A Snippet History of the Hill House (courtesy of the Preservation Society of Asheville and Buncombe County)
“Doubleday’s Addition,” was one of the first planned suburbs of Asheville, predating Montford. This new community was developed in 1883 by General Ulysses Doubleday, a retired Civil War general and the younger brother of the famed General Abner Doubleday, the founder of the sport of baseball. Doubleday moved to Asheville (for his health) in 1882 after a long career as a banker and broker in New York City.
After moving to Asheville, he went into the lumber and building business with a business partner named George F. Scott. In April of 1883, Doubleday commissioned civil engineer (and academy founder) S. F. Venable to draw up the official plat for his new community. I suspect that Doubleday immediately began building spec houses on the lots, as the 1883–1884 Asheville City Directory records over twenty residents occupying houses in the “Doubleday Addition,” which only contained forty-five lots.
The 1883 Directory also gave a brief description of the new development: “Doubleday’s Addition”
From one-half to one mile N of court-house, embracing a large number of houses, and intersected by many streets, none which, however, have been named.3 The streets were named shortly thereafter as they appear on the 1883 plat-as Center Street (now Forsythe) running north-south, flanked on each side by East and West Streets, all crossed midway by Hillside Street, running east-west. Seney Street (now Woodrow Ave.) ran east-west on the southern border of the development. The Rev. Postell, a local Episcopalian priest who was ministering in that area at the time, observed that most of the new residents were of the working class.—their occupations, which were listed in the 1883 directory, were mostly carpenters, painters, laborers, and a number of “wagoners.” In August of 1885, John J. Hill and his wife Mary Elizabeth purchased lots 25, 25-A and 27 to form a large lot on the eastern boundary of the new development. J. J. Hill was a merchant and owner of J. J. Hill & Co., which sold “Cabinet furniture, bedding, wallpaper, sash, doors and blinds”. The Hills erected a stylish two story Queen-Anne styled home in the center of their large lot.
J. J. Hill apparently was not successful businessman, as by 1890 he was working as the general manager of the N. C. B. and L. Association out of Charlotte, NC. In 1896 his occupation was listed a “trav”, meaning traveling salesman, however a search of the deed registers show that he also during this time was making some speculative land purchases. As early as 1895, Hill was experiencing
financial troubles and had applied to lawyer Theodore Davidson for a promissory note, agreeing to 5% interest. However, Hill defaulted on the note, and thereafter Davidson began legal proceedings to recover his money. On March 21, 1898, Hill’s property (including the house) was sold at Public auction for $4,000 to James Starnes. The Hills moved out of their lovely home, never to return again.
The birds-eye view below (Hill House at center right) is from 1890. The photo, 1978.