This is a profile series highlighting the City of Asheville’s vibrant and diverse neighborhoods. The City of Asheville maintains a list of neighborhoods who have registered as official organizations. Each month we invite one of these to tell you a little more about the place they call home.
Kenilworth Residents’ Association,
Between Tunnel Rd., Biltmore Ave. and Swannanoa River Rd.
What qualities make your neighborhood unique?
Kenilworth residents promote a sense of belonging and work together to build a community that is friendly and welcoming to both newcomers and second and third generation residents.
Kenilworth‘s central location, less than 2 miles from downtown and the Biltmore Estate, with easy access to the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Interstate highways attracts residents. The neighborhood is an eclectic mix of single and multi-family homes with distinct styles of architecture ranging from Victorian to Modern. Structures date from the late 19th century to current development. The community includes the Kenilworth Inn, The South Asheville Cemetery, Newton Academy Cemetery, Zealandia, the original log cabin Kenilworth Town Hall, three churches, bed & breakfast inns, five parks and Harvest House Center (an Asheville Parks & Recreation Center), Kenilworth Lake and Rathbun House, a hospitality house for families of Mission Hospital patients.
Who are the people that make up your neighborhood?
Kenilworth represents a cross section of Asheville’s diverse population and attracts residents of all ages from young adults starting out to older adults in retirement. Our 3,250 residents have a median age of 39 years with 67% of our residents participating in the labor force. Of that 67%, over 20% are self-employed or own their own incorporated business. 86% of our residents over the age of 25 have earned a high school diploma or more. The median household income is $53,952 and, on average there are 3 members in each household. Neighborhood ethnicity is 85% White, 8% African –American, 3% Asian, 1.5% Hispanic and 2.5% Multi-racial.
What is some of your neighborhood’s history?
Kenilworth, touted as Asheville’s “Pioneer Suburb”, was founded in 1914 by three local developers. The developers, James Madison Chiles, E. G. Hester, and Roland Wilson, contributed to the success of Kenilworth, which was itself a town, until it was annexed by Asheville in 1929. Prior to annexation, Kenilworth was led by North Carolina’s first woman mayor – Leah Chiles. In a bold move for the times, Leah Chiles blocked annexation until Kenilworth residents had the opportunity to vote on the matter.
Kenilworth rapidly developed into an established neighborhood with expansion slowing down during the Great Depression. After World War II, additional sections were developed and infill development still continues today.
Kenilworth serves as home to several landmark properties. One of the most enduring landmarks is the South Asheville Cemetery (1840’s), the oldest public African-American cemetery in western North Carolina. The cemetery, situated beside St. John A Baptist Church, is the burial site for over 2,000 African-Americans from 1840 until 1943. The South Asheville Cemetery Association leads the ongoing process of restoring and maintaining the historic property.
Kenilworth is also the home of the Newton Academy Cemetery. The cemetery was active from 1818-1919 and is the grave site of American Revolution soldiers and Civil War soldiers from both the Union and the Confederacy.
Kenilworth’s most visually prominent landmark is the Kenilworth Inn (1918). The inn, originally a resort hotel, then intermittently a U.S. military hospital and a psychiatric hospital, has been renovated into residential apartment units. The Cedar Crest Inn, a Queen Anne architectural gem originally called the Breese House was built in 1891. Zealandia, a castle like structure was built in the same time period. Zealandia housed Asheville’s first art museum, and now serves as the Patton Hospitality Management headquarters.
Kenilworth is also home to renowned gardens designed by Doan Ogden, the landscape architect who designed the Botanical Gardens at Asheville and the Daniel Boone Native Gardens.
What role does your neighborhood play as part of Asheville’s community?
In addition to serving in active and essential roles in the Asheville workforce, Kenilworth residents are known for their community activism and their commitment to improve the quality of life for all Asheville residents. Neighborhood leaders serve on local governmental and charitable boards and commissions and volunteer countless hours for non-profit organizations. Additionally, the Kenilworth Artist’s Association sponsors and organizes an Art Studio Tour open to the community every Memorial Day Weekend.
What are some of the things you look forward to in the future of your neighborhood?
Kenilworth residents look forward to a revised UDO that will protect the character of our neighborhoods and will include the community in the initial planning stage.
Name something that you would like to see to make your neighborhood better.
- Collaborative conversations with developers of multiple properties prior in the initial planning stages.
- Commitment by property owners to retain affordable housing units.
- Infrastructure improvements to include additional sidewalks and road maintenance.
- Continued collaboration with law enforcement.