The History of Landrum, SC
Looking for fertile land, the first homesteaders settled in the Landrum area in 1760. Living alongside the Cherokee Indians, it would be another 120 years before the Town of Landrum became official in 1880 when the railroad came through town. Mr. John Landrum gave the railroad land for the construction of a station. And thus, Landrum was established in 1883 and became incorporated.
As the railroad pushed north into North Carolina, the town continued to grow and expand becoming a city in 1973. The early citizens were primarily subsistence farmers growing wheat, corn, cotton, sorghum cane, cotton and sweet potatoes. Eventually peaches became the largest cash crop in the area. Peach farms can still be seen in the area today.
Today many tourists come to enjoy the historic downtown area with the original refurbished railroad depot. Landrum is a walk able city of traditional design with many vintage brick buildings. In keeping with the history of the area, one will find many antique shops as well as other specialty and gift stores, restaurants and galleries.
This town truly is a mix of eclectic artists, musicians, retirees, retail store owners, and people from all walks of life. Surrounding Landrum are farms, equestrian venues, golf courses, hiking and cycling trails as well as lakes for water enthusiasts. The Foothills Equestrian and Nature Center (FENCE) is located just outside of town. FENCE offers a year round equestrian facility with 300 permanent stalls, 2 large outdoor and one large covered arena. FENCE also offers extensive nature programs, bird watching and hiking trails.
History of Saluda, NC
Saluda, NC originally called “Pace’s Gap” was incorporated in 1881. The name Saluda is of Indian origin meaning “Corn River” and was named after a Cherokee Chief. Saluda came into existence when the railroad came up the Saluda Grade connecting Tryon with Saluda. Situated at the top of the grade, Saluda is a gracious community of 575 year round residents and is filled with art, crafts, galleries and restaurants. The downtown area of Saluda hasn’t changed much since it’s inception and in 1996 was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Saluda Grade is the steepest mainline standard gauge grade in the Untied States. There are over 50 curves and the gradient ranges from 3.7 to 5.59%. It took over 8 years to build with many unfortunate lives lost. The first westbound train came through in 1878 originating in Charleston, SC and going all the way to Ohio. Many Charlestonians came up to Saluda that summer to escape the heat and built permanent seasonal homes around Saluda and Lake Summit.
The train also carried freight of cotton, grain, timber, coal and textiles. By 1927 the track was at its busiest carrying 30 freight trains and 8 passenger trains a day.
Today one can take the scenic drive up 176 from Tryon to Saluda stopping by Pearson’s fall on the way. The falls were purchased in 1931 by the Tryon Garden Club and is made up of 268 acres of virgin forest, spring fed streams and a 90-foot waterfall. The hike to the falls is only a mile and defiantly worth the trip. More than 200 species of fern, flowering plants, algae and moss flourish in the wildflower preserve.
History of Columbus, NC
Columbus was established in 1855 on a 100-acre site of wild, rugged foothills, nestled up to White Oak Mountain. The town was named after Columbus Mills, a NC senator whose grand father, Ambrose Mills, was one of the first settlers in the area. Columbus has been the county seat since being established. Know for it’s historic courthouse completed in 1859 from bricks made of local clay and baked nearby. The courthouse still stands in the center of town and is the 8th oldest courthouse in NC that is still in use today. The classic architecture is Greek revival and features a spiral staircase in the entry, a cupola made of hand-hewn lumber and a cast bronze bell made in 1858.
Columbus also houses an extensive flag museum, known as the House of Flags. The museum has replicas of all the flags, which have flown over the White House as well as from all 50 states. There are flags representing the US armed services and flags donated of other Nations.
History of Tryon, NC
Our Carolina Foothills-Tryon History
Tryon, NC was incorporated as a town in 1885 with the expansion of the railroad westward. The train brought many tourists seeking to escape the hot, humid weather of the lowlands of South Carolina. Tryon became known as the place to come for health advantages as well as a mild climate.
Oak Hall, later became Tryon City Hall, was the largest of the hotels in the area with 66 rooms and several out houses. It was built in 1882 and many famous people stayed there. In 1911 Thomas Edison and Henry Ford made their way through the area showing off the “Tin Lizzy”s ability to handle rough roads and stayed at Oak Hall. The actor William Gillette, who played Sherlock Holmes, first stayed at Oak Hall than purchased several hundred acres and built an estate making Tryon his permanent home.
One of the most notable guests who frequented Oak Hall was Lady Nancy Astor, whose sister, Nora Flynn, built the estate “Little Orchard” on Hunting Country Road and was a gracious and charming hostess holding many parties throughout the seasons.
Nancy and her husband “Lefty” Flynn (an actor) moved to Tryon in 1937 and hosted many famous friends such as David Niven, F.Scott Fitzgerald, Lady Astor and her husband Lord Brand, English Ambassador. TH Perkins (chairman of the board 1st National City Bank, now Citicorp) after such a visit to the Flynn’s decided to stay and built the Cotton Patch Plantation house. Perkins brought many friends down from the north to visit and helped create Tyron’s ambience and reputation.
Carter Brown came to the area from Castle Park, MI and started the Tryon Riding & Hunt Club in 1925. The TRHC’s mission was to promote horse sport and maintain hundreds of miles of trails for residents and guests to enjoy equestrian activities. Carter bought a sanatorium in 1917, renovated it and turned it into the Pine Crest Inn. The inn was primarily used for guests, family and friends who loved horses, horse sport and foxhunting. The original building was on 9 acres and included a 200-year-old log cabin, woodcutter cottage, stonecutter cottage and the main lodge with 30 guest rooms.
They Tryon Horse & Hound Show was the forerunner to the present Tryon Horse Show organized by the TRHC. Originally the show catered to local riders, horses & hounds but as the popularity grew larger numbers of competitors came from outside the area. To this day, the show is held at FENCE and can have as many as 500 horses and riders competing for prizes and prestige. The original show was held on Wednesday and brought out the entire county. Businesses were closed, schools let out early and everyone came for the free BBQ and festivities. Carter Brown also started the Block House Steeplechase which is held today in April at the FENCE steeplechase track. Tens of thousands of spectators come each year rain or shine.
Along with its rich equestrian history, Tryon became established as a town, which supported the arts and encouraged many artists, craftsmen and sculptors to move to the area. Over the decades, many artists have chosen Tryon as the ideal place to live and work. Studios like the Mills-Mosseller Studio have created heirloom quality pieces that have been in museums and private collections throughout the world.
The residents of Our Carolina Foothills have been taking to the stage since 1895. Before the Tryon Fine Arts Center, plays were staged at the Opera House on Melrose Ave by the group calling itself “Drama Fortnightly”. In 1948 the Tryon Little Theatre was established and in 1969 the arts community built the Tryon Fine Arts Center. Frances Mayo directed the first play performed there, February 12-15, 1969, was the “Madwoman of Challiot”. Both theatres are still in frequent use today.
The Tryon Movie Theatre was originally built in the early 1900’s as the telephone & telegraph headquarters for Polk County. In the 1920’s it was converted into a vaudeville and movie theatre for whites only. A fire in the 1930’s damaged the building and in 1938 it was reopened with a balcony and outside concession stand to accommodate blacks. In the mid 1940’s the theatre was packed with almost 400 guests for the premier of “Gone With The Wind”. The theatre houses many original telegrams from various movies stars celebrating its reopening and premieres. These may be viewed today in the theatre lobby. The theatre is rumored to have a ghost still in residence today. In the 1950’s the manager, Mr. Marvin Ball, was shot and killed and the murdered was never found.
The movie theatre thrived through the 1970’s and was sold the Crowell family, who in 1985, applied for and received the first malt beverage license and today still serves beer in the upper balcony.
The most famous of the Tryon Toy makers and Wood Carvers were Eleanor Vance and Charlotte Yale who came to the area in 1915 to retire after working for years at the Biltmore Estate. Queen Alexandra of England officially recognized their work as they won the gold medal for crafts at the Panama-Pacific Exposition.
After the death of George Vanderbilt, the pair left Asheville and moved to Tryon to teach weaving, pottery & woodcarving. Over time they went from making furniture to toy making. Vance and Yale made the original Tryon Horse mascot, Morris. In 1923 the toy business was flourishing and the pair built the Toy House on Howard Street, which is still standing today.
One of the most internationally acclaimed artists from the area is Nina Simone. She was born Eunice Waymon in Tryon in 1933. Her music career began in the church, as her mother, Katie, was a Methodist minister. Eunice, who was naturally talented, was given piano lessons at the age of 6. In recognition of her talent, a “Eunice Waymon Fund” was started to raise money to send her to the Julliard School of Music in New York City. When the money ran out she went to Philadelphia were her family had moved. Eunice began her stage career in Atlantic City where she played and sang for $90 a week. She took the stage name Nina Simone in order for her mother not to find out about her choice of career. Nina created a sensation. In 1959 she became an international star with her version of “I love you, Porgy”.
Nina suffered from personal pain, frustrated passion, and loneliness and complicated family relationships. She returned to Tryon in August 1991 for the filming of her life retrospective by the BBC.
The Dark Corner (on kirkhneely.com)