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Brevard City

Brevard City Hall is located at 95 West Main Street, Brevard, NC 28712; phone: 828-885-5601.

Beginnings [1]

Transylvania County was formed in 1861 from portions of Henderson and Jackson counties, and Brevard, the county seat, was laid out on fifty acres of land given by Alexander English, Leander Gash, and B. C. Lankford. Born in Polk County, Lankford came to Transylvania County around 1850 and established himself as a leading merchant in the area. The first meetings of county officials were held in his store located at Oak Grove. Lankford built his home around 1858, and it stood at the corner of Probart and Rice streets, just beyond the limits of the new town. As the county seat, Brevard emerged as the center of government and commerce in the late nineteenth century, but trading and industry existed primarily at the local level. Agriculture, too, remain largely at the subsistence level. Inadequate transportation hindered the county's growth in the years between its formation and the completion of the railroad, which opened the county to new commercial markets, population growth, and popular architectural styles.

At the turn of the twentieth century, Brevard witnessed the first of three distinct periods of growth that impacted the appearance and character of the town. Northern entrepreneurs such as J. F. Hayes and Joseph Silversteen brought new capital into the region that directly influenced development. Hayes, a Pennsylvania industrialist and entrepreneur, purchased the bankrupt Hendersonville and Brevard Railroad in 1898, reorganized the company, and began planning to extend the line into the southwestern section of the county to serve the Toxaway and Sapphire Valley resorts in neighboring Jackson County. Hayes, who had come to the area in 1890 for his health, formed the Toxaway Company in 1895 with the purpose of building fine resorts in Transylvania and Jackson counties. The Toxaway Company erected the Fairfield Inn on Lake Fairfield, Sapphire Valley Inn on Lake Sapphire, and the Franklin Hotel in Brevard, all lavish, modern hotels. Built in 1900, the $25,000 Franklin Hotel stood within an eighty-acre park-like setting and remained the town's premier hotel for many years. Brevard also saw the construction of other hotels in the early twentieth century, including John W. McMinn's three-story Aethelwold Hotel opposite the courthouse, and a number of large private homes often took in boarders.

Joseph Silversteen, a fellow Pennsylvanian, came to the area in 1902 and soon became one of the county's wealthiest and most influential individuals. He established the Toxaway Tanning Company, Gloucester Lumber Company, and the Rosman Tanning Extract Company and purchased over 20,000 acres of forest land from Asheville resident George Vanderbilt to supply the raw materials for his industries. Vanderbilt's extensive land holdings in the county encompassed vast amounts of forested mountains, and through his efforts the influential Biltmore School of Forestry was established in 1898 under the direction of German forester Carl A. Schenck. Brevard and Transylvania County benefited from the development of scenic mountain resorts, progressive forest conservation practices, and substantial timber and tanning industries that attracted new residents and visitors to the area.

During the early twentieth century, as Brevard's reputation among tourists and summer visitors began to spread, development of the town kept pace, attracting new industries, merchants, hostelries, and professionals to serve the growing population. Brevard's population climbed from approximately 500 residents at the turn of the century to more than 1,600 by 1920. In addition to its year-round population, Brevard's population swelled during the summer with tourists and seasonal residents, which were accommodated by a number of hotels, boarding houses, and resorts. Tourism remained an important component of the county's economy, and following World War I, new attractions and accommodations emerged with the establishment of the Pisgah National Forest, youth summer camps, and tourist cabins. Beginning in the 1910s, Transylvania County became the center of youth summer camps in western North Carolina with the organization of Camp Keystone, Rockbrook Camp for Girls, Camp Carolina, and others. Brevard civil engineer Royal Morrow helped to design of a number of summer camps, drawing on his experience working with the national Forest Service and love of the outdoors.

  1. Clay Griffith, Acme Preservation Services, LLC, East Main Street Historic District, Brevard, Transylvania County, NC, nomination document, 2009, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
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