During the late 1800’s 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. In 1895, a group of investors from Pittsburgh formed the Toxaway Company to acquire and mine land, but soon turned to building a series of lavish resorts in the region.
Guided by the vision of E.H. Jennings, the Toxaway Company would take on its largest endeavor to date; damming the Toxaway River to create Lake Toxaway and building the five-story Toxaway Inn on its shores. When it opened in 1903, the Toxaway Inn would have the most modern conveniences of its day; 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, R.J. Reynolds, the Vanderbilts and many other prominent individuals.
However, 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 on August 13, the dam burst and 5.3 billion gallons of water rushed downstream into South Carolina. Residents reported seeing a 30-foot-tall wave that left debris nearly 4 miles downstream and created scars on the landscape that can still be seen today. When the lake disappeared, so did the tourists and the Toxaway Inn never reopened for the next season.
The Inn would remain vacant until the late 1940s, when its contents were auctioned off and the Inn was torn down. Although a few private homes around Lake Toxaway survived, most of the land and lakebed remained unchanged until the 1960’s.
A NEW ERA BEGINS
Reg Heinitsh, Sr., from Columbia, S.C. and a group of investors formed the Lake Toxaway Company with the idea of restoring the area to its turn-of-the-century appeal. In 1960, 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 of 3,010 feet above sea level.
The Company began selling parcels of land around the lake as private home sites complete with exclusive private access to the lake. In 1963, Mr. Heinitsh built a golf course and formed the Lake Toxaway Country Club.
Today, Lake Toxaway is a thriving community with approximately 1,100 home sites. Families share 5,000 acres where Mother Nature displays some of her best work year-round. Lake Toxaway Estates is surrounded by Hawk Mountain, Panthertail Mountain, Cold Mountain and Mt. Toxaway, along with several wilderness areas totaling more than 10,000 acres.