Allanstand Cottage Industries
Allanstand Cottage Industries took its name from its original location along a remote crossroads near the North Carolina-Tennessee state line, forty miles north of Asheville. “Allan’s Old Stand” was a resting point for drovers taking livestock to market on the hoof. Originally a Presbyterian mission, the unexpected gift of a hand-woven, pre-Civil War coverlet inspired the transformation of the mission into a cottage industry. Allanstand Cottage Industries commissioned a wide variety of traditional handwork, including woven coverlets and rugs, brooms, baskets, chairs, and dolls. While some handcrafted products were sold locally, many were sold as mail order products through the Presbyterian church. Fortunately, the market remained “ahead of the possible supply,” encouraging craft production. 1 In 1908, Allanstand founder Frances Louisa Goodrich (1856-1944) opened a shop in downtown Asheville where she could take advantage of residential and tourist traffic. In 1917 the business was incorporated and continued its operation for another 14 years. In 1931 Goodrich deeded the property to the newly formed Southern Mountain Handicraft Guild (today’s Southern Highland Craft Guild). The Allanstand sales shop continues to operate out of the guild’s Folk Art Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Asheville.
The following is transcribed from From Mountain Hands: The Story of Allanstand Craft Shop’s First 100 Years, a publication of the Southern Highland Craft Guild. 2
The story of the country’s first craft shop began in the rural mountain settlement of Brittain’s Cove, twelve miles north of Asheville, North Carolina. The year was 1895. In the wake of the Industrial Revolution an ambitious young Presbyterian missionary named Frances Goodrich was supervising the cove’s Dulah Springs Day School. Five years earlier, the Yale-educated Miss Goodrich was at the threshold of a promising career in fine art when a visit to Asheville school inspired her to join the Home Missions Board as a volunteer missionary.
In those days, the rest of the country was taking steps toward industrialization. An increasing number of goods were available in wide distribution from mills and factories. Family farms began to decrease. Especially affected were the rural mountain communities that had depended on farming and handmade goods. The lure of industrialization led many away to mines, logging industries, and Piedmont mill towns, where wages were paid to buy commercial goods. Fractured by this shift, mountain communities were no longer as self-sustaining. Store bought goods such as clothes, linens, furniture, and dishes were preferred over their handmade equivalents for their variety, uniformity, and their symbol of middle class status. Money for these goods was scarce in Appalachia, as the rough mountain terrain discouraged the development of commercial trade. Where money was scarce, schools, churches, and medical facilities were also scarce or substandard compared to America’s growing middle class. Southern Appalachia was regarded as impoverished and pursued by churches as a prime place for missionary and social work. Frances Goodrich had come to the neglected mountains of North Carolina to bring about what was missing, but on her journey, found herself amidst the resources of a unique culture.
In Brittain’s Cove, Miss Goodrich did more than teach the school children. All aspects of the Dulah Springs community became engaged by her vision and organization. With the school mothers, she conducted regular “sewing and chatting” sessions. Women brought their mending and casually discussed “the resources at hand for bringing healthful excitement” to the tedium of tough mountain life.
It was during one of these mothers’ meetings in 1895 that a neighbor woman modestly presented Frances Goodrich with a 40-year-old bed coverlet, hand woven by a relative. Because the art-educated schoolteacher had shown appreciation for the “old ways,” the coverlet was offered in hopes that the intricate “Double Bow Knot” pattern, skillfully dyed with native chestnut oak, would not go unnoticed. The newcomer was moved by the gift. She realized it was an antique of rare beauty in an era when textile mills were rapidly replacing the slower, more complex methods of weaving. The coverlet also spurred ideas for relieving economic hardship for these women. When she sent the coverlet to her northern friends, their reaction convinced her that if the women of Brittain’s Cove could produce some homespun weaving, there would be a mail order market for it.
She took the idea to the mothers, only to find they were all inexperienced in the weaving arts. It seemed the old craft was gone from the cove. After consulting together, however, the mothers began to recall the whereabouts of an old loom and an elder who still knew how to use it. Under Goodrich’s direction, the women of Brittain’s Cove produced three coverlets from native raw materials that they dyed, carded, spun and wove using patterns (drafts) found stored in closets. A craft revival began to stir.
Goodrich spent three more years in Brittain’s Cove, rediscovering with her neighbors the dying art that had once been a routine necessity in every community. As her social work increased, so did her interest in handicrafts. In her continued acquaintance with the region, she observed that people in the upper reaches of Madison County wore bright hand-woven “Lindsey” clothing. Her delight in finding hand weaving still practiced there prompted a move to her next missionary post in 1897. While in the Little Laurel river area in Madison County, she found “more of the thrifty, old time ways had been kept.”
Just across the state line in Flag Pond, Tennessee, she met the expert weaver, Elmeda Walker, who had “woven more webs than she could count” for trade. Goodrich chose this venerable old woman to set the standard for the women of the Laurel area who, through Goodrich’s encouragement, were eager to “save the old art from extinction.” The women became specialized for the tasks of dyeing, carding, spinning, and weaving to fill the growing orders for coverlets Miss Goodrich received. The women were paid on a piecework basis. A weaver made 35 cents per yard of cloth. Those who carded and spun got 33½ cents per pound of wool and 44 cents per pound of cotton.
There were no outlets for commerce in her new surroundings besides an old log structure known as “Allan’s Old Stand.” Years earlier, Mr. Allan had built lodging for drovers leading herds of livestock through the mountains from Tennessee to South Carolina. “Allan’s Stand” was out of use, but the name remained, and Goodrich adopted both the name and the logs from the building to start her new weaving industry in 1902. Allanstand Cottage Industries sold directly to passers-by at the cottage, but the bulk of the business was from mail order brochures distributed through the Presbyterian mission. Customers could send raw materials with requests for a variety of patterns or colors. Soon more local people brought their handicrafts to Allanstand to market their wares. Goodrich would closely examine the workmanship of each prospect, giving recommendations to increase the work’s value in the market. When the workmanship met her approval, she would put them in business. The growing inventory included such practical items as baskets, quilts, wooden furniture, brooms, and even made-to-order hooked rugs. In this manner, mountain farmers and sharecroppers were not as vulnerable to recruitment from the mills. They worked on their craft during spare hours on the farm, supplementing an otherwise sparse income.
Goodrich had a three-fold purpose in mind for her Cottage Industries:
- To bring money to women working in homes and communities too far from the markets.
- To give these women the pleasure of producing beautiful things.
- To save the old time crafts from extinction.
In just a few years, the inspired Goodrich raised enough money through the mission for a day school, church, and a post office in Allanstand, while her business thrived along the Little Laurel. The church, school, and post office are now obsolete, but the hamlet still bears the name “Allanstand.” The original buildings remain along Rt. 208 beside a marker commemorating Allanstand Craft Shop’s first home.
It was the construction of a new road between South Carolina and Tennessee that permanently changed Allanstand, both the town and the shop. No one traveled the old road anymore, so in 1908, Goodrich opened a salesroom at 102 S. Main Street (now Haywood Street) in Asheville, NC. The weaving cabin was still used, and the original shop still operated a few more years under the management of Annie Gosnell. Annie’s mother, Susie Shelton, had gotten her start at Allanstand embroidering on homespun cloth. Annie lived just up the hill from the shop, so whenever a customer came, she would “stop her housework and go down” to take care of business.
Fifty miles away, in the cultural hub of western North Carolina, Asheville’s 14,000 residents and untold visitors offered a stream of interest to Allanstand Cottage Industries. Goodrich’s missionary work left little time for the daily demands of the shop, so the management was given to Miss Harriet Wilke, who had often assisted her. Miss Goodrich returned to the hills where her social work led her to establish six more day schools and build the White Rock Hospital in Madison County. In 1917, the shop had moved to 10 Church Street under the management of Miss Mary Rogers. That year it had shown success enough to go through the procedures for incorporation, and began offering stock investments.
The downtown shop also connected Frances Goodrich socially and professionally with others who recognized the value of handcrafted traditions. The work of these like-minded people culminated into a Craft Revival moment all across the Southern Mountains. The movement got its start through outreach programs of social service organizations. To re-awaken the craft heritage in the mountains, handicraft education centers were established. With few exceptions, the leaders of the movement were well-educated women from outside the mountains, and like Frances herself were associated with home missions or social work. Like Frances, too, each of these women possessed strong leadership qualities needed to create social changes, coupled with a cultural sensitivity. Rather than offering unusable knowledge taught by outsiders, the handicraft lessons involved the passed-down wisdom of the community elders. Ever mindful that each craft-making process had its place in the culture, and each craftsperson had a role in the family farm and community, the education centers offered the mountaineer an attractive alternative to relocation to mining or milling towns.
After turning down numerous enticements to sell the shop for private commercial ventures, the time seemed right to place it in the hands of the newly formed [Southern Mountain Handicraft] Guild. 3 In a letter to her stockholders, she explains the closing of her industry, “We have been carrying on for 35 years or more and have done what we set out to do. 4 Besides that, we have started others on the same road… we are banding together to resist the commercialization of what should be craft work.”
The Southern Highland Craft Guild
retained the name Allanstand for its
craft shop on the Blue Ridge Parkway
Allanstand was officially transferred to the Southern Highland Handicraft Guild at the spring meeting of the Guild in 1931. It was, in her words, “the agency which offered promise of carrying on our purpose.” Whether it was apparent that day or not, the offering of Allanstand also enabled the Guild to carry on its purposes. By providing the Guild with a time-tested market to attract membership and a sound financial base, the lofty designs drawn on the mountaintop now had a secure foundation from which to reach its goals.
Frances Goodrich was now sixty-five years old and able to retire to watch younger hands take up the service she started. That same year she published Mountain Homespun, a chronicle of her career with colorful stories and lots of old mountain dialect in the telling. The book also contained detailed explanations of weaving and the Craft Revival. 5
The awning of the shop’s window at the Parsec Building on 6 Government Street (now 16 College Street) read “Allanstand Cottage Industries, Inc.” Added beneath was “Southern Highland Handicraft Guild” to indicate its new direction. Inside, new manager Agnes Loeffler and trustee Clementine Douglas arranged to receive the new inventory from the Guild’s 18 education centers now marketing through Allanstand.
From Mountain Hands: The Story of Allanstand Craft Shop’s First 100 Years
Written by Katherine Caldwell,
With the assistance of Faye Harper;
Edited by Anna Fariello, 2008
Used with permission of the Southern Highland Craft Guild.
1. Frances Louisa Goodrich and Harriet C. Wilke, Allanstand Cottage Industries (Asheville: 1909).
2. Katherine Caldwell with the assistance of Faye Harper, From Mountain Hands: The Story of Allanstand Craft Shop’s First 100 Years (Asheville: Southern Highland Craft Guild, 1996).
3. Today’s Southern Highland Craft Guild was originally formed as the Southern Mountain Handicraft Guild.
4. Frances Louisa Goodrich to Allanstand Cottage Industries Stockholders, February 17th, 1931, Southern Highland Craft Guild Archive.
5. Frances Louisa Goodrich, Mountain Homespun, (New Haven CT: Yale University Press, 1931; 1989).