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  A church inside a laundry, Asheville
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   Author  Topic: A church inside a laundry, Asheville  (Read 1988 times)
Vance Pollock

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A church inside a laundry, Asheville
« on: October 22, 2010, 12:01:21 PM »
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A guest on the first Underground Asheville tour last night asked about the church with the business block built around it. This  building is at #22 Church St. in Asheville and for years was Swannanoa Cleaners.

I scavenged some notes about the building along with a few photographs where the original church building can be seen rising out of the typical business building.

Available information varies as to the exact age of the original church, but it is identified as the Christian Church of Asheville, built as early as the 1840s or as late as 1885, this last date shortly before the church went bankrupt and sold out to the first laundry business in 1891.

The cross-plan Christian Church, whose tin-shingled roof is still visible from the street, is now enclosed within the walls of the Swannanoa Cleaners, located at 22 Church Street. The church building was converted to a laundry in 1891, and architect William Dodge designed the current façade, which was added c. 1940.
From the Asheville Citizen-Times (06/07/07)

Church revamp questioned

ASHEVILLE — An 1840s-era church embedded in a former laundry has grabbed the attention of historic preservationists.

Central United Methodist Church in downtown Asheville, which bought the old Swannanoa Cleaners plant across Church Street about four years ago, wants to tear the building down to make room for a parking lot and possible future development. But the 45,000-square-foot plant, which closed several years ago, was built around a 2,000-square-foot church. The church’s gabled slate roof, which makes the shape of the cross, is still visible from the street.

Jennifer Cathey, a restoration specialist with the state Historic Preservation Office in Asheville, said “only a handful of buildings” dating to the 1840s still exist locally, including the Smith-McDowell House.

“That to me suggests (this church) may be more significant than we know,” Cathey said, noting that the current building lies in the National Register of Historic Places District. “We just want to think long and hard about losing it.”

The Downtown Commission will do just that at 8:30 a.m. Friday, said Alan Glines, an urban planner with the city’s Planning and Development Department.

“They have to sign off on demolition, even when there’s not new construction,” Glines said. “Their vote is a mandatory review but a voluntary compliance. So even if they vote no ... the owner can still take it down.”

The original church, First Christian Church, went bankrupt in 1885, said Bretney Smith, the president of Swannanoa Cleaners and grandson of the founder. A different cleaners took over in the late 1800s, and Swannanoa Cleaners bought the site in 1900.

Smith said his grandfather added a false front in the 1940s and two other sections, as well as different levels. He doubts a restoration would be possible.

“Really, what’s left of the church is a slate roof,” Smith said.

Historic preservationist Bill Wescott would like to see the building “peeled like an onion” to expose the original structure. But that’s no easy task, said local architect Peter Alberice, who has worked on the project for the church.

Central United Methodist initially planned to renovate the facility as a “family life center,” but Alberice and church officials determined that the old building was not stable enough inside for renovations.

“There’s not really a lot of the existing church to save,” Alberice said.

The former Swannanoa Cleaners facility at 22 Church St. was built around an 1840s-era church, the gables of which are still visible. The new owner, Central United Methodist Church, wants to tear the entire structure down, but preservationists say the situation should be studied more closely.
Interesting article on the history of Swannanoa Cleaners which states that the original church was built in 1885.

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