Walk back in time

Published 3:10 pm Thursday, June 1, 2017

The 2017 Saluda tour of Historic Homes

Unless you make it a point to look for them, you might not know there are some impressive and historically important houses in Saluda, that little picture-perfect town that sits atop the Saluda Grade, straddling both Henderson and Polk counties. But they are there, along winding roads, hidden in the hills that surround the bustling downtown, and come Saturday, June 3, the public is invited to the Tour of Homes in Historic Saluda. Put on your walking shoes and step back in time.

“For many years in Saluda, the ‘Summer People’ meant the people from the Low Country and Midlands of South Carolina or Georgia, who came year after year to stay in houses built on the hills above town,” Rhonda Corley began to explain. She is a co-chair of the 2017 Home Tour, which is sponsored annually by the Historic Saluda Committee. “The selected five homes are some of the oldest in the Shand Hill neighborhood. The homes on this narrow curving hilltop street continue to be mountain respites for current families and their guests. The homeowners have been gracious in agreeing to share their properties and thereby supporting projects of the Historic Saluda Committee.”

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There will be five homes on the tour (six if you count the little red house at Ivy Terrace), plus the Saluda Historic Depot, Lola’s Celebration Venue at Historic Thompson’s Store, and the Saluda Presbyterian Church — all within walking distance of about one mile. To get your bearings, Shand Hill, one of five hills in Saluda, is on the left at the entrance of town as you come up the grade on US Highway 176. Look for the recently opened Saluda Outfitters; Shand Hill is in the woods behind the store. But you are advised to stay on track and make your first stop the Depot, where you can get your ticket, a much-needed brochure, and a very helpful map.

With paperwork in hand, patrons are recommended to start at the Depot, followed by the Church, then head east on Main Street to Lola’s, and pace yourself to hike through town to Shand Hill, which is actually up a hill. Each location will be numbered and referenced in the brochure, and each location will have guides to meet and greet you.

“The tour of all eight sites should take two to three hours and is planned as a walking tour,” Corley said. “A shuttle bus will take participants from the Saluda Library (downtown) to Saluda Outfitters at the entrance of Shand Street. Participants should dress casually, wear comfortable shoes and bring appropriate weather gear. Water and lemonade will be offered at Saluda Outfitters. Limited golf cart assistance will be available around Shand Hill if needed. Parking will be available in all City Lots and at the Saluda Library. Each participant will receive a brochure with map and detailed histories of each site. No specific route is required and guests may make their way to all sites between the hours of 1 and 5 p.m.”

Here is a preview of the houses on the tour…

Ivy Terrace – Herbert and Diane McGuire

Built around 1890 by Captain William Hinson of Charleston, Ivy Terrace has been expanded, remodeled, and redecorated a number of times without destroying the original charm and soundness of its construction. It was enlarged, with a second floor added, and run as a boarding house in the 1930s and ‘40s. The current owners purchased Ivy Terrace in 1991.

The property consists of the main house and two cottages. The main house is two stories with a basement. The first floor has two bedrooms, two offices, a living room, dining room, kitchen and three and one-half baths. The second floor has five bedrooms and five baths. The rear of the house is currently used as the main entrance. There is an upper porch on the rear of the house and a wrap-around porch on the front and an open deck on the side. Many of the original materials were retained or repurposed when the house was renovated in 1991-1993.

The trees on the property were likely planted in the 1890s when the Biltmore House was being landscaped with some of the same species. The Pacolet Area Conservancy has included nine trees at Ivy Terrace on their Treasured Tree List. And the ivy continues to be a feature of the property.

Meadowhill Farm – The Nelson Family

This property was originally a working farm owned by one of the many Thompson families of Saluda. The exact date of the building of the original Meadowhill house is unknown but there is evidence that it was constructed about 1870. By the middle of the 1880s Robert Wallace Shand, a lawyer from Columbia, S.C., was looking for a summer home for his family, and in 1885 Robert Shand’s wife, Louisa, purchased the Thompson farm property for the purpose of building a summer home. In 1886 or 1887, the Shands built their summer home on the farm and began spending a portion of the summer months in Saluda.

The log cabin on the farm, located just across the road from the newly constructed house, was used as the kitchen for the new summer residence. The Shand family continued to own and spend the summers in both houses until 1972 when the Nelson family of South Carolina purchased the original log cabin and surrounding farm property as their summer residence. The Nelsons have made additions to the 1870 cabin, making every effort to not alter its character.

Shand Family House – Peter Shand

Robert Wallace Shand and Mrs. Shand of Columbia built the Shand house in 1887. James Blythe, a well-known Baptist preacher and his wife Martha, conveyed 17 acres of land to Mrs. C. Shand and her husband Robert, in 1885, to be used as the site for a summer home. The house, known then as “The Eyrie,” was built on the point of the hill overlooking the railroad. The log cabin across the street, now owned by the Nelson family, was used as the kitchen. The house was known to be the second oldest summer house built in Saluda and may be the oldest summer house still standing.

Robert’s grandson, Julian Bonham Shand, Sr. acquired the property from his siblings in the early 1970s and undertook a renovation to its current condition. The house is now owned by descendants of Julian.

The Saluda Big House – Rae McPherson

The fifth generation of current owners continues to celebrate easy living at the Saluda Big House, while tracing its history back much earlier to the 1800s. The house remains essentially unchanged in its outside appearance in the years from its first written record in 1889, when John and Margaret Bone sold the property to the Krackes, who summered there until 1918.

At the end of World War I, the property sold to Henry and Eva Davis of Columbia for $670. Five years later, the property sold for $2,000 to Cecil and Myriam Robinson of New Orleans, who joined many others from Louisiana for summers in Saluda. It was the Robinsons who engaged prominent Polk County Contractor William L. Thompson to reconfigure the first floor and finish the second floor for $3,603, creating the house you see today.

Esther Teal Efird bought the house on sight in 1956 from the Robinson estate for $11,000. Esther left the house to her three children, among whom was Louise Efird Johnson. It was Louise’s children who subsequently formed the Saluda Big House Partnership in 1986 for the purpose of owning, maintaining, using and enjoying this home on Shand Hill.

Bon Air – The Gause House

The Whaley-Osborne-Gause house, known as “Bon Air,” was built for Mr. and Mrs. A.B. Whaley of Edisto Island and Wadmalaw Island in Berkeley County, S.C.

The land was purchased from David and Sallie Pope for $50 in 1886. In that same year, the Whaleys started construction of a three-story house, which originally consisted of the present living room, which was divided into a bedroom to the south of the present fireplace, a parlor or dog trot through the middle, and a bedroom on its north. There were four bedrooms on the second floor and two on the third.

In the following year they added the rear wing consisting of the dining room and porch on the first floor and a bedroom and sleeping porch on the second. The kitchen was a separate building, which was situated approximately where the garage is located. The furniture for the entire house was bought in Charleston and sent to Saluda by rail. This was a summer house where the Whaleys, their relatives and several families from around Edisto Island came for the next 41 summers. There was no inside plumbing or electricity in the house until it was bought by Dr. Elton S. Osborne in 1925.

The Gause family purchased the house from Dr. Osborne’s descendants in 1993.

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As the Saluda Historical Committee is all about “Preserving Saluda’s Past for its Future,” walkers are purposely directed through the town’s business district, where along the way they can visit restaurants; gift, antique, and specialty shops; and other retail outlets that are popular among tourists and locals alike. The scheduled non-home stops are…

Saluda Historic Train Depot

Built in 1903 on Highway 176 about a quarter mile past the bridge, the Saluda Historic Train Depot is on the National Registry of Historic Places. It has a long history in Saluda including its eventual move from the original location to its current location on Main Street. 

In June 2016, after an 18-month journey, a group of citizens in Saluda organized and created a nonprofit organization named the Saluda Historic Depot to purchase the building and create a train and heritage museum.

The museum recently opened two exhibits: a new G-Scale Southern Railroad Livery track with a locomotive and cars running the perimeter of the main passenger area, and How the West Was Won permanent display.

Saluda Presbyterian Church

The Saluda Presbyterian Church was built between 1895 and 1896 as a multi-denominational community church with funding from residents and summer people. It became a Presbyterian church in 1914. The Tryon Presbyterian Church donated the pews in the early 1940s, and the antique pulpit came from a South Carolina church that had closed. The sanctuary of the church remains a well-preserved example of late 19th century vernacular Gothic Revival. The weather-boarded structure features a gable front, a corner two-stage entrance tower, a shallow rear apse, and pointed arched windows.

Such details — carved rafter ends, decorative eaves, brackets on the tower, decorative bracing at the front gable peak above a quatrefoil roundel, and a double leaf entrance surmounted by a decoratively carved triangular pediment — greatly enliven the exterior.

Historic Thompson’s Store and Lola’s Celebration Venue

Lola’s Celebration Venue is located upstairs above Historic Thompson’s Store, the oldest grocery store in North Carolina, established in 1890. Constructed in 1905, the building originally served as a boarding house for the tough and hardy railroad workers who maintained the Saluda Grade, the steepest mainline railroad in the United States.

While the railroad was crucial to the growth of Saluda, support also came from numerous wealthy families from the lowlands of South Carolina and Georgia. These families built summer homes in Saluda, seeking relief in the cool North Carolina mountains during the hottest months of the year. The room names at Lola’s are a tribute to the communities from which many of those wealthy families came — Charleston, Columbia, Holly Hill, and Walterboro in South Carolina and Savannah in Georgia. •