North Carolina Architects and Builders - A Biographical Dictionary

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Beacham and LeGrand (1921-1940)

Variant Name(s):
  • Leon LeGrand;
  • James Douthit Beacham
Founded: South Carolina, USA
Headquarters:
  • Greenville, South Carolina
Trades:
  • Architect
NC Work Locations:
  • Asheville, Buncombe County
  • Buncombe
  • Burnsville, Yancey County
  • Yancey
Building Types:
  • Commercial
Styles & Forms:
  • Beaux-Arts

Public Service Building [Asheville]

View larger image and credits

Public Service Building [Asheville]

Biography

James Douthit Beacham (1891-1956) and Leon LeGrand (1894-1963) of South Carolina formed an architectural partnership in Greenville, South Carolina in 1921 which continued through 1940. Although much of their work was in South Carolina, they also took commissions in Asheville and elsewhere in western North Carolina and had a brief partnership with architect Henry Irven Gaines (1900-1986) as Beacham, LeGrand, and Gaines in the mid-1920s.

James Beacham, the son of William G. Beacham, was born in Greenville and studied at Furman, Clemson, and Virginia Polytechnic Institute, graduating from the last in 1911. He worked as a draftsman for Joseph Emory Sirrine from 1911 to 1914 and again from 1917 to 1920. In the interim he worked for Hart and Gardner in Nashville and with H. Olin Jones in Greenville. Leon LeGrand graduated in architecture from Clemson in 1915 and was working as a draftsman in Sirrine's office in 1919. Beacham and LeGrand opened a practice in Greenville in 1921; the firm's largest project in South Carolina was the 10-story Chamber of Commerce Building (1920s) in Greenville in association with the Sirrine company.

In 1925 amid a building boom in Asheville and western North Carolina, Beacham and LeGrand entered into a "three-way partnership" with the younger architect Gaines, likewise a native of South Carolina who had worked for Sirrine. The Asheville Citizen of July 17, 1925 explained that Asheville office, styled Beacham, LeGrand, and Gaines, was to be operated by "junior partner" Gaines and was separate from Beacham and LeGrand's firm in Greenville "although associated for mutual convenience." The trio soon joined with other regional architects to organize the professional group called the Architect's Association of Western North Carolina. The three-way partnership got off to a promising start but terminated after a major project, the Fleetwood Hotel near Hendersonville, North Carolina, collapsed. See Beacham, LeGrand, and Gaines, and Henry Irven Gaines for further details.

By 1928, as indicated in Asheville city directories, Beacham and LeGrand were partners with offices in both Greenville and Asheville, and Gaines was practicing on his own in Asheville. Beacham also resided in the mountain city from about 1928 to 1931. Beacham and LeGrand's best-known building in North Carolina is the Public Service Building, an ornate 8-story skyscraper erected by the Coxe estate with Carolina Power and Light Company as the original tenant. The design takes full advantage of the hilly site, with equally elaborate façades on all sides creating a bold landmark. Although Beacham and LeGrand continued to work in South Carolina through the 1930s, no North Carolina works of that period have been attributed to the firm.

Authors: John E. Wells and Catherine W. Bishir. Contributor: Zoe Rhine.

Published 2014

Building List

Public Service Building (Asheville, Buncombe County)

Buncombe Asheville

1929

Contributors:
Dates: 1929
Location: Asheville, Buncombe County
Street Address: 89-93 Patton Ave., Asheville, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Commercial
Images Published In:
  • Catherine W. Bishir, Michael T. Southern, and Jennifer F. Martin, A Guide to the Historic Architecture of Western North Carolina (1999).
  • David R. Black, Historic Architectural Resources of Downtown Asheville, North Carolina (1979).
Note:

The 8-story, brick skyscraper features lavish, polychrome terra cotta detailing, including various classical motifs, on every façade. It was built by the Coxe estate with Carolina Power and Light as the first tenant.

Public Service Building

Citizens Bank (Burnsville, Yancey County)

Yancey Burnsville

1925

Contributors:
Dates: 1925
Location: Burnsville, Yancey County
Street Address: S Town Square, Burnsville, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Commercial
Note:

The 3-story edifice of yellow brick features arched openings and classical detailing is likely the Citizens National Bank in Burnsville credited to Beacham, LeGrand, and Gaines in the Southern Tourist article of April 1926. It is not known if it was planned before or after Gaines joined with Beacham and LeGrand in the summer of 1925 or whether Gaines or the other partners were the principal architects. Reflecting the town's mid-1920s prosperity, the building was a uniquely elaborate and stylish structure in a community characterized by vernacular and relatively modest architecture. The bank failed in 1932. For several years the building served as the public library.

Conabeer Chrysler Building (Asheville, Buncombe County)

Buncombe Asheville

1928

Contributors:
Dates: 1928
Location: Asheville, Buncombe County
Street Address: 162-164 Coxe Ave., Asheville, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Commercial
Images Published In:
  • David R. Black, Historic Architectural Resources of Downtown Asheville, North Carolina (1979).
Note:

The Conabeer Chrysler Building is described as the finest of Asheville's several 1920s auto showrooms. It was owned by Tench Coxe, who developed the commercial section on Coxe Ave. and leased the structure to the auto company.

Beacham and LeGrand's Work Locations

Bibliography

  • David R. Black, Historic Architectural Resources of Downtown Asheville, North Carolina (1979).
  • Henry Irven Gaines, Kings Maelum (1972).
  • John E. Wells and Robert E. Dalton, The South Carolina Architects, 1885-1935: A Biographical Dictionary (1992).
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