In 1890, E.H. Jennings came to Transylvania County, North Carolina from Pennsylvania and established several businesses, one of which was the Toxaway Company. Lake Toxaway was filled originally in 1902 by E. H. Jennings, who visited what is now Lake Toxaway in the 1890s and saw that the area held great potential. (Fairfield Lake in Sapphire Valley was filled in 1896!!!)
The area became known as the "Switzerland of America" and encompassed several fabulous resorts created by Jennings such as the Fairfield Inn and Fairfield Lake, The Sapphire Inn, the Lodge, the Franklin Hotel and the Toxaway Inn. The resorts could not have been developed if Southern Railway had not built a rail system from Asheville, which, incidentally, was the steepest railroad system in the United States.
The arrival of the railroad coincided with the creation of the Lake and the opening of the Toxaway Inn in 1903. The Lake and the Inn were magnificent achievements for their time. Lake Toxaway was the first artificial lake built in the Appalachian Mountains; the earthen dam was 500 feet (150 m) long, 60 feet (18 m) high and 20 feet (6.1 m) wide at the top.
The Toxaway Inn accommodated 500 guest paying $17.50 and more per week. It rose five stories above the lake, more than 40 species of wood were cut from the property and used for the woodwork. Within the inn were many modern conveniences: central heat, electrical engineering, private indoor plumbing, long-distance telephones, and elevators. French chefs prepared the finest cuisine. Guests were served in a dining room adorned with imported crystal and dinnerware, sterling silver and fine linens. Amenities included a ballroom with a large orchestra for dancing, a billiard parlor, bowling alley, bar, gazebo for outdoor concerts, boating, swimming, fishing, golf, tennis, horseback riding and hunting. The lavish style of the Inn attracted the rich and famous from its opening in 1903. Guests included Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, Vanderbilts, and Thomas Edison.
On August 13, 1916 after severe flooding, which deluged the Toxaway River with 24 inches of rain in 24 hours, the dam, which had not been engineered with a water level control, gave way under the stress and sent more than 5 billion US gallons (19,000,000 m3) of water crashing over the falls into South Carolina. The only casualty of this disaster was the death of a mule. Toxaway Falls still shows the trauma of the dam burst, its granite rock is exposed for a great distance down the falls.
The Toxaway Inn itself survived the flood, but the loss of the Lake was its demise. The Inn stood empty for over 33 years and was demolished in 1947.
The brochure on this page was published in the late 1800’s to showcase the area and the 5 resorts.
Adapted: Wikipedia Images used by permission
Sapphire Valley Historical Society
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