A Brief History of The Rankin-Bearden House

The Rankin House is a Greek Revival style residence with Italianate embellishments. The house was built by William Dinwiddie Rankin around 1846, making it Montford’s oldest home.

William Dinwiddie Rankin (WD Rankin)

WD had many business interests in Asheville including the area’s largest tannery, located on the Rankin property. He married Elizabeth Lightfoot Roadman in 1826 in Cocke County, Tennessee. Because there were no Catholic churches in Asheville, the couple allowed church services in their home. In 1869, they donated land (known as Catholic Hill) to local Catholics who built the first Catholic church in Asheville. WD died in 1879 of a skull fracture after being kicked in the head by a mule. He was survived by Elizabeth and their four children; James Eugene, Amelia, David, and Alonzo. WD was laid to rest in Riverside Cemetery.

Elizabeth Lightfoot Roadman Rankin

Elizabeth was born in February of 1812. As well as raising the family and running the household, she managed the smoking of meats and maintenance of the property. Her great-grandson, Walter C. Bearden, remembered her extensive gardens with vegetables, fruits, nuts, and flowers. She also kept chickens and managed a dairy. She started a journal in 1859 recording the activities and happenings at the house. The journal was later taken over by her daughter, Amelia.

James Eugene Rankin (JE Rankin)

JE Rankin, the elder son of William and Elizabeth Rankin, was a most prominent Asheville Citizen. The Rankin house was his home until he married Sarah Frances “Fannie” Cocke in 1867. JE was a dedicated public servant to the City of Asheville. He held 50 public offices during his lifetime and served as Mayor of the City of Asheville four times. Upon his death, all city and county government offices were closed as his body lay in state in the courthouse lobby for mourners to pass and pay their last respects. Schools let out early, banks were closed, and the flag was flown at half-staff for 30 days. His portrait hangs in the Buncombe County Courthouse.

The house, known in the preservation world as the Rankin-Bearden house, 32 Elizabeth Place, fell into neglect and bad repair and was actually condemned by the city in the early 1990s. Fred Eggerton, contractor extraordinaire, fell in love with the house and bought it in 1993. He then spent the next 20 years renovating it. The city of Asheville placed the house on the local landmark list in 2006, and the Preservation Society of Asheville and Buncombe County gave it a 2007 Griffin Award for Residential Renovation. Fred opened the house as an inn in 2014 but died unexpectedly December 14, 2014.

Excerpts courtesy 1843rankinhouseinn.com and HeardTell: The North Carolina Room, Pack Memorial Library.