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Flat Rock

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Hendersonville Historic Districts
Historic Flat Rock    Main Street    7th Avenue   Other Historic Sites


Connemara, pen and ink drawing by Lee James Pantas
To purchase a print of this drawing by author/artist Lee Pantas, visit Cherry Orchard Studio

    Flat Rock, located a few miles south of Hendersonville, grew up along the road up the mountain from South Carolina. The road is winding and narrow and lined with large old trees and most of the houses are set back from the road. For many, the only visible sign of their presence are the stone gates at the entrances to the driveways. Flat Rock is characterized by peaceful, uncluttered roads, large open spaces interrupted only by tree-lined drives and the absence of any major commercial intrusions among the stone fences and gates that lead to the many concealed estates and great houses.
    Tourism was a major factor in shaping Flat Rock since the area was settled largely by wealthy South Carolinians in search of a cooler climate in which to escape the hot lowland summers. The country estates represent a unique segment of Southern social history and preserve as a living record the scale and quality of life led by these affluent South Carolinians.
    One of the most important landowners in Flat Rock was Charles Baring, a prominent rice planter in South Carolina and a member of a well-known banking family of England. He settled in Flat Rock with his wife, Susan, in 1827 where he purchased substantial acreage and began construction of a home, Mountain Lodge, the first Flat Rock house built by Charlestonians. After the Barings settled at Flat Rock, others followed and also began to live in the mountain area. Baring is credited with being among the first of many to find the climate and terrain of Flat Rock to their liking. He and his wife also constructed the beautiful church St. John in the Wilderness as a private chapel which they later donated to the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina.

    In this chapter, some of the historic homes and structures will be presented. The ones included are those that are visible from the road. They will be presented in the form of a self-guided auto tour that begins at the Flat Rock Playhouse and ends with a tour of Connemara, the Carl Sandburg Home. Flat Rock is rich with many historic residences and buildings but many of these will not be presented since they are inaccessible and not visible from public domain. All of Flat Rock has been declared an Historic District and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
    An organization which is instrumental in preservation work in Flat Rock is Historic Flat Rock, Inc. Chartered in 1968, Historic Flat Rock, Inc. is actively involved in education, preservation and restoration projects. Recently they were responsible for the restoration of the Lowndes House. The organization may be reached by writing to P.O. Box 295, Flat Rock, NC 28731.

Self-Guided Tour:
    The folowing self-guided auto tour of this area will start at the Flat Rock Playhouse located on Highway 25 south at the junction of Little River Road. Right next to the Playhouse is The Lowndes Place.

The Lowndes Place (NRHP) Juncture of Hwy. 25 South and Little River Rd.
    Built in 1885 by Richard I. Lowndes, it was named “The Rock” because it is near the rock outcropping from which Flat Rock takes its name. The Vagabond School of the Drama acquired the building in 1956 and used it as an administrative office building and dormitory in its operation of the Flat Rock Playhouse and Drama School. The two-story, five-bay house has some distinctive features in the use of splayed eaves without brackets and a one-bay gable porch at the central bay of the second floor.
While at this site, you will of course want to take a look at the Flat Rock Playhouse itself. From the Lowndes Place take Highway 25 north to St. John in the Wilderness Church on your left.

St. John in the Wilderness Church, Flat Rock NC, pen & ink drawing by Lee James PantasSt. John in the Wilderness Church (NRHP) 1895 Greenville Hwy.
    A unique spot of southern history in a setting of idyllic beauty, St. John in the Wilderness Episcopal Church in Flat Rock is a gable roof brick church that has at its southeast corner a three-story square tower with pyramidal roof. In 1833, Charles and Susan Baring built the church as a private chapel, and at the formation of the Episcopal Diocese of Western North Carolina in 1836, the Baring family gave up their rights to the church as a private chapel, turning the deed to the bishop of the newly-formed diocese. Among the family plots in the graveyard are the graves of Christopher Memminger, first secretary of the Confederate treasury; Rev. John Grimke Drayton, developer of the world famous Magnolia Gardens; members of families of three signers of the Declaration of Independence; and Edward P. King, the World War II general who led the infamous Bataan death march. The church and graveyard are open daily 9 a.m.-4 p.m. for visitation. Continue your tour by returning down Highway 25 heading south. After you pass the Flat Rock Playhouse, look for the Old Post Office Building on your left.

Old Post Office (NRHP) Greenville Hwy. at Little River Rd.
    This small frame building was built around 1846 by Peter Stradley, a blacksmith who was appointed postmaster in 1845. It is two stories high and its three-bay gable end sits almost flush with the highway. The building was used as a post office until 1877, and then intermittently the following years until 1965. Currently it is home to a bookstore, The Book Exchange.Continue past the Old Post Office a half a mile and look for the Flat Rock Inn on your left at 2810 Greenville Highway. Turn into the inn’s driveway. Park if you wish and get out and take a close look at this wonderful old building. The inn’s owners welcome visitors.

Flat Rock Inn (NRHP) 2810 Greenville Hwy.
    The Flat Rock Inn was built in 1888 as a summer retreat by R. Withers Memminger, a minister from Charleston, South Carolina and a son of C.G. Memminger, the first Secretary of the Treasury for the Confederate States. Officially known as Five Oaks, the Inn served as a summer home until 1911 when it was purchased by Thomas Grim-shawe, who resided there with his wife, Elizabeth, until 1930. The home was given to their daughter Greta Grim-hawe King and her husband, Campbell. Sold in 1940, the house was used as a summer residence by a number of owners for the next 45 years. Beginning in 1985, the inn was renovated by Barthela Galloway and ultimately purchased in 1992 by Dennis and Sandi Page, who own and manage the property as The Flat Rock Inn. After leaving the Flat Rock Inn, you will see directly across the street the entrance to the Woodfield Inn.

Woodfield Inn, pen & ink drawing by Lee James PantasWoodfield Inn (NRHP) Greenville Hwy.
    Built in 1852, the Woodfield Inn has been a favorite destination for travelers and vacationers for over 135 years, and is one of the most visible landmarks of Flat Rock. It is a three-story, hip-roof, frame structure with a two-story porch running the length of the building. The Inn was conceived in 1847 when several prominent landowners in Flat Rock purchased four hundred acres in the center of the community “with the design of promoting the establishment of a good, commodious tavern at or near the Saluda Road.” Construction was completed under the direction of Henry Tudor Farmer, who purchased the property in 1853 and operated it as an inn under the name “Farmer’s Hotel” until his death in 1883. Mrs. Annie T. Martin, a later owner, changed the name to the Woodfield Inn.
   The Woodfield Inn has played host to many famous people throughout its century-old history, and during the Civil War, a company of Confererate soldiers was bivouacked at the inn to protect the Flat Rock community from renegades. The Woodfield Inn today is owned by Mike and Rhonda Horton and is considered one of the premier country inns in Western North Carolina.
    After leaving the Woodfield Inn, turn left and continue north on Greenville Highway. Turn left onto Little River Road and look for the parking lot of the Carl Sandburg Home on your left. In order to see the house and grounds properly you will have to park here and proceed on foot. Allow one to two hours for your visit. Connemara, as it is known, will be the last stop on your tour of historic Flat Rock.

Connemara, Flat Rock NC, pen & ink drawing by Lee James PantasConnemara (NRHP, NHL) Little River Rd.
    Designated a National Historic site because of its association with Carl Sandburg, who lived there from 1945 until his death in 1967. It was built in 1838-1839 by Christopher Gustavus Memminger, later secretary of the treasury of the Confederacy, on land purchased from Charles Baring. Memminger named the house Rock Hill and after his death, the new owner Captain Ellison Adder Smyth, a textile executive, changed the name to Connemara. The farm today includes 264 acres of rolling hills, forests, lakes, goat barn and buildings. The grounds and farm are open for self-guided tours, and guided tours (admission charged) of the home are scheduled daily.

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