The Transylvania Times -

Picturing The Past: Stillwell Designed Several County Schools


September 25, 2017

Courtesy Photo

Pisgah Forest Elementary School in December of 1940

Architect Erle Stillwell designed his first school while he was partners with Hans C. Meyer. The drawings for the classroom building at Blue Ridge School for Boys in Hendersonville are dated February, 1914. After Meyer left Henderson County, Stillwell continued to do work for that school and others. He designed all of the Henderson County public schools from the 1920s through 1950s.

When Henderson County built several schools in the 1960s, they were designed by Six Associates, the Asheville architectural firm of which Stillwell was a founding partner. In addition, Stillwell designed buildings for several private schools in Henderson and Buncombe counties. Still-well himself, and later Six Associates, also did a large amount of work for Western Carolina Teacher's College.

The first Transylvania County school Stillwell designed was Rosman High School in 1926. The design was for a typical symmetrical two-story brick classroom building with a one-story auditorium at the back. The building was used until the mid-1970s. When the current elementary school opened in 1975, the high school moved into the former elementary building while the present day high school was being constructed on the site of the 1926 building.

In 1940 Stillwell designed the Pisgah Forest Elementary School, today the Davidson River School. Although the school is very traditional in style, it does have a unique feature in the Aztec-Deco entrance. The exterior of the building is uncoursed cut-stone.

During WWII Stillwell and five others joined together to create the Six Associates architectural firm in order to compete for government defense contracts. They went on to be one of the most successful architectural agencies in North Carolina.

As a Six Associates partner, Stillwell designed Rosman Elementary School in April 1948 and North Brevard and Lake Toxaway elementary schools in December 1950. North Brevard, later named Straus Elementary, is today part of Blue Ridge Community College. Lake Toxaway Elementary was named for longtime educator and school superintendent, T.C. Henderson. The two original schools were identical.

Courtesy Photo

Rosenwald School in August of 1946

Stillwell had a long and productive career in private practice and in partnership with Six Associates. Several of the buildings he designed remain a piece of Transylvania County's architectural history today.

(Photographs and information for this column are provided by the Rowell Bosse North Carolina Room, Transylvania County Library. Visit the N.C. Room during regular library hours (Monday-Friday) to learn more about our history and see additional photographs. For more information, comments or suggestions contact Marcy at or (828) 884-1820.)


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