July 22, 2024

Hankering for History

Hanker: To have a strong, often restless desire, in this case for–you guessed it–history!

The History of Lake Lure

4 min read
lake lure, nc

Lake Lure in North Carolina is known as a small town vacation place, as well as the backdrop for movies such as Dirty Dancing (1987). However, it is a generally new place—even the lake was not originally there. Let’s look at the history of Lake Lure and how it came to be. 

The Founding Family of Lake Lure

Dr. Lucius B. Morse was born in Missouri, and he was a practicing physician until he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. At that time, anecdotal evidence linked tuberculosis to pollution and crowded areas. At the time, Missouri was developing at such a rate that Union Station, opened in 1894, was the largest and busiest railway station at the time. Because of this, Dr. Morse was advised to seek a healthier climate for complete recovery. 

Dr. Morse ended up in Western North Carolina, in the thermal belt with warmer nighttimes and relatively low humidity. One of his favorite areas to wander around on horseback was near Chimney Rock, a monolith standing over a ten mile-deep gorge. For 25 cents he found a guide to the top, and fell in love with the view and surrounding areas.

In 1902, Dr. Morse bought 64 acres of Chimney Rock Mountain with financial support from his twin brothers, Hiram and Asahelm under the name Chimney Rock Mountain, Inc. He bought the land, including Chimney Rock itself, from Jerome B. “Rome” Freeman, who owned 400 acres of the mountain. Dr. Morse envisioned a resort and lake on the property—a vision made more impressive by the fact that there was no lake at the time, simply a river (Rocky Broad River at Tumbling Shoals).

Over the next twenty years, Chimney Rock Mountain, Inc. went on to acquire 8,000 acres of the surrounding area. 

The Construction and Incorporation of Lake Lure

To create a lake, Dr. Morse planned to dam the Rocky Broad River. The dam would create the lake he needed for the resort, but it would also cost a lot of money. To become self-sustaining, the Lake Lure dam was designed as a hydroelectric dam that would also take away the wastewater of the upcoming resort and village. 

The Carolina Mountain Power Company was formed, with all of its common stock owned by Chimney Rock Mountains, Inc. In return for the stock, the power company was deeded all of the land needed to build the dam and the power center, whatever would be covered by the water after the dam was built (the inundated area), and the area needed for the transmission lines. The hydraulic engineering firm Mees & Mees oversaw the construction, which started in 1925. 

In September 1926, the dam was completed. The backed-up water flow spilled over and created a lake that is, on average, 720 acres in area with a 27-mile perimeter. One year later, in 1927, the Town of Lake Lure was incorporated. Its boundaries include the entire Lake Lure and its surroundings, and it has authority to oversee and regulate activities on the lake and in the town for its general welfare. 

In 1928, the hydroelectric power plant was functional, and began to sell electricity to the Blue Ridge Power Company with a 10-year contract, continuing with Duke Power Company when it took over provision of electricity in the area. Building of the resort also continued during this time.

The Great Depression and Lake Lure in Limbo

In 1929, the world took an economic downturn that would last for the next 10 years. The economy failed, and the companies that had financed mortgages to Chimney Rock Mountains, Inc. and the Carolina Mountain Power Company foreclosed them. 

Construction on the resort, in particular, was halted. The land area of Chimney Rock Mountains, Inc. was sold by Standard Mortgage Company to cover the cost of the mortgage. The land area was completely redistributed by 1942.

The Carolina Mountain Power Company continued to operate under Stroud & Company until 1931, and then under Carolina Mountain Corporation with the oversight of the Stroud & Company president until 1965. 

In 1965, the Town of Lake Lure acquired the Carolina Mountain Corporation. As the Corporation owned the land covered by the lake itself (the lake bed) while the Town only technically enclosed its boundaries and regulated its activities, through its acquisition the Town of Lake Lure finally possessed Lake Lure itself.

The Town of Lake Lure Today

While the Town had to halt the resort’s development before and during the Second World War, it was able to operate recreational facilities and continue to build towards the resort community that was the brainchild of Dr. Morse. With the acquisition of the power company, the town became self-sustaining and is a fully developed resort community, committed to caring for the lake itself. 

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