The vast landscape bordering the western piedmont of North Carolina rolls unobstructed across the horizon towards the eastern wall of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Wave upon wave of foothills caress the lower mountain slopes of this ancient barrier wall, drawing ever so grandly towards a dramatic peak along the rugged mountain's crest.
Western North Carolina's Rutherford County is cradled here in this diverse landscape offering high mountain adventure, a scenic mountain lake fitting a Hollywood backdrop, spacious meadowlands and the serene foothill country of the eastern Blue Ridge Mountain range.
The folks living in the towns and communities within Rutherford County not only cherish their homelands' natural beauty and rich heritage, they gladly welcome visitors and new residents to join them for fun, recreation, live entertainment, cultural heritage and so much more. During the Blue Ridge Highlander's many trips to the area we felt a genuine hometown hospitality everywhere we ventured throughout these beautiful foothills and mountain lands.
Rutherford County is one of Western North Carolina's most popular vacation destinations. Here you will find unique natural wonders, rugged mountains, defining foothills, vast meadowlands, and beautiful waterways awaiting your arrival. During our journey we found a variety of lodging from private and secluded cabin rentals, unique bed and breakfasts inns to popular resorts and spas. Whatever your lodging preference, you will find what you are looking for here in these majestic Blue Ridge Mountains and Foothills.
Towns like Rutherfordton, Forest City and Spindale along with the smaller communities in the surrounding countryside offer a personal glimpse into what true blue rural America is all about...a slower pace, less stress and friendly folks. As a travel destination, resort towns such as Lake Lure and Chimney Rock Village along with the mountainous regions of Golden Valley in northeastern Rutherford County, offer comfort, luxury, convenience and seclusion in a setting of natural wonders. Local and outlying residential and upscale communities have all the amenities needed to make Rutherford County an excellent choice for a 2nd home, retirement or relocation.
Today, this land of natural wonders is fondly referred to as "Lake Lure and the Blue Ridge Foothills," a fitting name for the locals who cherish their county's farmlands and waterways as well as their majestic mountain and hill country. The county is best known for Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park and the picturesque clear blue waters of Lake Lure, although there is so much more to Rutherford County you'll want to become acquainted with. Quaint historical towns throughout the northern mountain and valley country of Rutherford County including Golden Valley, offer a very special and insightful addition to the county's rich heritage and beauty.
The larger towns and other communities of Rutherford County offer an array of activities including an outdoor concert venue, a new minor league baseball team, a premier women's clothing outlet, museums, live entertainment, theaters and numerous event and festivals throughout the year.
Fun, Recreation and Adventure
Adventure has been a part of Rutherford County since the arrival of the first settlers in Western North Carolina. There is still plenty of adventure here with two new companions to boot, fun and recreation. Fishing, boating, hiking, mountain and tower wall climbing, repelling, horseback riding, biking, swimming, canoeing, kayaking, golf, wildlife fun and so much more have made Rutherford County one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Southeastern United States.
None of these activities came as simple and natural as they appear. It took discovery, vision, risk, investment and development to make the mountain's natural wonders, lake and foothills country of Rutherford County an experience unique in itself for over 100 years. The result of that vision has developed into two resort towns accenting Lake Lure and Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park.
Chimney Rock Park, one of the oldest parks in Western North Carolina was purchased in 2008 by the State of North Carolina from the Morse family to be preserved and to expand the parklands throughout the Hickory Nut Gorge and Lake Lure region. The Park has been re-titled Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park.
The uniqueness of this particular geological wonder called Chimney Rock and the man-made Lake Lure is deserving of a special feature story of its own here in the Blue Ridge Highlander, and is presently in the works, something extraordinary for you die-hard outdoor adventure fans, and families. This feature Highlander story will be titled Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park; the story is a genuine mountain adventure in itself. In the meanwhile we will give you a brief history of Chimney Rock along with some of the features the park has to offer.
In the year 1900 a Chicago physician, Lucius B. Morse paid 25¢ to ride a mule to the top of Chimney Rock. The 75-mile view from the rocky chimney summit was so inspiring that it became his life long obsession. For the next couple of decades, Morse along with his brother and investors bought up thousands of acres around Chimney Rock in order to develop the region into a park site, a world-class resort and a 720-acre man-made lake with a shore line that stretches 27-miles.
It was all coming together, a natural geological wonder towering high above, rugged mountains to the north, south and west, with an eastern view that seemed almost endless with foothills rolling out to meet the piedmont's vast horizon. Below the towering chimney in the narrow depths of Hickory Nut Gorge flowed the ancient white waters of the wild "Rocky" Broad River, from there the wild river was converted by a dam into the gentle waters of the man-made Lake Lure. The historical Lake Lure Inn and Spa along the southern shoreline of Lake Lure opened in 1927, and quickly became a popular resort that drew renowned figures like Franklin D. Roosevelt, F. Scott Fitzgerald along with other famous guests.
The Great Depression put major setbacks in developer Morse's plans for his inspired vision. Though times were tough Doctor Morse held onto to his inspiration by focusing on Chimney Rock itself as a premier park and outdoor adventure destination. Though the Depression did slow down progress for a while, this unique area continued to grow in popularity just the same.
Four generations of the Morse family kept his vision alive, making user-friendly and informative improvements to the park's trails, visitors' facilities and services year after year. For visitors convenience a 258-foot shaft was blasted through solid mountain rock between the years 1946 to 1948, creating a 26-story elevator lift for quick easy access to the summit of Chimney Rock. The shaft was not only bored vertically up through the mountain, a tunnel nearly equal in length had to be blasted horizontally in order to reach the elevator shaft for visitor access to the top.
For foot traffic up to the chimney's summit there are trails, which are often covered with wooden staircases, to make the trip up to the top more convenient. The foot trail, and easy to access staircases to the top, will lead you past many interesting features in the park along the chimney's towering base.
At the beginning of the trail along the lower end, there's an old moon shiner's cave with an actual still inside, other interesting rock outcrops line the journey with additional easy to access small caves along the way, be sure to watch out for your head. There are many other themed trails and unusual rock features in the park yet it is the view from the summit of the chimney itself that draws the majority of visitors to the park.
In true Rutherford County style, you will find numerous, exact in detail murals of Chimney Rock scenes painted by local artist Clive Haynes in some of the most unusual places in Chimney Rock State Park, we'll let you discover their locations on your own, they're not hard to find.
The standing giant monolith column of Chimney Rock rises independently, separated by erosion from the bare mountain cliffs. The chimney tower itself rises 315-feet to an elevation of 2,280 feet. From the summit a magnificent view puts you right at the edge of the foothills to the east and the breathtaking views of Blue Ridge Mountains and the dramatic sight of Hickory Nut Gorge to the north and west. The park's elevations range from 1,100 feet to 2,800 feet offering a diverse ecosystem and wildlife sanctuary.
One of the largest waterfalls in the east, Hickory Nut Falls has a 404-foot straight drop (no cascades on this waterfall) into an ancient pool below, an inspiring sight to behold. This waterfall and cliff trail were featured in the successful remake of the "Last of the Mohicans," filmed in the mid-1990's and is one of the Highlander's personal favorite films.
The numerous hiking trails throughout the park offer a variety of atmospheres to enjoy. From woodlands to rocky trails bordered by steep rock walls; informative signs along the trails enlighten visitors as they hike through this pristine mountain wonderland. Chimney Rock Park's Out Reach Programs, like the Great Woodland Adventure is an educational woodland trail experience offering fun for children in a tree covered fantasy world depicting wildlife in an artistic symbolic fashion along with a small wildlife exhibit at the end of the tour. Chimney Rock offers both rock climbing and repelling along its sheer rocky cliffs. There is also a climbing tower in the park in the open meadows below the towering Chimney Rock for beginners or those who just love climbing towers. Bird watcher's find the open cliffs at Chimney Rock State Park a favorite for spotting various regional and migrating birds.
There's so much to do at Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park that you'll need to set a whole day aside and possibly more to explore its wonders. Chimney Rock State Park has a restaurant near the park entrance; a gift shop at the elevator entrance and trailhead, and the Sky Lounge Gift Shop and Deli awaits you at the top of the elevator shaft near the summit of the Chimney Rock itself. Guided tours fill the needs of enthusiastic visitors and an official Park Ranger is on duty in the park. Most visitors generally use the handy trail guides for their own private tours.
Chimney Rock and the surrounding areas are not only an awe-inspiring sight to see, it's a world full of exciting adventure.
This once family owned park is today one of the latest North Carolina State Parks with plans of expanding its parklands into the Hickory Nut Gorge region to include some 5,000-acres, to preserve and protect these natural wonders for the sake of posterity, a real mountain treasure all for the enjoyment of generations to come. What was once known as Chimney Rock Park is now formally and rightfully titled "Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park" offering personal experiences, guide tours, group outings, special events and more, maintaining a commitment of service to its guest and visitors.
The resort towns of Lake Lure, Hickory Nut Gorge and Chimney Rock have found life here due to the popularity of Chimney Rock State Park, making this region a one of a kind mountain experience.
The Towns of Rutherford County
Two resort towns, one along the southern shores of Lake Lure and the other in the very gateway of Hickory Nut Gorge along the banks of the "Rocky" Broad River, have found their rightful place here under the shadow of a natural mountain wonder called Chimney Rock. It all began with one man's vision atop the summit of Chimney Rock in 1900, and today it is one of the most visited vacation, resort and outdoor adventure destinations in all the Blue Ridge, Smoky Mountains.
Here you will find a natural geological wonder called Chimney Rock, an awe inspiring river gorge with a cascading white water river, a dense forest wilderness with old growth tree stands, waterfalls and the beautiful man-made Lake Lure offering water recreation and sports just waiting to be enjoyed.
The resort town of Lake Lure was incorporated in 1926 as part of Lucius B. Morse's vision of a world-class resort at the gateway to Hickory Nut Gorge. Even though Morse first encounter the seeds of his vision in the year 1900, it wasn't until 1926 that a dam was built across the "Rocky" Broad River and a 720-acre man-made lake was created with 27-miles of shoreline becoming one of the most beautiful mountain lakes in Western North Carolina...Lake Lure.
In 1927, Lake Lure Inn and Spa opened and drew dignitaries and celebrities like Franklin D. Roosevelt and F. Scott Fitzgerald along with other famous guests. Antiques and artworks adorned the Inn's interior; the outer gardens and the outdoor pool offered a stunning view of Lake Lure and its high mountain barrier.
In 1935 the Chalet Club opened for guests to enjoy its lodge, and surrounding cottages with individual fireplaces, and balconies that offered stunning views of Chimney Rock and Hickory Nut Gorge.
Lake Lure offers a variety of lodging from resorts to B & B's, vacation and cabin rentals, hotels, villas, inns and condos. Restaurants offer various delights from fine dining to a quick bite to eat. There's limited shopping and a sense of ease for convenient strolls along the lake's southern shoreline as you absorb the wonderment of this majestic setting while breathing in the fresh mountain air as you fill your sight and senses with its inspiring beauty. There are spas for pampering, a marina for cruising the lake and a real mountain lake beach for lying in the sun and splashing in the water as well as a fun water park for the kids. You can take an informative leisurely boat tour or enjoy a dinner-cruise on the crystal blue waters of Lake Lure as the sun sets behind the bordering mountain's crest.
While staying at Lake Lure you can head out on your own, or go out with a fishing guide and cast a line into the lake or upper Broad River and with a little luck and/or skill you might even pull in your own dinner or breakfast.
The backdrop of the steep magnificent mountains against the reflective blue waters of the lake inspired some of the scenes from the hit film "Dirty Dancing, " which were filmed here. The hit sound track from the film still echoes off the mountains slopes and waters of Lake Lure. It's quite common to hear many of the songs from the film at various establishments throughout the resort town providing a sense of nostalgia that cause visitors to smile, tap their toes or jump into their own dance steps.
Though the town of Lake Lure maintains a high profile as a resort town, Lake Lure has become as much a resort community as a resort town. Bordering the shoreline around Lake Lure are part-time and full-time residents with private homes and boating docks along the lakefront with exclusive developments surrounding the outer shorelines and hills of this pristine mountain-lake region. Aside from boating, fishing, swimming and mountain adventure, golf is a popular pastime here with picturesque courses welcoming golfers with the seasonably mild weather throughout the year.
The annual boat-racing event on Lake Lure has an interesting theme that has become a popular draw for visitors and residents alike. "Lure of the Dragons" is a lake water event that offers the strong arms and shoulders of the competing fire-breathing paddlers who provide their own customized group dragon vessels for this special event competition. Check out the Blue Ridge Highlander's Calendar of Events for this and other Lake Lure events.
The outstanding views along the shores of the lake along with the many amenities offered in this resort town, make Lake Lure a special mountain getaway for those looking to be pampered or just want to relax and enjoy lake recreation.
A two-lane roadway along the northern banks of the "Rocky" Broad River, deep in the mouth of Hickory Nut Gorge at the very gateway dividing the Blue Ridge Foothills from the Blue Ridge Mountains is the town of Chimney Rock Village. Although the village has buildings that date back to the 1920's, Chimney Rock Village did not incorporate until 1991.
Chimney Rock Village is a modest size resort town at the very entrance to Chimney Rock Park, now formally known as Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park. The modest size of this little town is due to the lack of buildable land in this deep narrow river gorge. Though tens of thousands of people visit Chimney Rock Village every year there's only about 175 year-round residents. Gorges aren't known for their wide open spaces, yet the overwhelming site of Chimney Rock high above the resort town is amazing with its steep mostly bare mountain slope and the 404-foot Hickory Nut Falls, a view that can be seen just about anywhere in town and is absolutely awe-inspiring.
Both sides of the main street (which is actually highway 64/74A) are lined with shops, restaurants and eateries. Strolling along the south side of the main street you'll come across the old gothic historical stonewall entrance to Chimney Rock State Park at the center of town. This historic gateway along with a local cabin on the lake and a overview of Lake Lure from the summit of Chimney Rock were used in the film "Fire Starter," starring a young Drew Barrymore. From the gate's entrance, a bridge crosses the wild "Rocky" Broad River and connects to a paved roadway that winds its way into the State Park.
Along the back row of shops that border the Broad River along Main Street in Chimney Rock Village, is the Rocky Broad Riverwalk with trails that leads along the banks of the river in a beautiful water park like setting. The boulder-laden riverbed of the "Rocky" Broad River, with its white cascading waters is so inviting that many visitors come here just to wade and soak in its catching pools, stroll along its banks or picnic next to the cool waters of the river. The river waters are always inviting and captivating to visitors in the warm season, yet you should be aware that heavy rains can cause the river to rise suddenly, not only increasing the water levels but the speed of the current as well, making it dangerous at times for casual play. You should always practice safety around riverbeds and creeks, wet river rocks are very slippery and even low-short waterfalls can cause serious injury. The Highlander recommends you wear quality made river sandals for safety sake even when the river is at safe levels.
The river gorge is a natural gateway into this region of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Throughout history the Hickory Nut Gorge has seen many travelers and drovers taking their livestock to market along its narrow trail. Miners and prospectors used the local watercourses during the gold rush day of the 1830's before heading out to gold strikes in California in the latter part of the 1840's. "Yankee" soldiers also used this route to access in and out of the mountains during campaigns.
Each year in early September the Hickory Nut Gorge Olympiad Triathlon, a 25k biking event and 5k run, along with a golf tournament comes to Chimney Rock Village. Visitors, local residents and competitors are all drawn together for a weekend of outdoor fun and adventure.
Chimney Rock, Hickory Nut Gorge, the "Rocky" Broad River and the surrounding mountains, lake, waterways, waterfalls and hiking trails are a world of natural wonders waiting for you to explore.
Rutherford County North Carolina Towns and Communities
Not only has recorded history documented Rutherfordton's longevity, historic architecture fills the town with accents of its timeless beauty. Rutherfordton has the recognition of having the largest remaining cluster of antebellum houses and public structures anywhere along the southern foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Western North Carolina. All this wealth of architectural history lies within a stroll along and just off Main Street in downtown Rutherfordton. More than 45 commercial and public structures in downtown Rutherfordton were put on the National Register of Historic Places in 1995. Six additional properties are listed independently on the register, such as St. John's Church built 1849, the two Carrier Houses built in 1835 and 1879, St. Luke's Chapel at Rutherford Hospital built 1907, the Rutherfordton-Spindale Central High School (today a middle school) constructed in 1925 along with the Rutherfordton County Court House last constructed in 1926.
St. Francis Episcopal Church, located on North Main Street is an outstanding example of the Gothic-Revival style of architecture. This impressive stone structure was first completed in 1899 and was originally intended to be used as the private residence of Colonel Franklin Coxe and his family. The Episcopal congregation has occupied the building since 1900.
Although built as a private home, it has all the ear markings and style of a exquisite cathedral church, yet modest in size with an intimate outer courtyard. The church's interior has a barrel shaped cathedral ceiling supported by arched wooden beams. It would have made an outstanding private home, though it has been enjoyed by so many more as a house of worship for over 100-years. One of the exceptional details displayed throughout the church are the stained glass windows depicting different religious scenes including three stained-glassed windows crafted in the 1920's by the Louis C. Tiffany Company of New York.
Whether on a National Register or Historical County Register, historical architecture is at every turn in Rutherfordton. Both stately and ornate in architectural style and detail is the old City Hall building constructed in 1925. This large building not only housed Rutherfordton's city hall, it also served as a fire station and the police department at the same time. This local government building went into private ownership when the new city hall, police department and fire station moved out and got their own separate places. Today, the old city hall has become The Firehouse Inn, a very distinguished Bed & Breakfast Inn.
The remodeled inn is beautifully decorated and steeped in historic ambiance, an inspired endeavor of preserving the past while integrating personal creature comforts of the present. In keeping the historic nature of the architecture, we found a huge walk-in closet in the Firehouse Suite that was originally the safe where the Chief of Police kept evidence. The steel door with is combination lock still hangs on its hinges and is quite a unique touch.
Rutherfordton Main Street is lined with shops, eateries and other points of interest such as the KidSenses Children's InterACTIVE Museum filled with things the kids will love to see. The older out of date toys within the museum will take you big kids back to your own childhood. An afternoon stroll through Rutherfordton will take you up and down Main Street and in and out of antique shops, art galleries and other specialty stores, a treasure hunt in a historical setting.
While shopping and sightseeing in downtown Rutherfordton you'll come across a life sized mural painted alongside a building on Main Street by local artist Clive Haynes depicting one of Rutherfordton's historic buildings. An inspiring work beautifully done and worthy of an "I was here" pose and snap shot of the artwork to take back home.
To rest you tired pup's (that's feet to you layperson) there's the Main Street Park that's located just across the street from the painted mural between two of the historic downtown buildings. The park is laid out with cobble-stoned walkways and round molded tables with seating fitting for a picnic. Large colorful flower displays in the modest size park along with rod-iron arches lined with lights, illuminate the park for your outdoor comfort, enjoyment and convenience. The atmosphere of this park is a very fitting accent to the historic downtown district.
In the evening after the shops close, its time to relax at one of the local downtown eateries for a fine dining experience or one of the popular grills located along Main Street.
After dinner, before you head back home or to your lodging to relax, make sure to take time to walk off those delicious calories by strolling north along Main Street where you can marvel at all the antebellum homes lining the historic street. Venture down the side streets Northwest of the courthouse to see many other historic homes. Streetlights and interior home lights will guide your way during the quiet evening hours offering a soothing and peaceful experience to your strolling delight.
The town of Rutherfordton has several local events and festivals. Events like MayFest, a festival offering art shows, live entertainment and numerous children activities is an annual favorite. The Hilltop Fall Festival features a 5k run to coincide with the Tour de Pumpkin on the same weekend. The Rutherford Outdoor Coalition sponsors the tour, which includes 100k, and 50k ride and is one of Western North Carolina's most popular biking events. Check the Blue Ridge Highlanders' Event Calendar for those and other Rutherford County event dates.
The town of Rutherfordton has a lot to say about its historic legacy and its devoted citizens, a history and lifestyle that embrace both the past and the present. Technically being the oldest and continually active county seat government in Western North Carolina makes Rutherfordton a must see when visiting this region of Western North Carolina.
Equally as significant as the county seat of Rutherfordton, is the town of Forest City just six miles east. A complement in style and charm, Forest City represents that good old warm fuzzy feeling the people of Rutherford County have to offer. You'll find Forest City to be a true down home people kind of town, neighbor to neighbor, community driven, southern hospitality talkin', "gee its good to be back home" kind of place you'll want to visit or possibly make your home.
Forest City is literally a picture perfect Western North Carolina town and they are happy to prove it. Founded during the textile boom of the late 19th century, their downtown district developed later than the county seat. The historical downtown district has a broad 4-lane Main street with a modest well-groomed park medium down the center of the avenue. A large half-a-block long mural depicting in detail the actual downtown district, is painted along the side of one of the historic downtown buildings and can be misleading to the naked eye. Artist Clive Haynes painted this life-size mural of Forest City's Main Street and it is a delight to both Forest City residents as well as welcomed visitors who are looking for the unique and different.
The town's roots began as a crossroad intersection along the old Shelby-Rutherfordton and Spartanburg-Lincolnton Roads. Forest City was originally incorporated in 1877 and called Burnt Chimney due to a fire leaving only the chimney of a lone house standing at the crossroad. A replica of the burnt chimney stands on the park medium in downtown Forest City near the original site. The Kiwanis Club built this replica chimney during the town's centennial. In 1887 the name Burnt Chimney was changed to Forest City after namesake Forest Davis, a local prominent citizen.
Faith and aspirations were grand in Forest City from the onset. The first brick structure in town was constructed on a monumental scale, the Forest City Baptist Church. Originally organized as the Cool Springs Baptist Church in 1848 in the community of Cool Spring, the church was then relocated to its present site in 1889 and renamed Forest City Baptist Church. This inspiring structure is a testament to the citizens of Forest City's vision of hope, faith, prosperity, devotion and community spirit that has endured the test of time.
The town grew and prospered due to the railroad and the Florence Mill coming to town. The wide Main Street accents the grandness of the original downtown city plans. In 1914 the Forest City Betterment Club landscaped the Main Street's mediums adding the fountain that still exist today. So ideal were the plans for the downtown district that in 1927 the town of Forest City was selected as one of the ten most beautiful and best planned towns in the United States by the US Department of Agriculture.
Today the historic downtown is filled with quaint shops, galleries, antique stores, specialty shops and eateries. If you're looking for something special to do you can check out the old-fashioned Smith's Drug Store for an ice-cream float, your choice of flavor. Main Street is wide and spacious and the sidewalks and medium are lined with shade trees, this touch of genius adds not only beauty to the broad-avenue but ample shade for shopping comfort. No fussy parallel parking here, just pull in and back out. Comfort and shopping ease all up and down Main Street just like the architects planned, convenience and style.
During our visit we saw local folks and visitors make their way up and down the sidewalks wandering in and out of shops and stores. Friendly folks were smiling, nodding their heads, saying hello as though they were actually glad to see us. Even though I personally knew what day and year it was, it was as if the town and its people were living in the 1950's when life was simpler and friendlier. They weren't out of touch with current times, these folks were just honestly genuine and cordial, and very welcoming, a natural part of the community spirit, like the warm friendly smile of hairstylist Chastity Rowlette and Curtis Fainn greeting us from the local barber shop chair. Maybe it was the broad spacious avenue along Main Street that made people more open and friendly. These are the kind of folks you expect to find in rural southeastern America, they made us feel like we were actually visiting a Norman Rockwell painting, maybe that was the premise of the murals we found throughout Forest City and Rutherford County.
When it comes to historical preservation there are 79-buildings within the Downtown Forest City Historic District, 57 of them are considered "contributing" buildings eligible for historic tax credits from both the Federal and State governments. The Town of Forest City provides the services of a preservation planner to assist the property owner in their efforts towards restoration of the historic downtown district.
The residential neighborhoods outlining the downtown district of Forest City were planned with spaciousness in mind. Older and newer homes create a nice blend as you cruise or stroll west on Main Street and along the side streets. Comfort, no congestion, good space no waste.
Forest City has three museums, the Rutherford County Farm Museum, a Classic Auto Museum and an African American Art Museum, something for everyone.
The town of Forest City is also the proud parents' of a new summer collegiate baseball team, the Forest City Owls, a member of the Coastal Plain League. The newly constructed McNair Field, is the home team stadium for the Forest City Owls, it is also a venue for outdoor concerts, events and festivals. A summer day or evening at the ballpark brings back found memories of those "boys of summer."
Other festivals and events held in Forest City are the Hot Nights, Cool Rides auto show event held in August, considered one of the biggest car shows in the Southeastern United States. Christmas in Forest City is a festival of lights and activities with half a million decorative lights accompanied by 18 horse-drawn carriages offering rides up and down Main Street for holiday visitors. Kids enjoy visits with Saint Nick at the Santa House at the east end of Main Street along with many other holiday activities. For this and other events and festivals, check out the Blue Ridge Highlander's Event Calendar.
Forest City planning is still on the move with the renovation of the 200,000 square-foot Florence Mill, a former cotton mill dating back to the late 1800's located on Main Street in the historic downtown district. The space will be developed into both retail and residential space including "textile mill condos," proving Forest City is not only a friendly little town, it's a town that never ceases to dream big city thoughts.
If you're looking for an out of the way, truly all American hometown that is depicted in a Norman Rockwell, or should I say, local Artist Clive Haynes style. Forest City in Rutherford County is a town we know you'll will enjoy.
Along Main Street (Business 74) connecting the towns of Rutherfordton and Forest City is the backbone of the textile industry that has greatly contributed to the prosperity of Rutherford County, the town of Spindale. A mill town by description, Spindale flourished here throughout the early to late 20th Century, yet most of those massive factories are closed now, likely the results of oversea manufacturing.
Though the first mill in Spindale opened in 1916 it wasn't until 1923 that Spindale was incorporated. The Tanner family of Rutherford County, who open their first successful textile mill in Henrietta southeast of Spindale in 1885, donated the Spindale House in 1926 to the newly incorporated town.
The historic Spindale House was a former plantation house located in the center of what was to become the town of Spindale. This gift from the Tanner family to the town of Spindale was to be used as a public facility. The stately yet modest sized brick plantation house was built for Colonel Frank Coxe in 1885; you may remember this name from our Rutherfordton profile coverage on the historic St. Frances Episcopal Church on Main Street.
The Spindale House has also served as a memorial to Simpson BoBo Tanner 1854 to 1924, dedicated for the recreational use of the people of Spindale. Attached to the back of the Spindale House is a large red brick building housing a community center and recreation building. In the past this large facility has housed an ice skating rink, a bowling alley and today contains a reception hall and gymnasium.
A long row of storefronts line Main Street along the southern side of the street. Here you'll find various shops and eateries. Spindale has an old-fashioned fountain located in the Spindale Drug Company, a sweet-tooth privilege so few towns have these days. On the north side of Main Street are railroad tracks and a textile mill, next to the mill is a church big enough to be a textile mill itself. A long row of forty-year-old Bradford Pear trees and crepe myrtles line this side of Main Street.
With the local textile plants being closed these day and with the rails from the old railroad being removed leaving only the old rail bed intact today, the "rail-to-trail" hiking path has been established in its place and is considered one of the longest North Carolina "rail-trails" in the state. Of the eight total miles the trail runs, three miles of it pass through the heart of Spindale.
At the eastern edge of town situated on the border between Spindale and Forest City, located on the north side of the street across from a large textile mill is a symbol of the region's glorious past. The large white columned Neo-Classical Revival style home is a reminder of the wealth this textile region created in the early 20th century. Though this impressive estate is surrounded by trees and situated on a large piece of wooded property, it seems a little out of place amongst the giant textile mills. The home has remained a private residence even to this day. Little information is available about the history of this house or even who owns it, an entry will be made once we know more. What is known is that it is one of two houses constructed in the Neo-Classic Revival style located in the county. This house is of the same architectural style as the Washburn House constructed in the northern rural community town of Bostic in the Washburn Village Historic District. You can find the Washburn House just a few miles north along Rutherford County's "Cherry Bounce Trail," a scenic historic county driving tour. The Washburn House, built in 1913 is the private residence of the Washburn family and is visible from the roadway. The home was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002. The exterior of the Washburn's distinguished home is constructed in red brick with white columns and is also situated within a wooded setting.
Spindale was once a booming industrial town that provided many needed jobs for generations of community residents. The town is still a community of working class families, a friendly good neighbor kind of town whose folks take personal pride in their unique small town lifestyle and see the giant closed textile mills as a historical reminder of an industry whose by-gone past was a mile stone of the industrial age. Even with all the closed mills, the community maintains a pristine image, all neat and tidy.
Today the new symbol of community pride amongst the people of Spindale is the Isothermal Community College, located along the southern edge of town just off the local by-pass. The Isothermal Community College is also home of the Foundation Performing Arts and Conference Center. The college campus was created to serve five local Western North Carolina counties. The Foundation Performing Arts and Conference Center is very popular and highly attended by regional residents and visitors alike. The Isothermal Community College is an impressive ideal setting offering music, dance, theater and other entertainment venues throughout the year. Isothermal Community College is also the home studio to WNCW-FM 88.7, an affiliate of Western North Carolina National Public Radio.
The college got its name from residing in the isothermal belt, a relatively mild weather region due to the highest mountains east of the Mississippi River creating its own unique type of ecosystem in the region. This temperature inversion has the advantage of having ideal conditions for growing fruit crops such as peaches, apples and pears here in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Popular festivals and events in the Spindale town community are the Fourth of July Festival on Main Street featuring car shows, arts and crafts and a hot summer beer garden. The Foothills Antique and Artisan Show is held in both spring and fall at the Spindale House Community Center. Spindale is also home of the popular Rutherford County Farmer's Market, a local and visitors' favorite opened May through November.
The historic significance of Spindale as a leading textile community and the friendly down home folks who make up this southern mill town, presents a charm that is becoming yet a way of life that is growing more extinct all across America. The people of Spindale and surrounding textile communities have made the adjustment necessary in order to continue a lifestyle devoted to a heritage that promotes, family, community service and fellowship. A visit to Spindale will put you in touch with local mill town history and the folks whose families, often for generations made their life here in central Rutherford County. Good town, good people...Spindale.
The textile region of Rutherford County is a complete contrast to the tall mountains and steep foothills in the north and western sections of the county. All textile towns throughout central and east central Rutherford Counties converge together here along the rail line where the landscape was more conducive for railroads and large textile mills.
Towns like, Forest City and even Rutherfordton were basically mill towns during the early 20th Century even though they held other responsibilities in both government and commerce. Other textile towns like Spindale, Ruth, Henrietta, Avondale and Cliffside all began as mill villages with privately owned mills providing housing, schools, company stores, and helping to build churches for the people of their community. Even though most of these mills are completely closed today, there's a surreal atmosphere here amongst these monoliths. Though empty they maintain their grace, its as though they are part of an abandoned movie set left over after a screenplay has made its necessary mark on our present state of society. Not a series of Hollywood ghost towns, but communities that never lost sight of there roots. The hub of product activity here in this region of Western North Carolina was monumental in leading the first textile industrialization of hospital insurance for the textile workers. The textile industry in Rutherford County is a legacy to its people, products, communities and traditions, a rich and worthy contribution to their heritage.
Outlining Rutherford County are the rural communities set upon a beautiful landscape and steeped in colonial and gold rush history. Availability for agricultural development is what originally drew early pioneers of Scot-Irish and English ancestry decades before the Revolutionary War. These hardy folks followed the Great Wagon Road from Pennsylvania and neighboring Virginia, spreading throughout the region on the east side of the great and mysterious Blue Ridge Mountains.
Many of these settlers began to arrive here in the mid-1700's and began their first settlement communities. Westminster, the oldest and still existing community located in the center of today's Rutherford County was established prior to 1768. The newly arrived Presbyterians organized and built the original Brittain Church in Westminster in 1768. Still performing as a church today, the Brittain Church with its present church building being the third construction since it's founding, is one of the corner stone's of history in Rutherford County.The present church standing today was constructed in 1852 and was brick-veneered in 1940.
Gilbert Town, the original county seat was once an early neighboring community of Westminster, dating back to the pre-Revolutionary War period. Gilbert Town is no longer a town and has no official markings on the local maps; a historical marker does mark the former site just a few miles north of the present county seat of Rutherfordton. Some of the other communities with deep roots here in the northern foothills of Rutherford County are Logan, Gilkey, Union Mills, and Thermal City.
Throughout the northeastern part of the county with its fields, meadows and foothills are the towns and communities of Ellenboro, Caroleen, Harris, Henrietta, Cliffside, Sunshine, Washburn, Hollis and Bostic.
Listed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 2002 is the "Washburn Village," which includes the Washburn House built in 1913, the barn and the 1831 Washburn (Country) Store which is still owned and operated by the family today, continuing a legacy that has lasted nearly two centuries, a true testament of time. The Washburn Country store is believed to be the oldest business in the state of North Carolina. You can learn more about the Historic Washburn Village in the Rutherford County Scenic Drives under Cherry Bounce Trails.
In the upper northeast corner of the county is the township of Golden Valley. Golden Valley was born out of the gold strike that hit Western North Carolina in late 1828. Miners and prospectors flowed into Golden Valley in unexpected numbers, so many that a post office had to be established to serve the masses. With new gold strikes in California and the Civil War at hand most miners drifted away yet the community and it namesake held its place here in the beautiful landscape of the Blue Ridge Foothills and the secluded South Mountains' country of northeastern Rutherford County. Fields of corn and wild cherry trees did cause a rise in the local moonshine industry, creating new unlawful profits with distilled spirits "up dar' in them dar' hills," after the Civil War and into the 20th century.
In the serene southern reaches of the county is the beautifully preserved historic Green River Plantation house built from 1804 to 1807. A time when cotton was king, land was plentiful and labor was something to start a Civil War over.
The local main waterways are the Broad River, First Broad River, Second Broad River and the Green River. The main county lake is Lake Lure.
The townships of Rutherford County are; Golden Valley, Logan Store, Duncans Creek, Colfax, High Shoals, Cool Spring, Sulphur Springs, Green Hill, Gilkey, Camp Creek, Morgan and Chimney Rock.
Even though the Highlander has outlined many great places to discover throughout Rutherford County, there is nothing that can match a personal experience. So, check out our sponsors and plan your trip to enjoy Rutherford County and all they have to offer.
|Adventure and Family Fun in Rutherford County|
|Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park
Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park. Come for the views discover infinite possibilities- 75-mile views of Hickory Nut Gorge and Lake Lure, unique hiking trails, 404-foot Hickory Nut Falls, amazing rock formations, guided rock climbing and signature special events.
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