Gudger, Lindsey M. (1904-1964)
- Asheville, N. C
Styles & Forms:
Gothic Revival; Modernist
Lindsey Madison Gudger (January 23, 1904 –September 28, 1964) was an artist and architect whose career in Asheville spanned the years from the city’s heyday in the 1920s into the post-World War II era. Unlike many of the mountain city’s leading architects, he was a native of the community whose family had lived in western North Carolina for many years. Especially prolific as a designer of public schools, he also gained recognition for designing the Asheville City Auditorium, built with WPA assistance in 1939. His paintings are held in such collections as the Asheville Art Museum. With much of his material available at the Pack Memorial Library and given his importance to Western North Carolina architecture, Gudger merits a fuller study than can be presented here.
Lindsey Gudger was a son of James Eugene and Lula Mae Lindsey Gudger and thus part of an established family in western North Carolina. In 1907, news of Asheville’s “Smart Set” (Greensboro Daily News, January 27, 1907) included Master Lindsey Gudger’s third birthday party, with eighteen young guests, held at his parents’ home on Sunset Drive. Gudger’s local connections would stand him in good stead as his career developed.
As Gudger noted in his application for membership in the American Institute of Architects in 1938, he attended the University of North Carolina for 2 ½ years and the Georgia School of Technology for 2 ½ years, receiving his B. S. in Architecture from the latter in 1926. During the busy construction years of the 1920s, he worked with two important architectural firms: he was a junior draftsman for the noted architect Douglas D. Ellington in Asheville in 1921-1923, and he was a senior draftsman for Atwood and Nash in Chapel Hill in 1923-1925 and an “officer” for that firm in 1925-1927. In 1927-1929 he worked as a designer for the state of New York in Albany, New York, but he returned to North Carolina and went to work for Atwood and Nash. It remains to be discovered which of that firm’s buildings Gudger may have designed.
On October 22, 1929—just days before the crash—the Asheville Citizen reported that Atwood and Nash had opened a branch office in Asheville, with Lindsey M. Gudger as the local manager. The firm had designed an elaborate Tudor Revival residence in Biltmore Forest near Asheville for John Sprunt Hill of Durham, and there were doubtless prospects for more good commissions. The newspaper commented with pride that Gudger “has the distinction of being the only architect now practicing in Asheville who is a native of the city, and with the exception of Douglas D. Ellington is the only local architect who is a native of the State of North Carolina.” Although he was listed in the United States Census of 1930 as an architect residing in Asheville (in his grandmother’s household), Gudger apparently left the city briefly to work for Atwood and Weeks in Durham. He established his own practice in Asheville in the unpropitious year of 1932 and in that year was licensed to practice architecture in North Carolina, with his registration number being 284. In 1937, he married Marie Tyler of Durham at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in Durham. They had at least two children, Marie and Lindsey. Like many architects, Gudger welcomed the opportunities provided by public works projects, and by the late 1930s, other building activity had begun to stir again.
In his AIA application of 1938, Gudger listed seven recent projects “of which I am the author”, all but one of them in western North Carolina: the Crab Tree Consolidated School in Clyde; Waynesville High School, Waynesville; a residence for Mr. K. W. Partin, Asheville; a residence for Mr. Herbert Stanley, Asheville; the Old Fort High School in Old Fort; and the Asheville “Auditorium-Convention Hall.” The last mentioned project was especially important, a large and much admired commission which made extensive and locally novel use of “architectural concrete”–the first Asheville City Auditorium, built with PWA and WPA assistance in 1938-1939 (see Asheville Citizen-Times, October 6, 1938, June 29, 1939 and January 6, 1940.) The only project he listed beyond western North Carolina was the residence of Arthur Tyler (likely a relative of his wife, Marie Tyler) in Rocky Mount. Further research may provide additional dates and addresses for the schools and residences he cited. Other WPA projects followed, including the Leicester School in a small community several miles from Asheville, a 22-classroom brick building in restrained moderne style, which was built at a cost of $200,000 and described in the Asheville Citizen-Times of June 9, 1940, as “the last word in school construction.” The United States Census of 1940 noted Gudger as an architect in Asheville and head of a household that included his wife, Marie, and their 1-year old daughter, also Marie. In his draft registration card of 1942, he noted his residence as 385 Lakeshore Drive and his office as 52 Carter Street.
After World War II, Gudger continued a productive practice chiefly in western North Carolina. The Asheville Citizen-Times of September 21, 1947, noted the importance of his work to public school building in the immediate postwar years; he was noted as architect for new schools or significant additions planned for the Buncombe County communities of South Hominy, Candler, East Buncombe, Oakley, Fairview, Flat Creek, and Leicester, each costing from $80,000 to $300,000. Other examples of Gudger’s post-World War II work included other schools, residences, and additions to schools and hospitals. The firm of Lindsey Gudger, AIA, became a partnership in 1953—Gudger, Baber, and Wood. It continued after his death and in 1973 was incorporated as Baber, Cort, and Wood. The current architectural practice of Cort Architectural Group, PA, traces its origins to the practice Gudger founded in Asheville and serves clients mainly in Asheville and Charlotte.
The Pack Library in Asheville has a list of Gudger’s projects that remain to be investigated. Among these are suburban Asheville residences on Lake Shore Drive—including Gudger’s home at 385 Lake Shore Drive where he resided by 1939—and others on Buena Vista Road, Marlborough Road, and in other fashionable locations. His non-residential work included the Student Union Building at Western Carolina University (ca. 1940) and schools in the 1950s for East Buncombe, Candler, and Enka, as well as Asheville’s Reynolds High School (1955-1956). Several drawings for his projects are at the Pack Library, including those for the Vera De Vries residence and the “Country Place of Burnham Colburn.” Entries will be added to the building list as more information becomes available about locations and status. Beyond Asheville, according to the Asheville Citizen-Times of October 28, 1958, Gudger of the firm of Gudger, Baber, and Wood designed the new Viewing Tower (Observation Tower) at Mount Mitchell State Park, to be built of native stone with a concrete platform; it no longer stands.
Gudger was active in his professional community and in Asheville. He became a member of the American Institute of Architects in 1938. His application for membership, dated March 15, 1938 and granted July 1, 1938, was proposed by AIA members H. R. Weeks (of Atwood and Weeks) of Durham and Willard C. Northup (FAIA) of Winston-Salem. Gudger was also active in other civic and professional organizations. He was a member of the Asheville Chamber of Commerce and Kiwanis Club, as well as the American Artists Professional League. The High Point Enterprise of July 13, 1941, reported that the North Carolina Association of Architects (a separate group from the American Institute of Architects that included many western North Carolina members) had met in Asheville on July 12, and Gudger was selected as secretary-treasurer, with Charles C. Hartmann of Greensboro the president and Luther Lashmit of Winston-Salem as vice-president. The meeting followed a “two-day meeting of the North Carolina chapter of the American Institute of Architects.” Gudger became president of the North Carolina AIA in 1950. He was also a member of the American Artists Professional League, the Asheville and Biltmore Forest country clubs, Trinity Episcopal Church, and other organizations, and both he and his wife were frequently mentioned in Asheville newspapers for their participation in local civic and cultural events.
At Gudger’s death at age 60, the Asheville Citizen-Times recalled that he had started his practice in Asheville in 1932 and was “actively identified with those architects who played a major role in the dramatic upsurge in the number of buildings—and their increasingly modern appearance—during the era in which WNC [Western North Carolina] was progressing rapidly.” Gudger was buried in Asheville’s Riverside Cemetery and was survived for many years by his widow, Marie Tyler Gudger.
Lindsey Madison Gudger Application for Membership, American Institute of Architects
Lindsey Gudger Papers, Pack Memorial Library, Asheville, N. C.
1940Location:Leicester, Buncombe CountyStreet Address:
31 Gilbert Rd.Status:
An impressive edifice sited on a hill in its small rural community, the Leicester School was a major WPA-supported project. The 22-classroom brick building in restrained modern style, which was built at a cost of $200,000 and described in the Asheville Citizen-Times of June 9, 1940, as “the last word in school construction.” The newspaper printed a photograph and lengthy description of the school and the events that led up to its construction. The primary grades were to be in classrooms on the first floor, the high school on the second story. In addition to classrooms and offices, it had such important amenities as an auditorium and a gymnasium, a great improvement over previous rural schools. The construction of the school resulted from lengthy efforts by local citizens to obtain funding despite problems at the local and federal levels. It now serves as the Leicester Elementary School.
1955Location:Asheville, Buncombe CountyStreet Address:
According to Wikipedia, the school was established in 1955, and after a new high school was built across the street in 1976, the older building became a middle school.
- Contributors:Lindsey M. Gudger, architect; Zeb V. Robinson, Robinson Brothers, contractorsDates:
1938-1939Location:Asheville, Buncombe CountyStreet Address:
87 Haywood St.Status:
The Art Deco-influenced auditorium, which made extensive use of structural concrete, was built with the assistance of the federal Public Works Administration. The front was a solid monolith of concrete and the remaining walls were of Etowah brick. At its dedication, the Asheville Citizen-Times of January 6, 1940, carried a long, illustrated, front-page article about the building, which was deemed “the last word in municipal auditorium development” with special attention to acoustics. Planned to seat about 3,500 people, it had cost $247,000, of which the PWA had contributed $102,000, citizen fundraising $70,000, and the rest from the city treasury. It resulted from a long campaign for such a facility, a special achievement in a city hard hit by the Great Depression; the report emphasized that the building was debt-free. A photograph showed the architect, the contractors, and PWA officials inspecting the new building, with Gudger on the extreme left.
Elements of that auditorium were retained as part of the Asheville Civic Center (1970-1974), designed by architect John Cort, who in 1967 joined the firm Gudger had established.
1939-1940Location:Asheville, Buncombe CountyStreet Address:
Built with WPA assistance, the auditorium opened on Jan. 6, 1940. It was incorporated into the current civic center, which was dedicated in 1974.
1941Location:Clyde, Haywood CountyStreet Address:
W. Broad St.Status:
With its construction supported by WPA funds, the school features simplified moderne styling. Its grades 1-12 served the small community for many years. The last year of high school graduations there was 1966.
ca. 1939Location:Asheville, Buncombe CountyStreet Address:
385 Lake Shore Dr.Status:
The multigabled, frame house is distinguished by a large, front chimney and entrance bay of irregular stone.
1959-1960Location:Mount Mitchell State Park, Yancey CountyStreet Address:
Blue Ridge Parkway milepost 355.4Status:
No longer standingType:
Gudger’s dramatic tower with its angular concrete elements and rough stone walls was the sixth viewing platform to crown the summit of Mount Mitchell, the tallest peak east of the Mississippi and provide visitors with a spectacular view. (It is variously described as having been 43 and 35 feet tall; based on photographs, Gudger’s design may have reused much of the pre-existing stone tower.) Because of weathering by the fierce winds and cold, and the need for better access, the construction of a new, lower-profile viewing deck was announced in 2005, the 1960 tower was razed in 2006, and the new observation deck was dedicated in 2009.
1937Location:Asheville, Buncombe CountyStreet Address:
1415 Patton Ave.Status:
Photographs of the multi-gabled brick house as well as a blueprint of the front elevation survive in the Lindsey M. Graham Collection.