Serenity and Adventure, Water and Mountains Converge in Toxaway
Lake Toxaway is something to behold. Beautiful waters and stunning homes give this hidden gem a magical feel. And everyone that lives here knows it. Come along as WNC Magazine’s Melissa Reardon walks us through Toxaway.
If you’ve ever driven scenic Waterfall Byway (US 64 linking Rosman and Murphy) or ventured to Gorges State Park in Transylvania County, you may not even be aware you’ve passed through Toxaway, or realized that a gorgeous lake, speckled with a small fleet of handsome wooden boats, lies just beyond. Discretely dotting the lake and mountain that rises high above are the stunning homes of a small community, all tied together by a man-made body of water whose history is just as fascinating as its unfolding future. Until last year, the spoils of the lake have been nearly inaccessible to the public, but that’s all changing thanks to a community that’s coalescing around an inviting common identity and a couple of hoteliers who’ve revived a graceful old inn.
Then & Now
Toxaway was once an elite resort destination, attracting celebrity names like the Rockefellers, Carnegies, and Vanderbilts. A five-story Victorian hotel operated from 1903 until 1916, when a devastating flood destroyed the dam and drained the lake, which sat empty for 45 years. Talk to any local and you’ll likely learn the only casualty was a blind mule, also a namesake restaurant these days. A historic darling of Toxaway was Miss Lucy, who built a Swiss-inspired lakeside mansion in 1913 and remained well beyond the flood, offering homemaking classes and employing the locals, whose livelihoods had been washed away.
It wasn’t until 1960, when a group of investors bought all the land and rebuilt the dam, that Toxaway began to recover. And not until ’85, when the late Miss Lucy’s mansion opened as the grand Greystone Inn, did the lake become accessible again for vacationers, some of who came, fell in love, and have stayed, at least seasonally.