Cherokee Road retaining wall project echoes historic look

There’s not a lot of existing documentation about the original dry-stack retaining wall that used to hold up Cherokee Road in the Albemarle Park Historic District. The rustic character of the wall fits the vision of the Raoul Family, who developed Albemarle Park over 100 years ago, and an inscription of “1962” in a mortared patch of the wall confirms that repair work was completed about 50 years back.

But decades of use, erosion from a subterranean storm drain and a few impacts by vehicles meant that it was time to replace the 70-foot long wall just off Charlotte Street. Albemarle Park is a rare intact example of a historic residential park uniquely sensitive to the natural environment, and is listed as both a local and national historic district, says Historic Resources Commission Director Stacy Merten. As such, great care was put into how the final product will look, and the project required review by the Historic Resources Commission who issued a Certificate of Appropriateness for the design.

To preserve the historic character, workers are utilizing the original stone, cutting the pieces and using them as a veneer for the new structure. “The finished product will look like the original dry-stack,” Merten says. “We’re using old photography and comparing this with other historic walls to make sure it looks right.”

Beneath the historic stone, however, lies a modern concrete poured wall designed to withstand the traffic needs of the road. “What we are getting is a good, engineered structure,” says project manager Brian Estes. “That blends stability, life span and the historic appearance.”

With some stone rendered unusable during the deconstruction process, and the recreation of a pilaster that once stood at Sunset Road, project engineers knew some supplemental stone would be required The project’s masonry contractor located a quarry which mined the same stone and had the match confirmed through the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

The Albemarle neighborhood provided important input in the project as well.

“I am very pleased with the process and outcome of the historic stone wall replacement project, said resident Robert Sauer. “Neighbors were invited to meet with their input early on and Public Works and HRC listened and responded. Several suggestions from us were included in the project. The loss of the original wall is unfortunate but the well-engineered carefully crafted replica is a fine result.”

The Cherokee Road retaining wall project represents a key 2012/2013 Fiscal Year Capital Improvement Project within the City of Asheville.