Fairfield Inn - 1954

The Resort is Born

Gene Howerdd, Sr. About the Founder of modern day Sapphire Valley

Eugene M. Howerdd Sr. was born in Vicksburg Mississippi August 14, 1906. His early business career was as a Hardwood Lumber expert. He was hired by Georgia Hardwood Lumber Co. (later known as Georgia Pacific Corporation) and moved to Augusta GA. in 1933.

He and his family began enjoying summers in the North Carolina Mountains in the early 1940’s. They initially stayed at the HighlandsCountry Club and then bought a home in Highlands overlooking Horse Cove and Cashiers Valley.

In the early 1950’s it became apparent that if you did not own property on the environs of the Highlands Country Club, that play on the course

would not continue to be available. That fact, plus the decision by Georgia Pacific Corporation to move their Corporate Headquarters to Portland Oregon, convinced Mr. Howerdd that it was time to retire and if he wanted to continue to enjoy the North Carolina Mountains and play golf with friends there he would have to develop his own Golf Course and environs.

In 1954, the Howerdd family acquired 8500 plus or minus acres of land in Sapphire. The property included approximately 6500 acres of land, an Inn (originally known as Fairfield Inn) and a 200 acre Lake (known as Lake Fairfield) on the North side of Highway 64 together with approximately 2000 acres of land, some of which had been farm land, on the south side of Highway 64.

The property was owned by members of the Tatum family who were part of the original ownership group of Lake Toxaway. This land was deeded to them when the Lake Toxaway Dam broke and the 250,000 acre tract was divided up among the partners. It was then renamed The Tatum Sky Club. The Tatum family owned a Club in Miami called the Tatum Surf Club. How Mr. Howerdd found out the property could be purchased is another chapter.

George Cobb, a formally educated golf course architect at University of GA Fine Arts Dept. of Landscape Architecture and a former Major in the Marine Corps where he had co designed 2 Golf Courses at Camp LeJeune,  was hired to design a course on the 2000 acre tract. The development was renamed The Sapphire Valley Inn and Golf Club and officially opened and fully operational in 1956.

Learn More

This picture shows Mr. Howerdd, Sr. behind the Fairfield Inn just after the purchases in 1954.