Two blocks south of Waynesville’s bustling main street, it is easy to slip into the atmosphere of a 19th-century Charlestonian farmhouse with its double veranda, central foyer, and a maze of rooms filled with historic antiques, Native American weavings, beadwork, wood carvings plus other beautiful North Carolina heritage crafts.
The home, built in 1875, was originally owned by Stephen Jehu Shelton and his wife, Mahala Conley Shelton. Stephen, a Confederate veteran, served as High Sheriff of Haywood County for several years following the Civil War.
The house was later purchased by his second son, William Taylor Shelton in 1905. Will served as an Agricultural Instructor for the Cherokee, and later, the Navajo of Ship Rock, New Mexico. He was eventually named Superintendent of the San Juan Training School in Ship Rock and helped the Navajo to build the Northern Navajo Craft Fair still in existence today. Will, and his wife, Hattie, moved back to Waynesville in 1916 and continued to live in the house for the remainder of their lives.
The house was purchased by Mary Cornwell in 1978 for the creation of The Museum of North Carolina Handicrafts, whose collection grew out of a state fair exhibit, “Village of Yesteryear” which still exhibits at the NC State Fair every year. Displays in the museum include hand-sewn quilts, woodworking, basketry, porcelain dolls pottery and much, much more. In addition to the heritage crafts displayed, the home is filled with historical pieces from times gone by including several original pieces from the Shelton family and the town of Waynesville. You won’t want to miss the Native American Room filled with the artwork of the local Cherokee, Navajo, Sioux, Hopi and Acoma Native Americans.
Learn about Cherokee crafts, culture before walking the Quanassee Path
A good place to start a venture along Clay County’s Quanassee Path is to visit the Cherokee Cultural Center at the Moss Memorial Library in downtown Hayesville. There is plenty of parking and an easy stop to become acquainted with Cherokee culture and pick up a brochure to learn about other offerings in town. The library site includes a large case with historic and contemporary artifacts, as well as a wide array of books and historic maps describing Cherokee history and culture.
The display includes a selection of stone tools, including projectile points and a grooved axe. Games were always popular with Cherokee people and the display includes stone and clay discs used in a game called “chunkey.” Chunkey was played by rolling disc-shaped stones across the ground and throwing spears at them in an attempt to place the spear as close to the stopped stone as possible. A set of ballsticks represents the still-popular game of stickball, a rough-and-tumble team sport.
Historic and contemporary crafts make up much of the exhibit, from Pisgah Phase pottery to contemporary objects. Pisgah pottery was made around 1000 AD. The pottery displays the Cherokee traditional practice of paddle stamping. Potters used carved wood paddles to impart decoration on the outsides of their pots, a practice that compressed the clay and added to the pot’s density and strength.
Perhaps, the Cherokee’s most popular craft are their baskets. Traditionally made from rivercane, the display includes a collection of rivercane baskets made by Snowbird artist, Emma Garret. Davy Arch is a well-known artist represented by a grouping of carved masks. An engaging storyteller, he worked for many years at the Oconaluftee Indian Village in Cherokee.
The Cherokee Cultural Center is framed by large photographs of two notable Cherokee people. Sequoyah was the inventor of the Cherokee syllabary, an alphabet that makes up their spoken and written language. The late Diamond Brown was a performer and keeper of Cherokee culture who served on Tribal Council as the Snowbird representative.
The Quanassee Path is a two-mile Cherokee history trail with five locations. Starting at the Cherokee Cultural Center in the library, the path leads to the outdoor Cherokee Homestead Exhibit, Cherokee Botanical Sanctuary, Old Jail Museum, and Quanassee village, the site of the Spikebuck Mound.
Hours are 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Tuesday, and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday.
Handmade pieces in a shop surrounded by Arts and Crafts originals
Since 1984, Gallery of the Mountains has featured handmade crafts by more than 100 local and regional artists living in the Southern Appalachians. The gallery is located inside the historic Grove Park Inn, a hotel that boasts the largest public collection of American Arts & Crafts style furnishings in the world. Gallery of the Mountains is the only hotel shop that carries 100% American handmade items by local and regional artisans.
The Grove Park Inn itself is outfitted with craftwork from Roycroft, one of the 20th century’s most important designers and manufacturers of American Arts & Crafts furniture, metal work, and accessories. Roycroft was established in 1895, first as a press, making intricately tooled leather-bound books, and evolving into an intentional utopian community. Led by the charismatic Elbert Hubbard, resident “Roycrofters” produced hallmark forms that today define the movement.
Both the Roycroft Copper Shop and the Roycroft Furniture Shop contributed pieces to the Grove Park Inn. Roycroft copper examples include the chandeliers in the Great Hall (since altered), wall sconces and ceiling lights in the Blue Ridge Dining Room, and table lamps. Furniture includes two large grandfather clocks, corner servers, and buffets.
The Grove Park Inn was built in the early 20th century by E. W. Grove with the help of his son-in-law Fred Seely. Constructed with enormous granite stones, 400 men worked 10-hour shifts six days a week to complete the massive undertaking. The workers used mules, wagons, and ropes, and a lone steam shovel to move material into place. The resort opened in 1913, less than a year after breaking ground.
Nearby, at the foot of Sunset Mountain, a young architect William Waldo Dodge established Asheville Silvercraft. Opened in 1924, the enterprise produced metalwork in the shadow of the Grove Park Inn. Working alone, Dodge created sterling silver bowls, platters, buckles, and flatware bearing the “Asheville Silvercraft” shop mark.
Annual Arts & Crafts Conference
Besides a treasure-trove of history found on the campus of the Grove Park Inn and Grovewood Village, the site has become a present day mecca for Arts & Crafts enthusiasts. What began as a small gathering of antique dealers and collectors in 1988 has grown into what the New York Times has called “the most important weekend of the year for Arts & Crafts collectors.”
Besides the many Arts & Crafts aficionados who stay at the hotel, the Grove Park Inn has hosted numerous celebrities over the years. These include William Jennings Bryan (who spoke at the hotel’s opening), Thomas Edison, Elbert Hubbard, Helen Keller, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, and Barack Obama.
Picture-pretty courthouse showcases local crafts in Sylva
With 107 steps up to its entrance, the Jackson County Courthouse and its picturesque location overlooking the mountain town of Sylva has contributed to its claim of being the “most photographed courthouse in North Carolina.” Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Classical Revival structure was built in 1913 and served as the county’s courthouse until 1994.
In 2009, the building was renovated and re-constructed as the Jackson County Public Library. In 2011, a number of cultural organizations moved into the space, including the Jackson County Genealogical Society, Jackson County Arts Council,and Jackson County Historical Society. The former main courtroom has been turned into a community auditorium.
Of interest to craft aficionados is the Rotunda Gallery located on the first floor of the historic building. Under the direction of the Jackson County Arts Council, the gallery hosts changing exhibits throughout the year. A high quality hanging and lighting system makes the Rotunda Gallery a good option for rotating art exhibits by the region’s artists.
The Jackson County Arts Council was founded in 1976 to provide more artistic exposure and opportunities for school students. Today the Arts Council regularly funds local groups and individual artists through scholarships and grants.
In the heart of historic Morganton is the Burke Arts Council, located in an old building that once housed the county’s law officer as well as the jail. In the mid 20th century, the jailhouse was two stories. The sheriff’s office and several cells were on the first floor. In a residence on the upper story, the sheriff’s wife prepared meals for prisoners. Eventually, the second story was taken down and the smaller security cells were made into one large cell called, “the tank.” The jailhouse was about to be demolished when county leaders to decided to save and refurbish it.
The Burke Arts Council was founded in 1977 and moved into the old jailhouse. Renamed the Jail House Gallery of the Burke Arts Council, the building was formally opened with a reception where the commissioners presented a key to the cell block door.
The Arts Council coordinates arts activities in the community and serves as an information and resource center for the arts. In addition to its regular Third Thursday Art Crawls and Studio Tours, the Council works with other Morgantown organizations to host a number of popular events, including the Oyster Outing every October. Art Classes and workshops are available for children and adults with topics tailored to meet the unique needs of our craft artists in today’s economy. The Council has recruited incredible artists and art teachers from across Western North Carolina to work with children at an annual summer camp. They offer a full summer art camp experience featuring a different theme each day and a different art form.
For hours, events and other news, go to the website.
The sprawling house that dominates the Monteith Farmstead was once the long-time home of a pair of sisters who lived there their entire lives. As adults, during a time when it was rare for women to live alone, the two sisters shared the responsibility of caring for the home place. Fiercely proud and loyal to their family heritage, they worked hard to preserve what had been left to them by their parents. Keeping the farmstead much as it had been when their parents were alive, the two siblings practiced traditions that today we celebrate as craftsmanship. The farmstead showcases the home arts of quilting, sewing, and canning during events throughout the year.
Edna and Edith Monteith were born during the first two decades of the 20th century. As adults, Edith managed the house and farm while Edna served for 45 years as the Dillsboro Postmaster. They tended their flower garden and made quilts and crafts to supplement their income. Today their home houses the Appalachian Women’s Museum, a site dedicated to sharing and celebrating women’s lives. For many women, life in the Southern Appalachians was hard with raising children on very little means, caring for families and making a living in an isolated region. No matter the circumstances, these women faced whatever obstacles came their way with determination, grit and grace. Some achieved prominence in the arts, government, education and social causes while others achieved success through raising productive children. Regardless of their status, it is stories of these ordinary women leading extraordinary lives that must be preserved and shared to inspire future generations.
The 100- year-old house has been undergoing restoration and repair and is open for special events. A series of programs, demonstrations, and hands-on activities focus on traditional home crafts, including a display in the Canning House Kitchen. The Farmstead and surrounding property has been developed as a public park with fishing and picnic areas, a greenway along the banks of Scott Creek, and other recreational facilities. The house and property are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
A short-lived college in the mountains, profound in influence, continues to inspire
Black Mountain College (1933 – 1957) was an entirely unique educational experiment based on interdisciplinary learning and practice with arts at the center. While the school only remained open for 24 years, its influence on American arts and crafts has been profound.
The school’s curriculum was based on the writings of educator/philosopher John Dewey; its residents included painters Willem and Elaine de Kooning, Robert Rauschenberg, and Jacob Lawrence; performers Merce Cunningham and John Cage; inventor and architect, Buckminster Fuller; and potter, M.C. Richards; along with colorist Joseph Albers and his wife Anni, who taught textiles.
Like the other schools that taught crafts to mountain people, members of the Black Mountain College community participated in its operation, including farm work, construction projects and kitchen duty.
The Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center was founded in 1993 to preserve the phenomenal legacy of the college. The museum offers both historic and contemporary exhibitions (recently: Between Form and Content: Perspectives on Jacob Lawrence and Black Mountain College), dynamic events, and research opportunities.
Western Carolina University opened its Fine Art Museum in 2005 in the newly constructed Bardo Arts Center. The museum celebrates the artistic legacy of Western North Carolina with a collection of 2,000 modern and contemporary works of art in a variety of media by regional, national and international artists.
The museum includes four art galleries, an art preparation room, a secure storage vault, an object study room, a unique and inviting special events space called the Star Atrium, an outdoor courtyard and a museum gift shop.
Museum exhibitions highlight the work of the Americas, with a special focus on Native American Art. To showcase the talent found at Western Carolina University, Bardo Arts Center presents exhibitions featuring artwork from the School of Art and Design. Open year-round, the museum supports scholarly research and provides life-long learning opportunities for individuals of all ages.
The small town of Andrews welcomes you to its art and local history
Valleytown Cultural Arts Center echoes the small town hospitality of Andrews (population: 1,798), near the banks of the Valley Rive and within a ring of embracing mountains, blue-grey in morning mists. Year-round, the Center (on the Register of National Historic Places) curates exhibits focused on visual arts and the preservation of local history, with connections to a deep Native American culture in existence for centuries prior to the arrival of the valley’s first homesteaders.
A full calendar of exhibits and events at the Center, including concerts and theatrical productions, can be found at www.andrewsvalleyarts.com.
Tryon Arts and Crafts School is a regional center for arts and crafts in the Appalachian Foothills. The school was established in 1960 as a key part of the grassroots movement that led to the development of Tryon as an artists’ colony.
Hands-on classes and workshops are taught in a variety of traditional and contemporary crafts, including pottery, jewelry, weaving and fiber arts, blacksmithing, glass, lapidary, woodworking and more by renowned artisan instructors. In July and August there is a Summer Sizzler Youth Art Camp Program, where children learn eight or more different crafts each week.
To promote and celebrate the extraordinary artisans and craftspersons in the area, TACS hosts regular exhibitions in the Exhibition Gallery, maintains a permanent Heritage Collection, and sponsors craft festivals on the park-like grounds.
TACS opened the Heritage Collection (partially funded by the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area) as a permanent installation in 2008, exhibiting over 200 artifacts native to Western North Carolina and specifically the Tryon area, some dating back to 1775. On display are animals, dolls and tiny pieces of furniture from the original Tryon Toy Makers and Wood Carvers as well as Cherokee artifacts, pottery, forged tools, quilts, weavings, furniture, musical instruments and paintings.
The Gift Shop features hand-crafted, one-of-a-kind items. Visitors are welcome to browse the galleries and spend time in the studios getting to know more about the arts and crafts of this region.
For hours and other information, visit their website.
Tour a small town with big personalities and welcoming climate
Tryon quickly grew as a resort town, bringing tourists to the area to enjoy the mountain views and good climate. Many artists, writers and crafters chose to stay – at least for a while – including the stage actor William Gillette, most famous for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. This mix of locals, artists and retirees continues today, creating a vibrant, active community. Many of the historic buildings on Tryon’s Trade Street were in place by 1900, including a general store, pharmacy and post office. Buildings like these have contributed to Tryon receiving the designation of historic district by the National Register of Historic Places.
In 1915 Miss Eleanor Vance and Miss Charlotte Yale, co-founders of Biltmore Estate Industries, left Asheville and resettled in Tryon where they purchased a cottage and soon were training young boys and girls to handcraft finely-designed and beautifully-crafted toys. Vance and Yale’s little non-profit business, motivated by a desire to do good and to train young people in rewarding artist-work, eventually became the famous Tryon Toy Makers and Wood Carvers.
In 1928 two boys working for Tryon Toy Makers built a gigantic version of the popular little toy horse for a parade held in conjunction with the spring Tryon Horse Show, to advertise and celebrate Tryon Toy Makers. Their creation was so big that overhead wires along Trade Street had to be lifted out of the way in order for the Tryon Horse to participate in the procession. The toy makers also made miniature wheeled horse souvenirs to sell at the horse show. The giant horse was disassembled after the parade, stored in the basement at Hillcote, and brought out in subsequent years for the horse show parade. Eventually the Tryon Toy Makers donated it to the Tryon Riding and Hunt Club, eventually naming him “Morris” and creating a permanent position in the center of Tryon where he can be visited any time. See the photo on this page. Listen to this short Living Traditions Moments presentation about the Tryon Toy Makers.
Tryon Wine Country
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Tryon was well known for its table and wine grapes. Due to prohibition, family businesses related to wine dried up over time. Beginning in the early 1990s, this interesting part of Tryon’s history was revived–the planting of grapes for winemaking. About a dozen vineyards now lie about 10 miles to the east in the Tryon foothills. This area, with its gentle, rolling hills and clay-loam soils, has proven to be an excellent location for vinifera grapes. Five wineries welcome visitors for tasting, tours and beautiful mountain views.
Visitors stroll down Trade Street and enjoy the shops and restaurants. They may catch a movie at the tiny Tryon Theater or a performance at the Tryon Fine Arts Center. Scenic drives include a drive through the architecturally rich neighborhoods of Gillette Woods and Godshaw Hill; through the horse estates on Hunting Country Road; or along the Pacolet River Scenic Byway (Hwy 176). Or picnic at Harmon Field and peruse the nearby antique stores.
March: Super Saturday– Also known as the Children’s Theater Festival, this is a one-day festival of “lively arts” for children. Eight to ten different performances encompassing theater, music, storytelling, mime, dance, puppetry and more are brought to Tryon on a Saturday in late March
May:Block House Steeple Chase– Horses and races, tailgate picnics and crazy hat contests, friendly people and a whole lot of fun! Run by the Tryon Riding & Hunt Club.
Festival features competition cookers, two music stages, the Foothills Craft Fair and children’s rides. Admission includes parking. Held the second Friday and Saturday in June each year. Run by the Carolina Foothills Chamber of Commerce.
Summer – June through September
Summer Tracks at Rogers Park – Named for the RR tracks running through the park, enjoy this series of FREE Friday night summer concerts. Schedule available at the Tryon Visitors Center, Polk County Travel & Tourism Office, and online.
Typically held in early November, the Annual Tryon Beer Fest runs from noon until 6pm in the Tryon Depot Plaza. Tickets are sold in advance (online and at local retailers) and at the gate (cash only). Festival only (“Designated Driver”) tickets are also available at the gate (cash only).Admission includes unlimited beer and wine samples.
An array of craft beers are available, along with an oyster roast, authentic German food, non-alcoholic beverages and water. Live Bavarian music entertains during the day, followed by a live rock band later in the afternoon. This is a rain or shine event, under the sun or under a heated tent, depending on the weather.
December:Tryon Christmas Stroll
Tryon Downtown Development Association members serve refreshments at their businesses. Santa listens to children’s wish lists. Carolers make joyful noises. Friday night early in December – Small town Christmas at its charming best!
The historic McGaha Chapel was finished in 1872 during the difficult Reconstruction period following the Civil War in the context of multiple families that had been split in loyalty, fighting on different sides. The earliest membership roll shows not only Methodist but also other church members, underlining the ecumenical nature of the community.
In southern Transylvania County, along the Greenville Turnpike, James Crafford McGaha, along with other men in the area, constructed a small sturdy structure originally known as the Dividing Ridge Church, later as The Little River Methodist Episcopal Church and finally commonly known as the McGaha Chapel.
Drovers Road Way Station
McGaha was known for his generosity and operated a free way station for drovers and their animals between upper Transylvania, Jackson and Haywood counties and Greenville, SC. The church was conveyed to the trustees of the church by A. J. and Margaret Loftis in 1883. The deed read “to be used, kept and maintained as a place of divine worship for the use of the ministers and membership of the Methodist Episcopal Church.”
The McGaha Chapel served the needs of the community for over 50 years, but as manufacturing plants opened and the arrival of the automobile drew the people into town, the little church on the knoll was abandoned. The Western North Carolina Methodist Conference turned over responsibility for the Chapel to the First United Methodist Church of Brevard in 1972.
Interest in the Chapel increased over the years as various services, meetings and reunion events were held. Restoration work was done by the Brevard First United Methodist Church, Cedar Mountain residents and other local residents. The Brevard First United Methodist Church deeded the McGaha Chapel to the Transylvania County Historical Society in 2007. Restoration efforts continued by the Society and Cedar Mountain residents.
The pristine chapel remains essentially as it was in 1872. It has some of the original hand-pressed glass windows, weatherboard siding, front-gable roof and boxed eaves; the Chapel rests on stacks of field stones. The hand-made pews made of single boards demonstrate the very large trees sawn by the local builders. The simple pulpit and mourner’s bench, and probably the pews, were crafted by A.J. Loftis.
It was an active congregation until about 1930 when available transportation allowed commuting to Brevard. Some modifications such as a chimney have been removed, and the building has been restored to its original state (adding only a few safety items and some replacement wood). Transylvania County designated the McGaha Chapel as a Local Historic Landmark in 2013.
For 140 years the McGaha Chapel has served as a symbol of bridging painful differences and healing through gathering.
Hours of Operation
The Chapel is open for visitors by special appointment. Call the Society’s office at 828-884-5137 and leave a message for appointments.
Halley Cove Road
Cedar Mountain, NC
(Across from Sherwood Forest Golf Course)