Local News

Experts Assessing Damage to Wolfe Historic Site

Posted July 25, 1998 7:00 a.m. EDT

— State officials and curators are assessing the damage to the boyhood home of Thomas Wolfe, one of the nation's most-heralded writers in the 20s and 30s. A fire broke out in the dining room of the sprawling wood structure early Friday morning.

Firefighters arrived within minutes, but the house was fully engulfed.

State officials had planned to install fire alarms and a security system during restoration this fall, according to Jackie Ogburn of the Department of Cultural Resources. The building has been a state historical site for 24 years.

Cause of the blaze has not been determined.

Wolfe's typewriter, writing table and many family papers had been moved earlier to a nearby visitor's center in anticipation of the renovation. Still, curators spent Friday morning working through furnishings and papers damaged by smoke and water.

The fire took most of the roof and one side of the house. The attic, main dining room and a second-floor room were destroyed before the blaze was extinguished about 5 a.m.

A restoration company has been called in to help with the salvage work.

The Queen Anne-style Victorian house was built in 1883, and had retained all of its original stained-glass windows. Wolfe's mother Julia ran it as a boarding house.

Wolfe, who wrote four novels, was despised by many in Asheville because they found their characteristics and foibles, only lighted disguised, depicted in his highly autobiographical works.

He died in 1938.