During the late 1800s, western North Carolina gained national prominence as a vacation locale for wealthy families. Attractive for its fresh air, temperate climate, beautiful views, and outdoor recreation, the area was made accessible by new railroad lines, and made popular by well-known businessmen such as George Vanderbilt.
A group of Pittsburgh entrepreneurs formed the Toxaway Company in 1895, intending to acquire and develop land and to mine minerals found on those lands. Soon after, the Toxaway Company began to build a series of summer resorts in the "Switzerland of America." Its greatest undertaking was its plan to dam the Toxaway River to create the largest manmade lake in the Appalachian Mountains. Construction of the earthen dam began in June 1902 and was completed in July 1903; the completed dam was 60 feet tall and 500 feet wide. The resulting Lake Toxaway was 3 miles long and 1 mile wide, with a shoreline of 14 miles.
On the shores of the new lake, the Toxaway Company built the five-story Toxaway Inn, which opened in 1903 with more than one hundred rooms en suite” and the most modern conveniences of the time, including central heat and private indoor plumbing, long-distance telephones, elevators, a billiard parlor and bowling alley, and a gazebo for outdoor concerts. In 1912, the Toxaway Company installed a 9-hole golf course located near present-day Lake Cardinal. Throughout 14 seasons, the Inn welcomed Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, Thomas Edison, R.J. Reynolds, the Vanderbilts, and many other prominent figures. Many visitors purchased land to build private homes around the lake, including Mr. and Mrs. Lucy Armstrong from Savannah, Ga., who purchased 40 acres in 1912 and completed their "Hillmont House" in 1915.
A tremendous flood in 1916 would change the history of Lake Toxaway. After being drenched with rain from two hurricanes in July, the area was pummeled by a third hurricane from the Gulf of Mexico, receiving over 20 inches of rain in a 24-hour period. At 7:10 pm on August 13, the Lake Toxaway dam burst and 5.3 billion gallons of water rushed downstream into South Carolina.
The Toxaway Inn survived the flood, but without the lake, the resort lost most of its visitors and never reopened the next season. The Inn remained vacant until the late 1940s, when it was sold, its contents were auctioned off, and the building was razed. Although a few private homes around Lake Toxaway survived, most of the land and lakebed remained unchanged until the 1960s.
In 1955, David and Bertha Cosby began buying acreage around Lake Toxaway with the intention of starting a Christian choral camp using the old Inman home as its clubhouse, but the plans never materialized. They sold the property in 1960 to Lake Toxaway Estates, Inc.
R.D. Heinitsh Sr. from Columbia, S.C., and a group of investors had formed Lake Toxaway Estates, Inc. (later renamed the Lake Toxaway Company) with the idea of restoring the area to its turn-of-the-century appeal. They bought 9,000 acres of property around the old lakebed at an average price of $50 per acre. The Lake Toxaway Company cleared the area where the lake had once existed, rebuilt the dam, and restored the lake to its original level.
Also in 1960, the Lake Toxaway Company began selling parcels of land around the lake as private home sites complete with exclusive private access to the lake. Over the next 43 years, the Company would build miles of paved private roads within Lake Toxaway Estates, providing access from N.C. Hwy. 64 and U.S. Hwy. 281.
As part of amenities offered to new residents of Lake Toxaway Estates, Heinitsh Sr. formed the Lake Toxaway Country Club in 1963 and built an 18-hole golf course. In 1965, he purchased the old Moltz mansion for use as a clubhouse and provided pool, croquet, and tennis facilities. A marina was constructed near the club to provide a convenient location for homeowners to launch private watercraft or rent a boat for the day.
In 1985, Heinitsh Sr. sold a majority of the Lake Toxaway Company stock to his son, Reg Heinitsh Jr., who continued the careful and controlled development of Lake Toxaway Estates. Soon after acquiring the Company--and with it, the Club--Heinitsh Jr. began working to improve its amenities. In 1988, the Lake Toxaway Country Club unveiled its two clubhouses sited directly above the well-manicured putting green. New pool facilities and tennis courts were completed in the 1990s.
Under Heinitsh Jr.’s leadership, in 2000, the Club opened its clubhouse at Bear Wallow Springs, which houses the fitness center and the Tom Fazio-designed golf learning center. In 2007, the Club’s 18-hole golf course underwent a complete renovation; the new course was the first signature design by renowned golf architect Kris Spence. Most recently, the Club renovated its existing croquet lawn in 2007 and added a second lawn in 2011.