The Little (Actually Big) Lake That Could

Lake Toxaway Inn

Lake Toxaway Inn

Lake Toxaway in Transylvania County has been savored as a posh resort destination for more than a century. The town’s eponymous water feature is the biggest manmade lake in North Carolina, and, despite a rather puzzling name, is known for its pristine, waterfall- and river-fed waters. The lake is surrounded by vast wilderness areas – including famed Cold Mountain – and is beloved for fishing, swimming, and boating.

But there’s a rather harrowing history behind the charm, and it adds depth to the current retreat. Well-off city folks came to Lake Toxaway at the turn of the 20th century to gulp down the healing mountain air and to play in the postcard-worthy waters. When the imposing five-storey Lake Toxaway Inn went up in 1903, the area became known as the “Switzerland of America.”

The Inn featured both French chefs and flush toilets – at the time, luxuries of equal stature. Henry Ford and Thomas Edison hung out there.

But it all washed away in 1916, following a series of hurricane-derived destructive floods that annihilated the lake’s dam, and, in the process, a lot of upscale entrepreneurial dreams. Lake Toxaway Inn, though it withstood the deluge, couldn’t survive without the lake itself. Decades later, in 1960, renewal of the area began. The lake was rebuilt, new homes sprouted up, and vacationers returned.

While the chalet-informed vernacular of the one-time Alps-ish resort no longer dominates the scheme, at the Lake Toxaway Tour of Homes on June 26, attendees can experience the resurrected grandeur of the area, going inside “Transylvania County’s most lavish homes” of various architectural styles (all of them impressive). Unlike the fabulous real estate, the tour is free. And so is the history lesson.

3-5pm. 828-966-4260. Laketoxaway.com

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