East, William J. (1865-1936)
Bellevue, Pennsylvania, USA
- Asheville, North Carolina
Styles & Forms:
Neoclassical Revival; Romanesque Revival; Rustic
William J. East (1865-1936), architect, was a native of Bellevue, Pennsylvania, who moved to Asheville in 1912 and remained there the rest of his life. According to the Asheville Times (June 10, 1917), East studied architecture at the Polytechnic Institute of Pittsburgh, which “whetted the appetite of the Pennsylvanian and he went across the water to the Atelier Carl Bartberger of Carlsrhue [Carlsruhe], Germany.” He married Evalyn Ross of Pennsylvania, and for a time the couple lived with her parents. He practiced architecture in Pittsburgh for several years and was a president of the Western Pennsylvania American Institute of Architects.
Arriving in Asheville on February 6, 1912, East entered into the city’s lively architectural community, became an active Rotarian, and was at one time chief draftsman for the county. He was a founding member of the Architect’s Association of Western North Carolina in 1926. The Asheville Times of January 16, 1929, reported that he had been elected president of that group. East’s use of especially robust masonry work may reflect his German training. His best known project in the mountain city is the Castanea Building (1921), a boldly executed commercial building of local orange-brown brick with strong brickwork detailing and a curved façade paralleling the bend of the street. He combined brick with vivid terra cotta ornament in the I. O. O. F. Building and doubtless other structures. By contrast, he used sleek planar forms in the Newton School (1923) and the Haywood Building (1917-1919), the latter a large complex built with concrete mixed and poured on site.
Near Asheville, at the famed Presbyterian retreat center of Montreat, working under the guidance of the Rev. R. C. Anderson, president of the Montreat Association, East planned the large, stone Assembly Inn (1929), a fortress-like edifice where the architect and stonemasons used local river rock stone to dramatic effect, accented by the glitter of mica flecks, and marble floors from Tennessee. East also laid out plans for the Lake View subdivision and planned an office building there. Contemporary newspaper accounts stated that he designed a large number of residences and also specialized in industrial architecture. Although few of his houses have been identified, his drawings at the Pack Library include those for the Andrew Gennett House, a stuccoed residence with striking curvilinear roof of tile, which was built in the mid-1920s in the Grove Park neighborhood. East’s obituary in the Asheville Citizen of May 4, 1936, stated that he had designed buildings as far west as Ohio and as far east as New York, and singled out the Castanea and Haywood buildings among his Asheville projects. He was survived by his widow and a son, J. R. East of Cleveland.
- 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).
- Buildings, Drawings, and Photographs files, North Carolina Collection, Pack Memorial Library, Asheville, North Carolina.
- Zoe Rhine and Anne Wright, “Architects and Their Buildings in Asheville,” undated typescript, North Carolina Collection, Pack Memorial Library, Asheville, North Carolina.
- Dates:Ca. 1926-1927Location:Asheville, Buncombe CountyStreet Address:195 Kimberly Ave., Grove Park, Asheville, NCStatus:StandingType:ResidentialNote:William J. East's (undated) drawings of the boldly composed Andrew Gennett House survive at the Pack Library, Asheville. The address first appears in the Asheville city directory of 1927.
- Dates:1929Location:Montreat, Buncombe CountyStreet Address:Montreat Campus, Montreat, NCStatus:StandingType:ReligiousImages Puslished In:Catherine W. Bishir, Michael T. Southern, and Jennifer F. Martin, A Guide to the Historic Architecture of Western North Carolina (1999).Note:Rev. R. C. Anderson, president of the Montreat Association, took a guiding role in designing the immense building of native river rock gathered at the site.
- Dates:1921Location:Asheville, Buncombe CountyStreet Address:57-65 Haywood St., Asheville, NCStatus:StandingType:CommercialImages Puslished In:David R. Black, Historic Architectural Resources of Downtown Asheville, North Carolina (1979).
- Dates:1917-1919Location:Asheville, Buncombe CountyStreet Address:38-58 Haywood St., Asheville, NCStatus:StandingType:CommercialImages Puslished In:David R. Black, Historic Architectural Resources of Downtown Asheville, North Carolina (1979).Note:East's obituary in the Asheville Citizen (May 4, 1936) credited him with this building, but his name was not mentioned in the extensive newspaper accounts of its construction. A project begun by Paul Roebling, whose grandfather built the Brooklyn Bridge, the large complex, which originally included garages, was apparently the first major commercial building on Haywood St.
- Dates:1928Location:Asheville, Buncombe CountyStreet Address:5 Ravenscroft St., Asheville, NCStatus:StandingType:FraternalImages Puslished In:David R. Black, Historic Architectural Resources of Downtown Asheville, North Carolina (1979).
- Dates:1923Location:Asheville, Buncombe CountyStreet Address:Biltmore Ave., Asheville, NCStatus:No longer standingType:EducationalImages Puslished In:Idyl Dial Gray, Azure-Lure: A Romance of the Mountains (1924).Note:The school, planned to serve South Asheville, was credited to East in the Asheville Citizen, May 23, 1922. It was to be built of stone. The Asheville Citizen-Times reported its completion on September 9, 1923, at a cost of $120,000; the school opened the next day.
- Dates:1923-1924Location:Asheville, Buncombe CountyStreet Address:301 E. Chestnut St., Asheville, NCStatus:StandingType:CommercialImages Puslished In:Asheville Citizen, June 26, 1923.Note:The Asheville Citizen, June 26, 1923, carried a photograph of East's watercolor drawing of the Princess Anne Hotel.