When I asked Karen Heis to describe her home in Madison County, she replied, “Just imagine being in a national park.”
The house she owns with husband Jim is nestled on three acres of land in the riverside retreat mountain community called French Broad Crossing (FBC). “It’s the perfect blend,” she says. “… you have the absolute sense that you are truly out in nature.”
In the early 2000s, when Jack Fisher purchased the 750 acres of land here, his vision was strongly influenced by a deep respect for the surroundings. “We liked to keep it natural and maintain the authentic character of the land,” he says.
Through a conservation easement with the Southeast Regional Land Conservancy, Jack has been able to keep 230 acres of the property undisturbed. “We can hike through it, camp on it, (and) fish along the river.”
With two miles of riverfront and class III rapids, FBC borders one of the most dramatic sections of the French Broad River. “The water carries a magic to it,” says Jack. Kayakers and whitewater rafters enjoy the challenging journey and its breathtaking views. “People come for the atmosphere and the river just fosters that.”
There’s a bit of history everywhere you turn. If you go hiking (as residents often do), you are likely to come across building remnants from the Runion and Stackhouse communities from the late 19th century, which grew around a bustling timber industry. This is also near the site of the Old Drovers Trail. “Farmers from Tennessee and Kentucky drove all their livestock to markets … in Charleston, South Carolina, so they came along the river here,” says Jack.
“Not too far from our house are some old mines,” adds Karen. “We see deer, wild turkey, and there’s this one white turkey we are always on the lookout for.”
In the design of their custom-built home, she and Jim included high ceilings and tall windows that bring in a shot of some breathtaking views. Screened-in porches are the couple’s favorite places for a morning cup of coffee or a glass of wine in the evening while watching the sunset. For now, Karen and Jim are part-time residents at FBC, traveling here from Texas as often as they can.
Karen asks with a smile, “What’s not to like about Asheville weather?” With the mild Madison County weather, she is able to grow blueberries and blackberries, as well as spices like rosemary, bay, basil, and Italian parsley.
From hiring a local architect, builder, and cabinetmaker to furnishing rooms with local art, they sought out local talent. Marvel at the detail in Steven Forbes-de Soule’s raku pottery, and take in the beauty of pieces by potter Michael Hofman and painter Wendy Whitson.
In the middle of the dining area is a beautiful spalted sycamore table built by Julie Allen from wood harvested in Black Mountain, and Kelly Prestwood crafted metalwork.
Amenities, such as the River Lodge and four-acre River Park Pavilion, enhance the French Broad Crossing experience. “People who live here are so nice and so wonderful,” adds Karen. “You can do all the socializing you want, yet have your little place out in the woods where you can enjoy nature.”
From the porch, we listened to the sound of rushing water in the distance. One of the oldest in the world, the French Broad River connects us to the history of this land and its people. And here, it connects us also to the present.
To learn more about the living experience at French Broad Crossing, please contact our sales office at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 866-947-9629.