The Laurel Magazine

Laurel Magazine is a monthly magazine guiding you where to shop, play, dine, and stay in Highlands NC and Cashiers NC.

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  • Laurel Contributor

The Fate of the Fairfield

by Jane Nardy

Despite decades of white-glove service to its guests, the celebrated Fairfield Inn fell victim to the wrecking ball.

In the 1890s, a group of Pennsylvania investors established the Toxaway Company and bought thousands of acres of mountain land in Jackson and Transylvania Counties. Their initial plan was to cut and extract lumber so a railroad line was built from Hendersonville to Toxaway. When the group saw the stunning beauty of land a new plan was formed, resulting in the building of several inns.

The longest-used resort built by the Toxaway Company was the Fairfield Inn, which opened its doors to guests in 1896. Located near Cashiers and overlooking a man-made lake created by damming up the Horsepasture River, Fairfield Inn had three stories and 57 guest rooms.

According to Walter Fugate, “I was 14 years old and folks would come by train to Toxaway, which was about 12 miles from the inn and I’d haul them the rest of the way in those old time surreys. Some of them carried four passengers and some carried six. I’d make a trip to Toxaway once a day. The train arrived at 11:00 A.M. and I’d get back to the inn at 2:30 or 3:00 in the afternoon. Most folks stayed the whole summer – from the middle of June to the middle of September. Couldn’t keep but about 100 guests. It cost each person $3 a day, including three meals a day.”

In those days the only refrigeration came from ice cut from the frozen lake in the winter and stored in an ice house. When the ice became 12 inches thick, it was sawed into squares and hauled to the nearby ice house and packed tightly, providing ice for the dining room all summer.

When the Toxaway Company failed in 1911, Edward Henry Jennings acquired the company and ran the Fairfield Inn until his death in 1946.

The next major owner of the Fairfield Inn was Eugene Howerdd Sr., who did lots of renovations, such as installing an elevator, putting telephones in each room, building a back terrace that overlooked Fairfield Lake, and adding full bathrooms in each guest room.

In 1982, a resort developer bought the inn and got it entered into the National Register of Historic Places, but after a study was made of the feasibility of restoring the inn to its former glory, Fairfield Inn was torn down in 1986.

Maybe, if there had been a historical society at that time, the inn could have been saved, but the inn owners had no local ties to this area, which made it easy for them to demolish the beloved Fairfield Inn.