Celebrating Afternoon Tea and More at the Smith-McDowell House

By Dasha Morgan- The ritual of an afternoon cup of tea has inspired an exhibit at the Smith-McDowell House Museum at 283 Victoria Road in Asheville.

This Black Jasper teapot was brought to this country by Easter Horner’s family from England.

This exhibit of course reminds all of us of American history— of when the Boston Tea party in 1773 protested the taxation on tea—“no taxation without representation”— which later escalated into the American Revolution. Visitors learn about the history and types of infused tea and the etiquette which surrounds it, as they tour through the Smith-McDowell’s period rooms (1840 – 1890).

There are many well placed informative panels and tea-related stories, some from the house’s own collection, such as a unique Jasper pot, and some borrowed items from fellow tea enthusiasts.

At the end of your tour, you are invited to sit down and enjoy a pot of tea. This exhibit with many beautiful examples of tea ware—pots, lovely China cups and saucers, tea strainers, and varieties of tea—may inspire you to offer your friends an afternoon cup of tea. This exhibit continues until September 23rd.

Although over the years stopping your busy day to day life to partake in an afternoon cup of tea with friends and family has faded into the background of most people’s lives, it is beginning to make a comeback with the opening of many tea rooms and tea offerings throughout the area.

Bruce Richardson of Elmwood Inn Fine Teas in Kentucky is the presenting sponsor of this exhibition and has been described as “A leading tea expert involved in tea’s American Renaissance for over 20 years.” Kym Brown of A Southern Cup of Tea in Hendersonville and Ivory Road Cafe in Arden regularly offer tea sandwiches, scones and other delicious afternoon goodies with a pot of tea to their guests. Of course there is quite a bit of etiquette that can be learned about the “proper way” to have an authentic afternoon tea, much of which stems from British tradition.

This is a beautiful display of silverware to be used for teatime in The1890’s parlor of the Smith McDowell House.

Crafty Historian Events this Summer
For the children: The Crafty Historian is a regularly occurring craft event for youngsters at the Smith-McDowell House. July 20th is the next one coming up—to work with Air-Dry Clay, a fun and creative activity. The participant will be using a home-made air dry clay that is smooth and white.

They will have a choice in making small pendants or a larger, flat project with imprinted designs. This activity is recommended for ages 6 and up (ages 6-8 might need adult help. Grown ups can create too as a crafter or may just prefer to be a chaperone/helper.) The fee has yet to be determined, but it will be no less than $5 or no more than $10 for each crafter. However, only a few spots are left as this article goes to press.

Another exciting event for the youngsters is the 1960s Party on August 10 from 10:30AM-12:30PM. The Smith-McDowell House will be exploring the decade of the 60s through music, dance, fashion and treats. Craft opportunities stemming from the 60’s include tie-dye, beads and headbands. 1960s costumes are encouraged to be worn by participants to add to the fun. This event will look at how attitudes were expressed through the music of the decade, and then learning some typical dance moves of the 60’s. Light refreshments will be served. Cost is only $10 for youngsters and $5 for chaperones (chaperones required for ages 8 and younger).

The Smith McDowell House
The Smith-McDowell House is located at 283 Victoria Road in Asheville. It is one of Asheville’s first mansions and oldest surviving structure, now handsomely restored as a history museum for the area. Built by one of antebellum North Carolina’s most influential citizens around 1840, this National Register property was once the home of many prominent and well respected citizens, mayors, and a Confederate Major.

In fact, it was built 55 years before the Biltmore House and is considered one of the Top 10 Civil War Sites. Allan Tarleton of the Van Winkle Law Firm is the current President of the Board of Trustees of the Smith McDowell House, Elaine Blake, the House Manager, and Lisa Whitfield, the Education Coordinator. Membership, which offers complimentary admission to the house, special invitations, and discounts on educational programs is only $35 for individuals or $50 for a family for a year.

The three-story brick house was designed and built as a five-bay mansion in Adamesque and Federal styles. The double-tiered front porch provides a lovely vista of the mountain ranges to the southeast. The interior of the house contains much of the original Greek Revival woodwork. By 1910, the house had been sold, and the new owners secured the architectural services of Smith & Carrier Architects to design additions and modifications to the house and hired the sons of Frederick Law Olmsted to design a landscape plan for the property.

At the Fairy Garden Party in June even fairies enjoyed their cups of tea! At the Fairy Garden Party in June even fairies enjoyed their cups of tea!

The Smith-McDowell House is open Wednesday through Saturday 10-4 PM and is well worth a visit to see the many worthwhile exhibits throughout the year. The house is beautifully decorated for holidays with many events held. At Christmas fresh trees, garlands, ornaments and toys of the Victorian Period are displayed. Six period rooms are decked out with gold, silver and glassware from their permanent collections.

In addition to education events, they have a history club, The SMH Tarheel Junior Historians, which meets once a month and is open to school age students. In addition, through the Western North Carolina Historical Association they present annual awards for literature and outstanding achievement in history. Adult admission for a day at the Museum is $9/adult, $5/child age 8-18. For further information or to become a member, go to

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