Historic houses still standing at Lake Junaluska
When a group of Methodists, led by Bishop James Atkins and the Rev. George Rutledge Stuart, purchased 1,200 acres in Haywood County in 1913 to develop a lakeside conference center and retreat, portions of the land were sold to individuals for housing or as campsites.
By late 1913, a hotel and 13 houses were under construction. Eleven of the historic houses are still standing, including the houses that were built for Atkins and Stuart.
The Junaluska Construction Company was established and built the initial houses for $1,600 each. The home of C.E. Weatherby is believed to have been the first house completed in 1913, according to “The Antechamber of Heaven: A History of Lake Junaluska,” by the Rev. Bill Lowry, historian and a volunteer consultant at the Lake Junaluska Heritage Center and a resident of Lake Junaluska.
The original houses that are still at the lake include Atkins’ house at 979 Lakeshore Drive, which is now the Sunset Inn; and Stuart’s house at 489 N. Lakeshore Drive. Of the 13 original houses, three no longer exist.
Art O’Neil resides in one of the original 13 houses. He also owns the Sunset Inn, which is the house built for Atkins. O’Neil opened the inn at one time as a restaurant, but it is now for sale, he said.
O’Neil’s father and grandfather were Methodist ministers and his family often visited Lake Junaluska for summer vacations. He left Atlanta 20 years ago to move in to the family home at Lake Junaluska. Now, he says it’s like being on vacation all the time.
“When I sit out on my front porch and look out over the lake, I almost have to pinch myself to know I’m not dreaming,” he said.
When the first houses were built at Lake Junaluska, there were no paved roads and water came from five springs located on the north side of the lake. The springs served as coolers for perishable foods.
Junaluska Supply was built by Jerry Liner in 1921 near the east entrance to the lake and served as the primary source for groceries, clothing, building materials and gasoline. After it was destroyed by fire in 1940, Liner replaced it with a larger store.
The new store included a lunch counter and post office and was touted as the largest store west of Asheville. It closed in 1977 and the building was purchased by the Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center. A few years later it was demolished to make room for new condominiums.
According to the following accounts provided by Lowry, early construction would eventually include several hotels to provide lodging for the summer guests.
The first hotel was the Auditorium Hotel, which was completed in 1914 and destroyed six years later by a fire. The Junaluska Inn was built in 1917 at the site where the Lambuth Inn now stands, but it too was destroyed by fire the following year.
“The remarkable thing about those two major hotel fires is that there were no injuries or fatalities,” the Rev. Lowry said. “There was no fire department at that time and no way to fight the fires,” he said.
After the Junaluska Inn burned down, the Junaluska Hotel Company purchased the College Inn that J.M. Rhodes, then president at Louisburg College, had started. Rhodes ran out of money and could not complete the inn, so it was dubbed “Rhodes’ Folly.”
The Junaluska Hotel Company named the new building, which was completed in 1920, the Terrace Hotel. That building was demolished in 1973 and the existing hotel was completed in 1977.
Stuart’s Epworth Lodge and James Cannon Virginia Lodge were built in 1917 and work began on the College Inn. Stuart’s house, Winona, still stands near the Paul Kern Youth Center near the west entrance to the grounds.
The Lambuth Inn, completed in 1921, was initially known as the Centenary Mission Inn. The original center section of the Lambuth Inn is on the National Register of Historic Sites. The Centenary Mission Inn was renamed the Lambuth Inn in honor of Bishop Walter Russell Lambuth. In 1956, the inn was remodeled and the west wing was built, with the east wing completed in 1964.
The Colonial Hotel, built in 1922 and still standing near the present Memorial Chapel, served for years as housing for the Snyder School and in 1971 was donated to the Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center by George Finch.