Aluminum house inventor belonged to distinctive family

Thanks to Joe Elliott of Asheville for this response to my query about the fate of the aluminum house conceived and built (circa 1951) by his father-in-law, Thomas Edison Westall of Marion:

“Ed built onto the structure later, converting part of it into a popular local restaurant called the Pilot House. Sometime after the restaurant was sold, it suffered fire damage and eventually was torn down.

Photo courtesy of Joe Elliott
Photo courtesy of Joe Elliott

“Ed Westall was a truly remarkable man; one who, had he been more materially ambitious, might have become a rich man. However, his real passion was for design and invention. It was something that brought him great joy. In addition to the restaurant, Ed worked for many years as a mechanical engineer for American Thread, during which time he patented several inventions. He was also a licensed small-engine pilot.

Ed Westall with his family on a boat he built. Photo courtesy of Joe Elliott
Ed Westall with his family on a boat he built. Photo courtesy of Joe Elliott

“Ed was a quiet man with a mind that never stopped. He was, I think, most alive & at peace in the wide open spaces. Maybe that’s why he loved Emerson so much. He was a generalist in the best since of the word: he loved learning about everything.

“Someone once told my wife, ‘Your dad was the smartest man I ever knew’….
Ed’s family, the Westalls, were from the mountainous Toe River region of North Carolina. Thomas Wolfe’s mother’s maiden name was Westall, and she belonged to the same extended clan. Ed sometimes talked about his great Uncle Bacchus (BACK-US). I believe Wolfe incorporated Bacchus into some of his stories. When I told my old English professor Frank Hulme (who won the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award back in the 1970s) that I was marrying a Westall, Frank (whose sister also married a Westall) raised his hand to stop me. ‘Say no more!’ he declared. ‘Say not a word more!’ Frank had been acquainted with Wolfe in Asheville back in the 1930s.

“Like Wolfe’s mother, the Westall clan is an interesting lot….”



Marion’s Thomas Edison had own knack for invention

“Thomas Edison Westall and his family are living in an aluminum alloy house built in his spare time. The mechanical engineer thinks it may be the house of tomorrow.

“The odd house sits in the shadow of the Blue Ridge mountains a few miles from Marion [N.C.]. It is air-conditioned. It is dust-proof. It has no corners — a boon to housekeepers, says Westall. The all-aluminum house of five rooms is just large enough for the Westall family of four. There is no wasted space. Inside the aluminum is coated with a sand-like paint, giving the walls and ceilings a look of plastered finish.

“Westall doesn’t know exactly what the house would cost to build…. ‘After all,’ he explains, ‘I designed the place and put it together whenever I could find the time.’”

— From the Central Press Association (September 7, 1951)

In addition to his contribution to midcentury housekeeping, Thomas Edison Westall (1914-1989) held patents on aeronautical devices and a Velcro-packaging machine.

Does anyone know the fate of Westall’s “house of tomorrow”?


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