From Ottari Sanitarium to Coburn Apartments
Coburn Apartments  --  History

The clear, bracing air and moderate climate of Asheville and western North Carolina have long been considered conducive to good health.   A real estate pamphlet of 1888 proclaimed "Asheville is now the established and most noted health and pleasure resort in America".  By 1921 the Asheville City Directory lists 20 hospitals and sanitoria in Asheville, and many of  these institutions were large and lucrative.  The rest, fresh air, and relaxaton, were the only known cure for ailments prevalent in the decades before the discovery of antibiotics.

Ottari Sanitarium built in 1912

In 1903, Dr. William Banks Meacham moved to Asheville, established a practice in osteopathy, and in 1912 purchased seven acres of land on Ottari Road planning  "the finest private sanitarium ever  built."  Meacham's sanitarium, perhaps the nation's first stricly osteopathic hospital, was built in Asheville's newest residential location.  He advertised it as one half mile from the Asheville 18-hole golf course and nearby the Grove Park Inn, scheduled to open in the summer of 1913.   He announced in the local newspaper that it "combines the advantages of the city and the restful quiet of the country ... with view of mountains for forty miles."

By the end of 1912 the Ottari Sanitarium was ready for patients with 18 rooms and suites, all with private porches.  The Ottari was so successful that in October 1918 Meacham and E.W. Grove of the Grove Park Inn signed a legal covenant whereby each party agreed that for 50 years they would "not erect or suffer to be erected, licensed or suffer to be licensed on any lot part or parcel ... any commercial, mercantile or manufacturing establishment or any factory of any kind or character or any building to be used as a tenement, lodging house, or hospital for the treatment of tuberculosis ... and will not at any time, during said period permit or suffer to be used, any building of any kind or character now situated on said premises or hereinafter to be erected thereon, for any purposes above set out."

Ottari Sanitarium expanded in 1916

In 1916, Meacham purchased additional land and in 1923 added approximately 20 more rooms for a total of 40 bedrooms, 35 baths, and 30 porches.  Dr. William Banks Meacham was well known in the field of Osteopathy.  In 1916 he was elected president of the National Osteopathic Assocaition.  His sanitarium was a showplace for osteopathic practice, and an inventory from 1930 gives an indication of its opulence.  Included in that inventory are Persian rugs, silk draperies for the parlor, mahogany furniture, wine glasses, finger bowls, gum rockers, willow rockers, invalid chairs, 2 brass bird cages with canaries, and 1 glass aquarium with fish.

The additions of 1923 necessitated a new mortgage and Meacham, like many others, was caught up in the "boom" mood of the era.  His health was poor and his marriage failed.  On April 17, 1930 the contents of the Ottari Sanitarium were sold and the property itself forclosed by the Central Bank and Trust Company of Asheville.  It was sold at the courthouse door on May 14, 1930.  In July, following the failure of that bank, the property was awarded to W.E. Shuford and the Blue Ridge Building and Loan Assocaition.  In September of 1933, the Buncombe County Board of Financial Control received the property following the collapse of the Building and Loan.  The City of Asheville obtained 1/5 interest in the property and the Buncombe County Commission received 4/5 interest.

Converted to Kimberly Apartments in 1937

The two governments agreed to convert the property into apartments.  In 1937 the building was reopened as the Kimberly Apartments having 6 four-room apartments, 10 two-room apartments, and 17 one-room apartments.

Renamed Coburn Apartments in 1940

On July 1, 1940 the Kimberly Apartment building was sold under a deed of trust forclosure to Harrie Cutler Coburn of Asheville and the building was renamed the Coburn Apartments.  

Harrie Cutler Coburn  (1886 - 1948)

Harrie Cutler Coburn was born in Brooklyn, CT, in 1886, the son of Dr. Milton Coburn and Abbie Cutler Coburn.  He was a graduate of the Massachusetts Nautical Training School and served in the US Navy during World War I.  A world traveler, Harrie Coburn lived in Manilla, Kauai, San Francisco, and traveled the world three times before settling in Asheville, NC.

Coburn moved to Asheville in 1928, lived at 4 White Oak Road in Biltmore Forest, and became a civic leader, interested in the development of Asheville as an industrial city.  He was President of the Asheville Kiwanis Club and Vice President of the Asheville Industrial Promotion Council.  Coburn and his wife, Agatha, purchased, moved to and maintained the Coburn Apartments from 1940 until his death in 1948.

Over time, apartments have been modified slightly.  There are now 32 apartments in all.  Thirty apartments are in the main building.  Two apartments are in an Annex building.  (The Preservation magazine ad said 31 apartments, but there are actually 32.)

After Coburn's death in 1948, ownership passed to the family of Coburn's daughter, Harriet Cutler Coburn Stringfield, in nearby Waynesville, NC.  Ownership remans in the Stringfield family today. 


Further Information

This web site was developed by Ann Stringfield in Greensboro, NC, because that is Ann's contribution to the sales process.  But for any and all further information, including financial information, please contact my sister Mary Stringfield Sloan in Oxford, Mississippi at 662-234-1185 in the Central time zone.  Or you may e-mail Mary at msloan3@directvinternet.com.  Or use the e-mail capability of this web site which will go first to Ann Stringfield who will then forward it to Mary Stringfield Sloan.  (Odd but that's the way it works!)