The three-story, shingle-style Princess Anne Hotel first opened its doors in 1924 during the economic boom period for Asheville. Built by registered-nurse Anne O’Connell and financed by Doctor Karl von Ruck, the hotel promised “Comfort First.” Listed on the US Department of the Interior's National Register of Historic Places, the Princess Anne Hotel continues to deliver an exceptional experience to guests.
Asheville has always been a destination for health-seekers. At the time, Asheville was known nationally for having the best in tuberculosis (consumption) treatment due to its cooler climate and fresh mountain-air. Dr. von Ruck chose this area to complete his research on the illness and lived on nearby Albemarle Road close to O'Connell's sanatarium. (His house still stands) The Princess Anne provided a respite for the families of tuberculosis patients being treated at O’Connell’s 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 throughout the Great Depression. Having lost all assets aside from the water-department, Asheville accrued the highest per-capita debt in the country at $54 million. The Princess Anne managed to stay 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 hotel owners, the Princess Anne changed those whom it accommodated as well. In 1942, the hotel briefly became an annex of The Appalachian Hall Psychiatric Hospital due to the government forcing them out of their space for use as a military hospital during WWII. After the war the hotel returned to serving travelers. 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, having never been renovated, spent two-years renovating and returning her 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.