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Town of Forest City

The Forest City Town Hall is located at 128 North Powell Street, Forest City, NC 28043; phone: 828-245-6143.

Beginnings [1]

The town of Forest City was incorporated in 1877 as Burnt Chimney. The small crossroads community was so named after a circa 1855 fire that destroyed the home of James McArthur, leaving only a blackened chimney. The Burnt Chimney Post Office (no longer extant) had served the community at the intersection of the Shelby-Rutherfordton Road (now Main Street) and a major north-south road (now Cherry Mountain Road and Depot Street) since 1869. John Bostic built the first dwelling on Main Street (no longer extant) between 1825 and 1830, and other early residents included Dr. G. E. Young, Dr. T. E. Lovelace, Reverend J. E. Yarborough, A. H. McDaniel, John Blanton, John B. Harrill, Alfred Harrill, Thomas Wilkins, Amos McBrayer, Matt McBrayer and Wallace Jackson. A few frame commercial buildings were constructed at the center of town, followed by the Burnt Chimney Academy in 1874. The population grew to 110 in 1880, the first year the federal census documented statistics for the town independently of the county. By 1882 there was a movement to rename Burnt Chimney in honor of Forest Davis, a local lumber merchant, and the post office became Forest City, although it was not until 1887 that the community was officially renamed. The first Forest City newspaper was established in 1885, but its offices were destroyed in an 1886 fire along with most of the businesses in town. The commercial district was reconstructed in brick, and many of those late 1880s buildings are contributing resources in the Main Street Historic District.

Although plans for railroad lines through Rutherford County were in place before the Civil War, it was not until 1887 that the Wilmington, Charlotte and Rutherford (Seaboard Airline) Railroad reached Forest City and Rutherfordton. The Southern Railway, which ran from Charleston to Cincinnati and Chicago, soon followed, arriving in Rutherfordton by way of Forest City in 1890. The Cliffside Railroad connected Cliffside Mills on the Second Broad River in the southeastern corner of the county to the Seaboard Railroad by 1907. The Clinchfield, Carolina and Ohio Railroad was completed through the county in 1909, at which time twelve passenger trains stopped in Forest City daily.

Haynes and his partners financed the construction of the Florence Mill in Forest City in 1897, but Haynes sold his interest in the mill soon after completion of the new building to concentrate on other endeavors. Florence Mill (Main Street Historic District Boundary Expansion) continued to be an extremely significant force in the growth and development of Forest City, as evidenced by the fact that Forest City tripled in population after the mill and railroads came — growing from a small community of 419 residents in 1890 to a booming town of 1,592 residents in 1910. Haynes began purchasing property along the nearby Second Broad River for a new mill, Cliffside, or Haynes Plant No. 1, in 1899. The mill, completed in 1902, was one of the last waterpowered mills in Rutherford County and the largest gingham mill in the southern states at the time of its construction.

As the 20th century dawned, Forest City, like much of the state, was poised for growth and expansion. Most residents worked at Florence Mill, Dixie Knitting Mills, Regal Manufacturing (lumber) or in auxiliary service enterprises. The rapid surge in Forest City's population in the first two decades of the twentieth century fueled a residential and commercial building boom and a great diversification of goods and services. Amenities such as telephone service were available to Forest City residents by 1901, followed by public water and electrical systems in 1910. Dr. T. C. McBrayer constructed a tuberculosis clinic on Main Street in 1902 and the Mabree Hotel in 1904, hoping to capitalize on the moderate climate, but Forest City never became a health retreat or a resort community. The First National Bank of Forest City was established in June of 1904 with Dr. G. E. Young as president.

  1. Heather Fearnbach, Edwards-Pitman Environmental, Inc., West Main Street Historic District, Forest City, Rutherford County, N.C., nomination document, 2005, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
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