The Magnificent Braided Monster on Melrose Avenue

Published 2:59 pm Thursday, June 1, 2017

Submitted by Robert Lange

Dr. Charles J. Kenworthy moved to Tryon in 1889 from Jacksonville, Fla. with his young wife and newborn daughter, as well as some Japanese Wisteria seeds brought back from his many years in Australia.

By 1921, his wisteria had grown large enough that it killed a large oak and a large pine and had caught the attention of the Asheville Citizen-Times, which described it as a ‘magnificent braided monster.’

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Since 1923, when Kenworthy’s widow sold the property and moved to Miami, the property, now known as Marilyn’s Melrose Inn, has passed through many owners and has operated on and off as an inn and restaurant, often going many years vacant and unkempt.

Marilyn Doheny, who purchased the property in November of 2009, describes the terraced side garden as “a tangled jungle featuring two bamboo groves, Tarzan-like kudzu, and mountains of ivy.”

It wasn’t until the following spring that a heady ambrosia of fragrance enticed her to investigate further and discovered that the jungle that is the inn’s side yard featured a massive canopy of lavender blossoms, richly fragrant and visually stunning – a magical, breathtaking and enchanting display.

Marilyn has since cleared out the area of kudzu and most of the bamboo. Despite having to cut back some of the wisteria, a massive trunk over 18 inches in diameter feeds vines which climb to the top of a nearby 120-foot tree with an abundant display of wisteria’s beautiful and fragrant purple flowers.

With the side yard now tamed, Marilyn plans to give the wisteria the royal treatment and have it “attended to by professionals – groomed, cultivated, trained and coerced over time into a magnificent feature – which its history deserves.”

Marilyn welcomes painters to her garden any season, but spring has special opportunities with the welcome color and beauty of Dr. Kenworthy’s wisteria.

Dr. Charles J. Kenworthy


By the time he arrived in the colony of Victoria in Australia in 1853, Dr. Charles Kenworthy was just 29 years old and had been house physician at Belleview Hospital in New York and a surgical professor in Pennsylvania. For the next 11 years, he made his mark on the young colony, founding a hospital, Masonic lodge, a horticultural society, and acted as a mediator/spy during the Eureka gold miner’s rebellion.   

Returning to America in 1865 with horticultural samples and Merino sheep to share with colleagues, he travelled the East Coast, reporting on everything from weather and mining, to crop production and financial markets.   

He continued his medical service in Florida the next two decades as one of Jacksonville’s most noted physicians and expert on Yellow Fever and ‘Consumption’ (tuberculosis). As the result of his love of fishing and the outdoors, several regional and national publications found him to be a regular and prolific contributor, known by his pen name, Al Fresco. 

‘Retiring’ to Tryon in early 1889, Dr. Kenworthy purchased the second residence on Melrose Avenue, what is now the northwest corner of Marilyn’s Melrose Inn. Continuing his medical work, he was the Polk County health officer and appointed mayor of Tryon by the state assembly in 1891. His young wife, Marie, was a member of the first board of directors of the Lanier Club in 1890. 

The universally loved and respected doctor died at the age of 85 in 1909, leaving behind a 45-year-old wife, young daughters, and a wisteria vine. In their reporting of his death, The Polk County News described him as “one of the oldest and most respected citizens of Polk County” who was “loved and respected by all who knew and understood him” and that he had “always stood for progress and betterment of the welfare of the county and State.” •