At the time, Asheville was known nationally for having the best in tuberculosis treatment and was home to Dr. Von Ruck, a world-renowned tuberculosis specialist. Doctors from around the country, including Von Ruck, recommended the Western North Carolina Mountains area for its fresh air healing power. The Asheville hotel provided a respite for the families of tuberculosis patients being treated at O’Connell’s nearby sanatorium located on Baird Street and, as a result, found success early in its history. O’Connell was dubbed “Princess” by her patients due to her flowing red hair, pretty face, and charismatic nature, and so the hotel was named “Princess Anne.” She ran the Hotel for several years before selling it in 1929.
Succession of Ownership
The Princess Anne remained a hotel for a number of years after the sale, being bought and sold several times. This was common for an Asheville bed and breakfast or hotel at the time as the Great Depression had stretched its fingers over the city of Asheville and caused rough times for everyone. In fact, during the 1930s Asheville retained the highest per-capita debt of any city in the country ($54 million). The Princess Anne stayed in business, though, and found a diverse collection of owners. One interesting owner of note was the father of Johnny Mercer (writer of the classic melody “Moon River”).
In addition to owners, the Princess Anne changed the type of Asheville accommodations that it offered. In 1945, the Hotel briefly became an annex of The Appalachian Hall Psychiatric Hospital and in 1947 became a hotel again. From 1957 until 1995, the hotel functioned as a boarding house specializing in retirement accommodations promising “Gracious Living for Senior Citizens.” During that time, it was home to voter educator and women’s equality activist Florence Ryan. Sold again in 1995, the hotel passed into the hands of the Maharishi Ayurveda University of North Carolina whose founders were once the spiritual leaders of the Beatles .
The current owner, award-winning preservationist Howard Stafford, bought The Princess Anne Hotel in 2003 and spent two-years renovating and returning the Asheville hotel to her former glory. For outstanding contribution to historic preservation, the Hotel was awarded the 2006 Griffin Award by the Preservation Society. Now a 16 suite, residential-style hotel, The Princess Anne Hotel promises “original ambiance and charm with modern amenities to help create a memorable stay,” and is, and always will be, uniquely Asheville