Melton, Allen L. (1852-1917)
Allen L. Melton (1852-April 27, 1917) was an eclectic architect active in Asheville’s boom era that followed the 1880 arrival of the Western North Carolina Railroad. A notice in the Asheville Daily Advance of September 14, 1886, reported that “Mr. Melton, an experienced architect, will soon locate in Asheville.” There he spent the rest of his life and, according to his obituary, designed “some of the largest buildings in Asheville and other towns in western North Carolina.” Best known for the Drhumor Building in downtown Asheville, he worked in various popular styles including the Romanesque Revival and Queen Anne modes. As is true for many of his contemporaries, much of his work has been lost.
Of his background, Melton’s obituary in the Asheville Times, April 28, 1917, stated only that he was born in 1852 in “the eastern part of the state.” His death certificate gave his birth date as 1848 and did not supply the names of his parents. Census records suggest that he may be the Allen L. Melton born in 1855 in Morganton, a town in the foothills east of Asheville, a son of Littlebury W. Melton, a plasterer from Virginia, and Mary Melton. In 1880 Allen and his brother Andrew were both employed as plasterers and living with their widowed mother in Morganton.
Melton’s architectural training and early experience remain unknown. The earliest work cited in his obituary is the Haywood County Courthouse in Waynesville, an eclectic, towered edifice built in 1883-1884. After moving to Asheville in 1886, he took on a wide variety of projects. The Asheville Daily Citizen reported on April 1, 1890, that he had contracted for eleven houses with an aggregate cost of $32,000. Melton took an office in the Sondley Building and promoted his practice in and beyond Asheville, advertising in the Waynesville Courier of February 26, 1891, “Heavy and Fireproof Construction a Specialty, Designs prepared for Colleges, Churches, Court Houses, Jails, and Private Buildings of every description.” He offered to provide detail drawings, specifications, and estimates of costs.
He gained local recognition in Asheville. The Asheville Citizen’s article praising local “Art in Business Blocks” on August 16, 1895, cited Melton as the architect for a new building for Will J. Cocke—now known as the Drhumor Building. The Romanesque Revival style brick edifice, one of the oldest commercial structures in the city is famed for its elaborate stonework carved by Frederick B. Miles, a sculptor and stonecutter who had worked at Biltmore. Melton designed other impressive brick commercial buildings in the 1890s, including the Sondley Building and the Maxwelton Building located on Patton Avenue near the Drhumor Building, both of which have been lost.
Typical of the era, much of his residential work displayed the Queen Anne style. In 1899 the Asheville Citizen noted that Melton and architect James Albert Tennent were building several large houses, including capitalist Tench Coxe’s elaborate 20-room mansion, The Klondyke, in the Montford neighborhood. Melton also designed houses in the stylish Chestnut Hill or Chestnut-Liberty neighborhood that developed north of downtown. Representative of his work there is Beaufort Lodge, a large Queen Anne style frame house constructed for state attorney general Theodore S. Davidson. At his death, the newspaper cited as his works the American National Bank Building, Drhumor Building, Asheville Female College, Maxwelton Building, Allen Industrial School on College Street, the courthouse in Waynesville, and “a large number of smaller buildings and houses in Asheville and throughout western North Carolina.” The full extent of his work in the region remains to be identified.
- Asheville Citizen, Apr. 1, 1890; Aug. 16, 1895.
- Asheville City Directory, various issues.
- Asheville Daily Advance (Sept. 1886).
- Asheville Times, Apr. 28, 1917.
- David R. Black, Historic Architectural Resources of Downtown Asheville, North Carolina (1979).
- Douglas Swaim, ed., Cabins and Castles: The History and Architecture of Buncombe County, North Carolina (1981).
- United States Census, 1860-1910.
- Dates:Late 19th-early 20th centuryLocation:Asheville, Buncombe CountyStreet Address:College St., Asheville, NCStatus:No longer standingType:EducationalNote:The school was founded in 1887, and a dormitory-residence was erected in 1897. In 1905 a new building, Beach Hall, replaced the former livery stable. The old wooden structure was partially demolished in 1955 as new buildings were constructed.
- Dates:1888Location:Asheville, Buncombe CountyStreet Address:Oak St., Asheville, NCStatus:No longer standingType:EducationalNote:The long, brick edifice in Second Empire style with a central tower, built in 1888, is probably the building credited to Melton in his obituary. It was built for a campus established several years earlier.
- Variant Name(s):Beaufort LodgeDates:1895Location:Asheville, Buncombe CountyStreet Address:61 N. Liberty St., Asheville, NCStatus:StandingType:CommercialNote:The large Queen Anne style residence is now a bed and breakfast inn.
- Dates:1895-1896Location:Asheville, Buncombe CountyStreet Address:Patton Ave. at Church St., Asheville, NCStatus:StandingType:CommercialImages Puslished In:Catherine W. Bishir, North Carolina Architecture (1990).
Catherine W. Bishir, Michael T. Southern, and Jennifer F. Martin, A Guide to the Historic Architecture of Western North Carolina (1999).Note:See Asheville Citizen-Times, November 21, 1895; June 24, 1896. The building originally had a tower atop the corner bay. That feature was removed in the 20th century, and the entrance was shifted to Patton Avenue and given a large arched frame. Frederick B. Miles's splendid stone carving reportedly included visages of local citizens as well as mythological and classical motifs. The building is one of the principal surviving examples of downtown Asheville's late 19th century growth era.
- Dates:1880sLocation:Waynesville, Haywood CountyStreet Address:Waynesville, NCStatus:No longer standingType:PublicNote:An account of Bonniwell's projects and Melton's obituary both cite the "Waynesville Courthouse" (Haywood County Courthouse) among their works. Further research may uncover primary documentation of the architect or architects of the imposing brick edifice. It is possible that both of these men had some role in its construction.
- Dates:UnknownLocation:Asheville, Buncombe CountyStreet Address:Asheville, NCStatus:UnknownType:ResidentialNote:The Pack Library has Melton's drawings for a house for Mrs. Foster, but it has not been identified further; it may have been built on property she bought in 1898 on S. Main St., but her husband also bought property in town.
- Variant Name(s):American National BankDates:1891Location:Asheville, Buncombe CountyStreet Address:44 Patton Ave., Asheville, NCStatus:No longer standingType:CommercialImages Puslished In:David R. Black, Historic Architectural Resources of Downtown Asheville, North Carolina (1979).Note:As built by Foster A. Sondley from Melton's designs, the brick building stood 4 stories tall. Two more stories were added about 1900.