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Sylva Town

Jackson County, North Carolina

Sylva Town Hall is located at 83 Allen Street, Sylva, NC 28779.
Phone: 828‑586‑2719.


Beginnings [1]

Sylva, population 2,680, is located in western North Carolina's Tuckasegee River basin between Balsam and Cowee mountains. The town grew to become Jackson County's commercial hub after 1884, when the Western North Carolina Railroad extended its line originating in Salisbury to Sylva, and has functioned as its governmental center since being designated the county seat in 1913. By 1910, Sylva entrepreneurs had established a bank, dental office, meat market, two blacksmith and wagon shops, two livery stables, and one hardware, two drug, and five general stores. Mercantile concerns, professional offices, restaurants, and entertainment venues proliferated through the mid-twentieth century.

Entrepreneurialism drove Sylva's development. Concerns established by 1889 include W. A. Enloe and Company's dry goods store, Hall and Buchanan's drug store, Sylva Barber Shop, Sylva Produce Market, and Sylva Mills. In 1897, M. W. Young sold watches, clocks, and jewelry and Dr. J. H. Knight operated a drug store. Allen B. Dills, Mack Fowler, and partners Oscar Coward and Ernest Lyndon McKee opened general stores in the 1890s. Coward sold his interest in the venture with McKee to Dillsboro resident Charles Joseph Harris in 1898, resulting in Sylva Supply Company's creation. Harris, an alumnus of Yale University and Brown's Law School in St. Louis, Missouri, had moved to Jackson County in 1889 after his marriage to wealthy Colorado resident Florence J. Rusk ended. He undertook a series of ventures including forming Blue Ridge Locust Pin Company, which manufactured locust ship nails and pins used to mount glass insulators on utility poles. Harris and his brothers Edward and Theodore, who had established Harris Clay Company in 1888, acquired the Boston-based Carolina Clay Company's Hogrock kaolin mine and two factories outside Dillsboro in 1891. The firm supplied American and English potteries with fine porcelain used to create myriad ceramic products. C. J. Harris also invested in the leather tanning industry, operating a plant that extracted tannic acid from chestnut wood chips for use in leather hide processing. The concern's name varied with his business partnerships, ranging from Harris to Harris-McKee, Harris-Rees, Sylva, Parsons, and Armour Tanneries. Harris's endeavors were closely connected, as Sylva Supply served as the tannery's commissary. E. L. McKee oversaw the store's management until assuming a leadership role at the tannery in 1902, after which his brother J. W. McKee ran the store through 1913. E. L. McKee diversified into the building supply business in 1906, establishing Sylva Lumber Company with thirty employees who produced hardwood floor boards and trim moldings in a plant adjacent to Scotts Creek.

  1. Heather Fearnbach, Fearnbach History Services, Inc., Downtown Sylva Historic District, Jackson County, NC, nomination document, 2014, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.