History of Lake Toxaway

Lake Toxaway Realtor


Lake Toxaway History


Families have been traveling to Lake Toxaway for more than a century.  Our cool summers, mild winters, pristine lake, spectacular scenery, and varied activities have been drawing those interested in a natural, relaxed lifestyle.

This ideal setting comes steeped in history.  Once a virtual wilderness, the property was purchased by the visionary, E. H. Jennings.  After a visit with the Vanderbilt’s at the Biltmore Estate in 1890, Jennings decided that this gorgeous area held real promise.  He purchased 100,000 acres and proceeded to build several inns for the rich and famous clientele of the times to use as retreats from the summer heat. 

Out of the wilderness, Jennings cut out a lake bed for a 640 acre lake with 14 miles of shoreline, constructed a lake and built the Toxaway Inn.  This six story structure was a state-of-the-art facility with refrigeration, elevators, electric lights, hot and cold water, and telephones.  Here the Fords, Edisons, Carnegies, Vanderbilt, Firestones and other wealthy and influential people arrived by railroad to enjoy a host of activities at the edge of pristine Lake Toxaway.  Activities at the Inn included billiards, bowling, horseback riding, dancing, evening symphonies by the lake, tennis, swimming, boating, fishing, and hunting.

The inn opened in 1903 and was only open a few years when an extraordinary rainfall fell on August 13, 1916.  A retired weatherman once stopped by Lake Toxaway and discussed his research into the storm using the records of the Weather Service in Washington, DC.  He could tell that “copious quantities of water fell greater than 20 inches and probably 35 inches in 24 hours.”  This caused the dam to break sending the lake water through the spillway and further carving out Toxaway Falls.

After the lake drained, the Toxaway Inn went into decline and was finally sold for $20,000 and dismantled in 1948.  For 44 years the forest grew back and only four family homes that were built in the late 1890s to early 1900s remained around what was previously the lake shore.  One of these is the Motlz Mansion which is today the award winning Greystone Inn.

It wasn’t until 1960 that the lake returned.  Mr. Reg Heinitsh, a business man from Columbia, SC purchased 10,000 acres and began reclaiming the lake bed from the forest.  A much better engineered and constructed dam was built and the lake began its resurgence.

In the 1960s and 1970s people built small weekend lake cottages along the shores of Lake Toxaway.  Some of these homes are still present but many of them have been replaced by larger, more modern homes.  Because homes have been built here for over 45 years, there is an eclectic mix of architectural styles around the lake from small cottages to impressive estates.  This offers the prospective buyer many options.  Today the building process is monitored by an architectural review board that works to keep the homes blended into this beautiful high mountain setting.

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