought with unusual bravery and contested every inch of ground with more than ordinary stubbornness, and but for old Stonewall’s favorite and accustomed plan of penetrating and attacking their rear, it is doubtful how the tide of battle would have turned.”

Rankin’s account of the Battle of Gettysburg, written on July 8, 1863, testifies to the difficulty in receiving reliable news accounts, even in the Confederate capital. While some believe that General Robert E. Lee has triumphed, Rankin is skeptical:

“The four days fighting at Gettysburg Pa. is reported to have resulted in the most crowning triumph of the war. 40,000 prisoners are claimed for Lee, with a loss to his own army of 10,000 men. We got no papers by last Truce boat on yesterday, and the officers are reported to be very reticent and dejected. There has not been a line of official news of the great battle of the war by the government and nothing will be believed here till it comes over Gen Lee’s signature when everybody will know it is so. The possibility tho of the news we hear being so has created the liveliest enthusiasm… and given rise to such sanguine prophesies as ‘peace in 60 days,’ ‘Gen Lee in Washington,’ ‘Baltimore and Phila at his feet,’ &c &c, but we have seen too much of all such things to fly off into a general jubilee of exultation till the facts have transpired. ”


Rankin’s duties as a Quartermaster kept him behind a desk much of the time. However, as this letter written on March 8, 1864 attests, he occasionally saw battle:

“I was out with my Battallion the most of last week, guarding one of the entrances to the city against a surprise by the Yankee raiders—was in the bloody little fight Tuesday night at Greens Farm, but am not scratched. We peppered the Yankees smartly killing and wounding some thirty to forty of them, with two or three killed and a doz or more slight wounds on our side. There was only three wounded in my Battn. The night was pitchy dark and the rain was pouring down in sluices, which turned to a snow after while, and then a freeze, so that our coattails needed no crinoline in them by morning. A pretty hard night for boys that sleep in cozy rooms every night at home.”

As the war dragged on through 1864, the news from Richmond became increasingly grim. Rankin wrote on May 24: “Richmond is again one vast house of mourning. Her sons have fallen in every fight, and still the bloody work goes on.” In the last letter in this collection, written May 5, 1865, the end of the war is near yet the fighting continues. Rankin writes:

“Things look undoubtedly and undeniably blue in these parts just now. The people of the Confederacy are pretty badly whipd and if it was not for the confident tone of the army we might as well give up. Early has been whipd at Staunton and his forces scattered. His force was small and Sheridan went through it like a dose of salts…We have bright weather after so much rain and cold—the country is nothing but mud—but a few days of sunshine assisted by the March winds will dry the roads and then look out for the roar of battle again. The question of supplies is the paramount one here now. It is hard work getting enough to keep us all alive.”

In addition to the letters written to his father, Rankin also corresponded with this sister, Amelia Rankin Bearden, during the time when her husband, Marcus Josephus “Joe” Bearden was held prisoner of war. Those letters, along with the letters that Joe Bearden wrote to his wife, have been excerpted and are also available online through Pack Memorial Library’s North Carolina Collection.

Reminder to all of the members of the Friends of the North Carolina Room that this year’s social will be held at the Rankin House Inn this Wednesday June 24th. We look forward to seeing you there.

Post by Laura Gaskin, North Carolina Room volunteer.


WLOS TV Visits the North Carolina Room Again!


Homeland Park, circa 1940. Title on back of card reads: DELUXE CAMP, HOMELAND PARK, BOX 55, OTEEN NC STEAM HEATED, DELUXE CAMP, HOMELAND PARK

WLOS anchor Frank Fraboni was looking for answers to an ASK 13 question about what ever happened to the oversize coffee pots that used to be at the entrance to the Homeland Park Tourist cabins in East Asheville just past the WNC Nature Center. He landed on our HeardTell blog post we had written last November about tourists courts, so came to talk to North Carolina Room staff about our post and what we knew. Our records concerning the coffee pots at the entrance says that they were in place in March of 1996 but not there in December of 1998.

Here is the link to the WLOS coverage:

And here is the link to our earlier blog post on tourist courts:


Post by Zoe Rhine librarian

Jon Elliston, Asheville 100 Years Ago: Back by popular demand!

If you missed hearing Jon Elliston back in March for the kick-off to our Brown Bag Lunch series, here’s your chance. Lots of people who couldn’t make it at lunchtime, thought we should schedule an evening event. The Brown Bag lunch was actually Jon’s idea, of a way to present to a small group in an informal way. Well, it was informal, but not small. We hope you can join us. Jon gives a not-to-be-missed fascinating look at Asheville in 1915. And bring a friend.

Elliston Flyer 8x11 - June 10

Malaprop’s Book Store Cafe: Happy 33rd Anniversary, June 1, 2015

Malaprop’s Book Store and Cafe isn’t where it started out. The book store opened in 1982 at 61 Haywood Street. O’Henry’s Bar and Restaurant was next door at 59 Haywood Street. It might help newcomers to town to know that these two sites are the current homes of Southern Charm Boutique (which recently replaced Origami Ink) and Sensibilities Spa.

As Malaprop’s owner Emoke B’Racz says on the book store’s website, at that time, with the abandoned state of downtown, “You could walk three blocks in any direction before you found a door not nailed down.”

What wasn’t downtown? Sears Roebuck and Co. left downtown and moved to the Asheville Mall in 1972, Belk’s Department store in 1973, Bon Marche in 1979, and Penny’s, the last holder on, went in 1989. Even the S&W Cafeteria chose the mall and left its beautiful home on Patton Avenue in 1973. Woolworth’s remained on Haywood Street until 1993.

Malaprop’s was one of the main businesses we have to thank for the revival of the downtown we all so love and enjoy today.

Malaprop’s Cafe had a couple of rough starts, but became a haven for quite a few people. There was an art wall at the back of the room and a good list of musical performances, as well as book readings downstairs.

This was one of my favorite bands, shown here around 1987.  Hilary Dirlam is on guitar, the fiddler is Dona Cavanaugh, and the mandolin player is Elizabeth Ann Wyndelts, past owner of the Futon store on Broadway. The three of them were the band “Too Hot To Cook” and played around WNC for about 20 years.


This shot of the audience at Malaprop’s Cafe shows David Hurand of WCQS on left center at the bar. Robert Bauwmann is to the right with glasses and small child. Is anyone else identifiable? Let us know.

Barbera Sayer from WCQS contacted us after seeing this post thinks it was some type of WCQS event as so many people there worked at the radio station. She further identified WLOS staff: the person doing sound is Wolfgang Rinehart. Man with glasses and child is Robert Baumann with his son Gabriel. Woman in foreground with thick dark hair and glasses is Linda Frankel, wife of Chip Kaufmann. Man in front with full beard is Tom Draughon. Beth McGill, Jim McGill’s wife is also in the photo.

Congratulations, Malaprop’s, on giving us 33 years of good books and good coffee and changing the face of downtown Asheville!

Post by Zoe Rhine, Librarian.
Addendum: I found these photographs in my closet last winter. I was an employee of Malaprop’s for eight years. Being a librarian in the North Carolina Room for over 20 years, and being responsible for collecting the city’s history, I was surprised to find these photos hidden away in my stuff but quickly realized the importance of adding these photos to the North Carolina collection. Do you have any photos hidden away in your closets we might like to add to our collection, to save and preserve and pass on to future generations, giving color to our city’s past? If you don’t want to donate the originals, please give us the chance to scan them.

Brown Bag Lunch “Hungry for History” Attendees Learn about Rafael Guastavino’s Life & Family

Local Asheville residents are hungry for history. Eighty-three people gathered in the Lord Auditorium, Pack Memorial Library to hear new research about the life and family of Rafael Guastavino (1842-1908), the renowned Spanish architect known for his vaults and domes. Guastavino came to Asheville in 1894 for the construction of the Biltmore Estate. He purchased 1,000 acres near Black Mountain for his home, which he named Rhododendron, the current site of Christmount Christian Assembly.


Wednesday, May 27, 2015, Lord Auditorium, Pack Memorial Library.

Guastavino is most known in Asheville for his domes and vaults at Biltmore Estate as well as his “masterpiece,” the Basilica of St. Lawrence. He is also known for his domes and vaults at the Cathedral of St. John The Divine in NYC, the Boston Public Library and Grand Central Station, to name only a few.

John Toms, in photo below, seated facing the camera, set the background and introduced the speakers. John researched and wrote the National Register documentation for the Basilica’s National Significance designation. Albert Czarnecki at the podium, contacted many of the newly found family members, and was given, with stipulations, valuable Guastavino business and personal letters, as well as Spanish clothing worn by Guastavino’s second wife, Francisca, who lived on at Rhododendron after he died in 1908, until her death in 1946.


Lori Doerr, a retired chemist and past docent at the Basilica, talked about the genealogical work she had done on both Rafael and Francisca (who took some 14 years off her actual age, making Lori’s research a bit difficult.) Diane Wright, tour coordinator for the Basilica, talked about the chance to meet and talk several times with Francisca’s friend and driver, Nancy Hyatt Frady, revelling more about Francisca and her 38 year period of being a recluse, mourning her husband’s death. Diane also invited everyone to come tour the Guastavino masterpiece.


Some of these items of correspondence and clothing and the result of the speaker’s research are currently on display through May 31 in the North Carolina Room at Pack Library, and have been donated as part of the permanent collection in the North Carolina Room. The event was sponsored by the Friends of the North Carolina Room.

MS264_001B PHOTO G

Ending the program, an AmeriCorps volunteer at Hall Fletcher Elementary School, and a parent of two students there, talked about plans for Hall Fletcher’s Outdoor Learning Center that plans to construct two Guastavino domes on the site.

Their project can be found at this link,


Thanks from the North Carolina Room staff to John, Lori, Albert and Diane for their passionate interest, detailed research, and for taking the time to share it with us.

Photographs taken by North Carolina Room staff, Lyme Kedic.