ASHEVILLE – The historic site where America's Jazz Age darling, Zelda Fitzgerald, died in a tragic fire has sold for $1.25 million.
The four-story building at 75 Zillicoa St. was once Highland Hospital, the psychiatric facility where author F. Scott Fitzgerald's wife and eight other women died in a fire on the night of March 10, 1948.
Now it will become a place to help adolescent men who are struggling with substance abuse.
Richard Whitney, CEO of Whitney Commercial Real Estate, brokered the deal. Whitney said the property was originally put on the market for $2.1 million.
"It was on the market for 595 days," Whitney said of the property in Asheville's historic Montford neighborhood. "It used to be Highland Hospital, a place where folks came to get better. It's interesting how it all comes full circle, isn't it?"
The historic property will soon become the home of Montford Hall, a 28-bed, long-term residential substance abuse treatment program for boys ages 14-17.
Alex Kirby, the founder and executive director of Montford Hall, said the nonprofit organization had been looking for the right place for this program for nearly five years.
"With many programs, these kids are invariably dropped in the middle of nowhere, hours and hours away from anything," Kirby said.
"We made a conscious decision to put a treatment program somewhere that looked someplace like where a kid might live, but where they can also learn sobriety skills and be well-equipped to face the world because they will be confronted by it."
The Glass Foundation, a private family foundation in Asheville, purchased the building for Montford Hall.
Montford Hall will be sandwiched between Genova Diagnostics, which used to operate at 75 Zillicoa St. before moving down the street to 63 Zillicoa St., and CooperRiis Healing Community, which helps people with mental illness or emotional distress build the skills they need to become independent and find fulfillment in life.
"This property wasn't available when we started looking for properties. We looked at 182 Cumberland, which used to be a halfway house, but it just didn't work out. We also looked at 49 Zillicoa St., two doors up, but that was just not going to work," said Kirby, who is also a clinical psychologist. "The Glass Foundation has really stepped up to help us out. They're just the most amazing people to help us do this."
When it opens in October, Montford Hall will be the only program east of the Rockies to provide long-term residential substance abuse treatment for teenage boys, Kirby said.
"We are not rehab. These boys will come here to get stabilized after they go somewhere for 30, 60 or 90 days to get treatment. But rehab does not refer to continuum of care, and that's where we are different," Kirby said, noting teenagers in the program stay for periods longer than 180 days. "It takes a long time to get into trouble and it takes a long time to get out of trouble."
Montford Hall will take residence of the building beginning this month, and is already looking at an Oct. 15 opening date. But there is still work to be done.
"The building does not have a kitchen, and it only has one shower so we want to do some improvements there and also make sure we have addressed any fire safety issues," Kirby said. "We're looking at about $400,000 in renovations inside."
Kirby envisions a dining hall on the bottom floor, offices on the main floor and a school on the second floor. The third floor will be where the young men will sleep and the fourth floor will serve as a large room for music and recreational activities.
In total, the building is 16,363 square feet and sits on less than an acre.
Kirby said plans for Montford Hall have been approved by the city, but they are still waiting for their permits to be issued.
Patti Glazer will be the project architect, and the general contractor will be RPF Construction.
But aside from a few improvements, like replacing some rotting wood, the exterior of the building will not be touched.
"We're talking about putting together a new website, and a big part of that will be telling the story of this building and its rich history," Kirby said.
The plaque on the property that honors the life of Zelda Fitzgerald will stay.