Gaines, Henry Irven (1900-1986)
Henry I. Gaines
Central, South Carolina, USA
- Columbia, South Carolina
- Asheville, North Carolina
Styles & Forms:
Art Deco; Georgian Revival; Tudor Revival
Henry Irven Gaines (1900-1986), a native of South Carolina, spent a long and productive architectural career in Asheville, North Carolina, as partner in Beacham, LeGrand, and Gaines, on his own, and as a founding member of Six Associates. He was one of many architects whose budding career was interrupted by the Great Depression. In addition to his service as campus architect for Mars Hill College in Madison County, N. C. (1932-1970) and other colleges in western North Carolina, he designed numerous residences in Asheville and beyond as well as planning manufacturing plants and show rooms for the developing southern furniture industry. In his autobiography, Kings Maelum (1972), and an interview in 1975, Gaines described his life and career in vivid detail. In addition to the building list here, the Pack Memorial Library in Asheville holds an extensive collection of his architectural drawings mainly for post-World War II projects, which merits further study.
Gaines was born in the small town of Central, South Carolina, about 30 miles from Greenville, a son of Robert and Sallie Philpot Gaines and part of a family long established in the area. His father was a farmer, merchant, and textile mill founder. Henry attended Central High School in Greenville and studied architecture at Clemson University, where he graduated in 1922. He then went to work for Joseph Emory Sirrine, the prolific South Carolina engineering and industrial designer. Gaines recalled in 1975 that after he had been there “about a year, there was a young firm called Beacham and LeGrand, who were some older than I, but not much older, just starting out in architecture,” who said to him, “‘Come on up with us. It will be more fun up here with us!’ So I did.” Gaines thus formed a “three-way partnership” with James Beacham and Leon LeGrand, who had also gone to Clemson and worked for Sirrine. According to a questionnaire he completed in 1946, Gaines worked for Sirrine in 1922-1923, for Beacham and LeGrand in 1923-1924, and for Beacham, LeGrand, and Gaines in 1925-1927.
As Gaines related in Kings Maelum, the twenty-five-year-old architect and his wife Betty, who married in 1924, were lured by the “magnificent opportunities for architectural work” in both Florida and Western North Carolina and decided on Asheville. On June 15, 1925, Gaines “unlocked a door in the New Medical Building on Market Street on which had been lettered in gold leaf the fact that I was ready to practice architecture.” Dazzled by the new buildings, the chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royces, and the intense land sales and speculation, he promptly became “part of that mad populace so full of expectant confidence for so rosy a future.” He provided a number of architectural sketches gratis for developers in hopes of getting commissions.
Through a builder whose office was in the same building as his, Gaines found a job as architect for the proposed Fleetwood Hotel near Hendersonville. The Miami developer, said the builder, was “in the hell of a hurry to get started, so I thought we might work out an arrangement where you could feed me plans as the work progresses whereby I could start construction almost immediately.” With the immense and luxurious, multi-million dollar Fleetwood Hotel as a major project for the firm, Gaines worked “night and day,” seven days a week, to produce drawings to keep up with the construction schedule. But within months, the Fleetwood project ran into financial troubles, paychecks were halted, and construction stopped with the building only partially finished. It was eventually razed, and Gaines was never paid for the $25,000 worth of work he had put into it. His partners Beacham and LeGrand soon said, “‘Aw, hell, we don’t want to put any more money in this thing.’ Well, I was here, and I didn’t have anywhere else to go, so I had to stay. They withdrew, and I kept running my own office.” He established his own firm in 1927 and for a few years designed numerous houses and factories. An important project was the Louis Lipinsky House, a luxurious Tudor Revival style residence that was apparently begun in 1929 but remained unfinished for a time, and in 1931 won a design award from the North Carolina chapter of the American Institute of Architects.
Following the burst of the Florida land boom bubble, the Great Depression hit Asheville and western North Carolina especially hard, and Gaines like other architects struggled to find work. During the early 1930s he planned a few other residences and some PWA projects, but times were hard. He tried various avenues, including a design for “A Colonial Cottage for $7,320 by Henry Irven Gaines A.I.A.,” published in Good Housekeeping according to the index of 1932-1933. In 1935, the Mocksville Enterprise of September 12 announced a new series of plans for “modern farm homes and other buildings, drawn especially for our State Farmer Section by Henry I. Gaines, well-known architect of Asheville, N. C.” The initial plan was for a seven room house “designed for the Carolina farm family.” At one point Gaines was offered a teaching position in Idaho, but with the help of local friends was able to remain in Asheville. For a time he made a living for himself and his family chiefly from selling an apple juice product called “Kings Maelum,” a job he disliked but which enabled him to “hang on until the revival of architecture.”
The mid-1930s brought a series of crucial and unexpected commissions. Two were from clients who possessed wealth despite the Depression: businessman John Curran and his wife, Jean, who had retired to Asheville, hired him to design a remodeling of an existing Victorian residence, Fernihurst, in a more classical style; and “the fabulous [Carl] Baumann family from Florida,” commissioned him to plan a rustic retreat, the Half Circle B Ranch House, using local timber and stone and the traditional skills of local mountain artisans. Especially important, Dr. Robert Lee Moore, president of the small Mars Hill College in nearby Madison County, paid a visit to Gaines’s office and expressed his need for some sketches for a small college infirmary, noting that “We have very little money for sketch plans.” Gaines asked how much the college had, and when Moore responded that they had only $75.00 for the purpose, Gaines promptly responded, “Doctor Moore, you have just retained a college architect.” As Gaines recalled, this began his decades-long tenure as Mars Hill’s college architect, during which he planned “almost ten million dollars’ worth of construction” and did much to define the character of the campus. As traced by Davyd Foard Hood in the National Register nomination for Mars Hill College, the initial building was the Mars Hill College Infirmary, completed in 1935 in rough native stone as a pendant to the existing Estella Nissen Montague Building of 1918-1919 (designed by C. Gilbert Humphries). Thereafter, Gaines’s designs for the college embodied a simplified red brick Colonial or Georgian Revival vocabulary with elements of modernism in some.
As the economy recovered in the late 1930s, Gaines like other local architects found more work, including the vivid, Art Deco style F. W. Woolworth Store and the beautifully executed Moderne style Coca Cola Bottling Company Building, both in Asheville. He also gained commissions for the first of several factories he would design over the years. Gaines reported in 1946 that between 1930 and 1940 he had accomplished $5 million worth of work. This flurry of activity was brief, however, and for the second time in his career Gaines saw construction slow to a standstill, this time with the onset of World War II. The principal architectural work available was for large defense and hospital projects, whose scale and fast schedules required large work forces; small architectural offices like Gaines’s could not compete. Gaines and a few colleagues had previously teamed up to plan a proposed public housing project, and “the thought occurred to us, ‘Why not pool our resources?’” He and five other Western North Carolina architects—Erle Stillwell, Charles Waddell, Anthony Lord, William Waldo Dodge, Jr., and W. Stewart Rogers—met for lunch at the S&W Cafeteria (designed by Douglas D. Ellington) in Asheville and produced an organization of about forty employees, enough to satisfy the government demands. Within a short time “Six Associates” succeeded in gaining major Federal jobs, which required Gaines and others to travel extensively to win, plan, and superintend the projects. Their first project, said Gaines, was Moore Hospital, a military medical facility at Swanannoa near Asheville.
After the war, as Gaines recalled, he and his colleagues were uncertain about the future of Six Associates and returned to their individual practices, but under the leadership of Stewart Rogers soon decided to keep the group together. Gaines reported in 1946 that he had $1 million worth of work “on the boards.” The firm developed into the largest architectural practice in Western North Carolina. The principals maintained their own identities but shared in the business, and they took on major projects including educational facilities (such as UNC-Asheville and Western Carolina University), manufacturing plants, and hospitals along with residences and commercial. Gaines stated in 1975 that the firm’s work included Virginia, Tennessee, Georgian, and New Jersey as well as North Carolina. Records of the firm including many architectural drawings are held by the Pack Library in Asheville and merit further study. Most if not all of the post-World War II buildings credited to Gaines in this building list were built during his tenure with Six Associates but are listed here simply under his name.
Having planned a large factory and a renovation for the Drexel Furniture Company in the 1930s, Gaines found a lasting and profitable niche as designer of furniture manufacturing plants and showrooms for major companies in North Carolina and elsewhere in the South at a time when the southern furniture manufacturing business was in its heyday. In Kings Maelum Gaines reported that the office was doing its 44th commission for the Drexel furniture company, and his obituary cited his manufacturing plants for Drexel and Broyhill as well as Heritage, Kent-Coffey, Bernhardt, Hickory Tavern, and Sherfill, along with show rooms for the Southern Furniture Exposition Building in High Point, the High Point National Furniture Mart, Consolidated of Lenoir, and Hickory Home Furnishings Mart. In 1946 he listed among his major works a Henredon Furniture Factory in Morganton worth $500,000. In 1961 the High Point Enterprise reported on February 1 that Gaines was the architect for modernization of the Southern Furniture Exposition Building (1919-1921, William P. Rose, architect), the proud landmark of High Point’s nationally renowned furniture market, and a 3 1/2-story upper addition including a “sky room” atop its 7-story Wrenn Street Wing (1959). Other manufacturing and commercial buildings remain to be identified. Gaines also continued his work for colleges in the region. Along with his ongoing service as college architect for Mars Hill College, he became college architect for Brevard College in Transylvania County (Brevard College Campus Buildings) after World War II, and he planned various buildings for the campus that became the University of North Carolina at Asheville. Specific projects at the latter two campuses require further documentation.
Throughout his career, Gaines maintained his status as a favorite residential architect for prosperous citizens of Asheville and environs, designing “traditional” homes in a full range of architectural styles from rustic to Tudor to Georgian Revival, including several in the elite suburban community of Biltmore Forest, where he and his family resided. In 1975 Gaines estimated that he had planned two or three hundred residences. Gaines retired from architectural practice in 1970.
Gaines took an active role in the architectural profession. He was a member of the American Institute of Architects and for ten years beginning in 1949 a member of the state Board of Architectural Examination and Registration and its president 1954-1958. He served on the boards of directors of several community organizations and was a member of the Biltmore United Methodist Church and the Biltmore Forest Country Club. His obituary in the Asheville Citizen-Times of June 1, 1986 cited him as a founder of Six Associates and noted that he was best known for his work as a designer of “traditional architectural residences and of furniture manufacturing plants.” Gaines died at his home at Deerfield, an Episcopal retirement community near Asheville. He was survived by his wife Elizabeth, a daughter, Mrs. Thomas L. Myer of Georgetown, S. C., two grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.
- Architects’ files, Pack Memorial Library, Asheville, North Carolina.
- 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).
- Henry Irven Gaines, Kings Maelum (1972).
- “Prominent Asheville Architect Henry Gain[e]s Dies at Age 86,” Asheville Citizen-Times, June 1, 1986.
- “Selections from the Work of Henry Irven Gaines” (undated), copy at Pack Memorial Library, Asheville, North Carolina.
- Louis D. Silvestri, interview with Henry Irven Gaines, June 15, 1975, Southern Highlands Research Center, The University of North Carolina at Asheville, http://toto.lib.unca.edu/findingaids/oralhistory/SHRC/gaines_henry.pdf.
- Six Associates Collection, Pack Memorial Library, Asheville, North Carolina.
- Dates:1946Location:Asheville, Buncombe CountyStreet Address:66-68 Patton Ave., Asheville, NCStatus:No longer standingType:CommercialNote:The Bank of Asheville was destroyed by fire in 1969. It featured a Williamsburg Colonial style.
- Dates:1940sLocation:Brevard, Transylvania CountyStreet Address:Brevard College Campus, Brevard, NCStatus:UnknownType:Educational
Health CareNote:After World War II, Gaines became college architect for the small Methodist college, which (as an undated but probably ca. 1946-1947 clipping from an Asheville newspaper reported) had begun a proposed expansion of the college. Anticipating funding from the Methodist College Advance campaign, the school planned to construct an infirmary, science building, auditorium, two boys' dorms, and a central heating plant as well as to remodel present buildings. Gaines was to take charge of drafting the plans. An undated birdseye view of the campus signed by Gaines shows a formal arrangement of about a dozen buildings, most of them in red brick with classical detailing. Among the first built were the Mary Frances Stamey Memorial Infirmary (1947, Pack Memorial Library Architectural Collection, SA0653) and the Addison Jones Library (1947-1948), featured in the Greensboro Daily News of Aug. 22, 1947. Work continued for several years. Further research is needed to determine the status and current names of these and others of the campus buildings Gaines designed.
- Dates:1956; 1965Location:Brevard, Transylvania CountyStreet Address:249 E. Main St., Brevard, NCStatus:StandingType:ReligiousNote:Gaines designed the fellowship hall and sanctuary of classically detailed brick church in 1956 and returned in 1965 to plan additions in a more modernist mode.
- Dates:1945Location:Asheville, Buncombe CountyStreet Address:11 Patton Ave., Asheville, NCStatus:StandingType:CommercialNote:Pack Memorial Architectural Drawing Collection, SA0639. The Charles Company store burned in March 1945, and the drawings are dated August 1945; it is assumed that the store replaced a previous building at the same location.
- Dates:1925Location:Burnsville, Yancey CountyStreet Address:S Town Square, Burnsville, NCStatus:StandingType:CommercialNote: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.
- Dates:1940Location:Asheville, Buncombe CountyStreet Address:345 Biltmore Ave., Asheville, NCStatus:AlteredType:CommercialImages Puslished In:Douglas Swaim, ed., Cabins and Castles: The History and Architecture of Buncombe County, North Carolina (1981).Note:The clean-lined, symmetrically composed, and beautifully detailed moderne building featured glazed exterior panels, expanses of glass block, and streamlined aluminum. It was a distinctive landmark of the brief building spurt in Asheville on the eve of World War II. A late 20th century remodeling drastically altered its architectural character.
- Variant Name(s):Coker Botany BuildingDates:1961-1963Location:Chapel Hill, Orange CountyStreet Address:University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Campus, Chapel Hill, NCStatus:StandingType:EducationalNote:The Coker project was reported in the Daily Tar Heel, Sept. 30, 1961.
- Dates:1930sLocation:Biltmore Forest, Buncombe CountyStreet Address:4 Greenwood Rd., Biltmore Forest, NCStatus:StandingType:ResidentialImages Puslished In:Carolina Architecture and Allied Arts: A Pictorial Review of Carolina's Representative Architecture (1940).Note:Pack Memorial Architectural Drawing Collection, SA0222.
- Dates:ca. 1950?Location:Drexel, Burke CountyStreet Address:Drexel, NCStatus:UnknownType:IndustrialNote:Gaines is described as having planned several furniture manufacturing plants. In addition to the Drexel Company in Drexel, these included the Henredon Furniture Company in Morganton and a facility for the Broyhill Company, location unknown.
- Dates:1937Location:Biltmore Forest, Buncombe CountyStreet Address:19 Southwood Rd., Biltmore Forest, NCStatus:StandingType:ResidentialImages Puslished In:Carolina Architecture and Allied Arts: A Pictorial Review of Carolina's Representative Architecture (1939-1940).Note:Pack Memorial Architectural Drawing Collection, SA0228.
- Dates:1938-1939Location:Asheville, Buncombe CountyStreet Address:25 Haywood St., Asheville, NCStatus:StandingType:CommercialNote:Dating from the recovery era of the late 1930s, the building features an Art Deco façade in cream and orange terra cotta.
- Dates:1930sLocation:Biltmore Forest, Buncombe CountyStreet Address:11 Greenwood Rd., Biltmore Forest, NCStatus:StandingType:ResidentialImages Puslished In:Carolina Architecture and Allied Arts: A Pictorial Review of Carolina's Representative Architecture (1940).Note:Pack Memorial Architectural Drawing Collection, SA0147.
- Dates:ca. 1875; 1930sLocation:Asheville, Buncombe CountyStreet Address:Victoria Rd., Asheville, NCStatus:StandingType:ResidentialNote:As related by Gaines in King's Maelum, in the depths of the Great Depression, Mr. and Mrs. John F. Curran commissioned him to expand and remodel a Victorian residence they had recently acquired—a welcome project when he had no other work. He transformed it with a portico and other Colonial Revival elements. Gaines recalled that he "moved a drafting board out to the Curran house, and while Mr. Merchant [the contractor] proceeded with his work I was busy with the plans. We . . . worked out a sequence of work, listing the plans and details in the order in which he would need them. In this way I managed to keep ahead of the construction workers."
- Dates:1949-1950Location:Marion, McDowell CountyStreet Address:101 N. Main St., Marion, NCStatus:StandingType:ReligiousNote:The original First Baptist Church of 1914 was eclectic in style with Gothic and Romanesque Revival elements. Gaines designed the addition at the north end in careful harmony with the older structure.
- Dates:1925-1926Location:Hendersonville, Henderson CountyStreet Address:Jump Off Mountain, Laurel Park, Hendersonville vicinity, NCStatus:No longer standingType:CommercialImages Puslished In:Henry Irven Gaines, Kings Maelum (1972).Note:The postcard seen here depicts the Fleetwood Hotel as its sponsors envisioned it, but it was never completed. Although the steel frame was raised, other work stopped at the 13th floor. After standing unfinished for years, the Fleetwood Hotel was razed in 1936-1937 and its materials were salvaged, as reported in the Burlington, N. C. Daily Times-News, July 4, 1936. Meanwhile, the ruin attracted visitors and legends, and hundreds of bathtubs and other fixtures for the hotel were quietly removed from the site and reused in homes throughout the locale. See http://cdm15733.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/search/searchterm/Beacham for photographs of the Fleetwood Hotel under construction and as left unfinished in 1926.
- Variant Name(s):Gene Ochsenreiter DodgeDates:1949Location:Asheville, Buncombe CountyStreet Address:77 Coxe Ave., Asheville, NCStatus:StandingType:CommercialNote:Pack Memorial Architectural Drawing Collection, SA0681 and SA0855.
- Variant Name(s):Glen Rock ApartmentsDates:1930Location:Black Mountain, Buncombe CountyStreet Address:Depot St., Black Mountain, NCStatus:AlteredType:CommercialNote:The brick hotel was extensively renovated in 2010 by Mountain Housing Opportunities to become the Glen Rock Apartments. A previous Victorian hotel by the same name is long lost.
- Dates:1936Location:Fletcher, Henderson CountyStreet Address:Cane Creek Rd., Fletcher vicinity, NCStatus:No longer standingType:ResidentialImages Puslished In:Carolina Architecture and Allied Arts: A Pictorial Review of Carolina's Representative Architecture (1942).
Henry Irven Gaines, Kings Maelum (1972).Note:Gaines describes in King's Maelum the construction of Carl Baumann's mountain house above the Cane Creek Valley. It was built of stone and timber from the large property Baumann had acquired. Local craftsmen, who were also farmers, employed their traditional building skills. The stonemasons "would carefully select a stone with moss on one face, lovingly lay it in place so that the moss would be face out, and after it was set, gently brush off any loose mortar with a fertilizer sack. Then they would stand back with hands on hips and admire it. This did nothing for speedy building, but what of it? . . . There was one old and grizzly, stoop-shouldered fellow who took exceptional pride in notching the logs at the corners. He always addressed me as 'Boy.' When he got the notch in the log cut to his satisfaction he would call out to me, 'Boy, come over here and watch her go into place! ' The two notched logs would fit perfectly, and he would back up a few feet, take a proud look, and say, 'Ain't she a beaut?'"
- Dates:1946Location:Morganton, Burke CountyStreet Address:W. Fleming Dr., Morganton, NCStatus:No longer standingType:IndustrialNote:This project was noted by Gaines in a form he completed in 1946. He stated it was worth $500,000.
- Dates:1930s-1970sLocation:Mars Hill, Madison CountyStreet Address:Mars Hill College Campus, Mars Hill, NCStatus:StandingType:EducationalNote:Gaines's obituary stated that he was college architect at Mars Hill from 1932 to 1970. In addition to the Dr. W. F. Robinson Memorial Infirmary, the buildings he designed for the college include the following: Charles M. Walls Science Building (1939-1940), Edna Corpening Moore and Stroup Halls (1938; 1941), Treat Dormitory/Spillman Hall (1941), Huffman Hall (1946-1947), Memorial Library (1954-1955), Myers Hall (1954-1955), the Cafeteria, and Dormitory Number 3. These display various interpretations of the red brick Colonial Revival style combined with modernist elements.
- Variant Name(s):Dr. W. F. Robinson Memorial InfirmaryDates:1935Location:Mars Hill, Madison CountyStreet Address:Mars Hill College Campus, Mars Hill, NCStatus:StandingType:Health CareNote:The stone infirmary was the first of several buildings Gaines designed for Mars Hill College; its stone construction related it to the earlier Montague Building and differentiated it from subsequent work.
- Dates:1936Location:Asheville, Buncombe CountyStreet Address:Mills River, Asheville, NCStatus:UnknownType:ResidentialImages Puslished In:Asheville Citizen, Mar. 15, 1936.
Carolina Architecture and Allied Arts: A Pictorial Review of Carolina's Representative Architecture (1940).Note:See Asheville Citizen, Mar. 15, 1936. Pack Memorial Architectural Drawing Collection, SA0286.
- Dates:1942; 1947Location:Waynesville, Haywood CountyStreet Address:38 N. Main St., Waynesville, NCStatus:AlteredType:CommercialNote:The building included a theater plus retail stores on the south. It suffered from neglect and fires but has recently been restored to use as a movie theater.
- Variant Name(s):Fine Arts TheaterDates:1930sLocation:Asheville, Buncombe CountyStreet Address:36 Biltmore Ave., Asheville, NCStatus:StandingType:CommercialNote:Built for E.B. Meiselman, a Charlotte theater owner, the Art Deco theater was reopened as the Fine Arts Theater in 1962, closed in 1985, was purchased by John Cram and reopened in 1996.
- Dates:1945Location:Biltmore Forest, Buncombe CountyStreet Address:112 Stuyvesant Rd., Biltmore Forest, NCStatus:StandingType:ResidentialNote:Pack Memorial Architectural Drawing Collection, ARD0195. The address is based on city directory information for the client.