Lake Junaluska relives its past with tours and re-enactments

By Melanie Threlkeld McConnell | Jun 28, 2013
Photo by: File photo In 1913, those attending the opening conference at Lake Junaluska posed for a historic photograph. The photo will be recreated on the Lake's 100th anniversary.

We’ve heard the stories about how Lake Junaluska came to be. Now we can experience some of its most historic moments. Join a few old friends who “return” to celebrate the Lake’s Centennial Celebration, June 30-July 7, to give us a peek at this indelible landmark’s  past 100 years as a place of Christian hospitality and spiritual retreat.

“Of Men Who Ventured Much and Far,” 7:30 p.m. Sunday, June 30, Stuart Auditorium. Free.

In 1911 Bishop Walter Lambuth invited his friend and colleague, Dr. John Wesley Gilbert to travel with him to the Belgian Congo to open a joint mission between the Methodist Episcopal Church, South and Christian Methodist Episcopal churches.

Lambuth was a missionary to Asia, physician, and a trustee of Paine College in Augusta, Georgia, and Gilbert was a professor there – and he was black. For a white man and a black man to travel as brothers to the deepest recesses of the Congo in 1911 was remarkable.

This re-enactment is based on a book about the venture by Dr. E. Clayton Calhoun, a Methodist minister and a former president of Paine College, who wrote the story in 1961 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Lambuth and Gilbert’s landmark journey.

Calhoun’s son, the Rev. Ashley M. Calhoun, a retired research archivist at the SEJ Heritage Center at Lake Junaluska, wrote the drama, which shares the same title as his father’s book.

Train Depot Open House, 4 to 6 p.m. Monday, July 1, 1799 S. Lakeshore Dr. Free.

Imagine this: Back in 1913 during the Lake’s first gathering, attendees would take the Southern Railway train from Waynesville to the Tuscola Depot, located near Lake Junaluska.

A one-way trip from Waynesville cost 25 cents. The train would make four trips a day, ferrying visitors back and forth to Waynesville for meals and accommodations since there were none at the lake back then.

From the depot, visitors would walk across the dam to Stuart Auditorium. As train travel waned in the 1960s, the depot closed and was moved to Lakeshore Drive and turned into a private residence.  The 100-year old structure still has its original tile roof, red wood, ticket window, and 13-foot ceilings.

Now owned by Dr. Donald and Charlotte Mosely, the former depot still gets visitors curious about its past. The Mosleys will open their home during the Centennial to help celebrate its past as an important link to the lake’s success.

Re-enactment of Historic Lake Crossing, 6 to 7 p.m. Monday, July 1, 1799 S. Lakeshore Dr. Free.

Once the lake was filled with water, visitors would walk from the train depot down to the lakeshore where they would board a boat to cross the lake to Stuart Auditorium. Join the fun as the lake’s founders, James Atkins and George R. Stuart (Hugh Burford and Lawrence Braxton) and Bishop and Mrs. Lawrence McClesky, relive the lake crossing made by thousands of visitors during Lake Junaluska’s early days.

Participants are encouraged to dress in period costumes. For transportation to and from the event, the Lake Junaluska bus will pick participants up at the tent on the front lawn of the Administration Building.

“A Junaluska Ghost Story,” 7:30 p.m. Monday, July 1, Stuart Auditorium. Free.

The ghosts of Junaluska past, and the brainchildren of the Lake’s inception – James Atkins and George R. Stuart – meet by chance at midnight in historic Stuart Auditorium and reminisce about how they merged their respective visions for a Methodist retreat in the North Carolina mountains.

Written by local author Bill Lowry, “A Junaluska Ghost Story” uses a PowerPoint presentation of archival photographs to help illustrate the memories of these two old friends and very influential men – portrayed by local actors Hugh Burford and Lawrence Braxton.

Junaluska Woman’s Club Tour of Historic Homes, 2 to 5 p.m. Tuesday, July 2, Lake Junaluska, $10 per ticket.

If one really wants to see the heart of Lake Junaluska’s beginning , then take the Tour of Historic Homes, presented by the Junaluska Woman’s Club.  Each of the four homes and one lodge is located at Atkins Loop, which – local historians say – holds the footsteps of the original residential area of Lake Junaluska; all were built between 1913 and 1917.

The tour also includes Weatherby Park, just across from Atkins Loop, which has been refurbished with new greenery and benches by the Junaluska Woman’s Club, and a new picnic table by the descendants of C.E. Weatherby, who built the first house at Atkins Loop. The Junaluska Woman’s Club first dedicated the park to Weatherby in 1923. Some of his descendants will be on hand for the park’s rededication in honor of the Lake’s Centennial.

The homes on the tour are: 334 Atkins Loop (Weatherby’s home), 232 Atkins Loop, 158 Atkins Loop, 120 Atkins Loop and 49 Atkins Loop, Providence Lodge. Current owners of the homes and lodge will be on hand during the tours to provide historical facts. Visitors may walk the loop or ride in a van. Tickets are on sale and may be purchased at the Bethea Welcome Center or at 334 Atkins Loop.

Historic Photo Re-enactment, 6:45 p.m. Wednesday, July 3, Stuart Auditorium. Rain date, July 4, same time. One hundred years ago on June 27 attendees of the opening conference at Lake Junaluska gathered in front of Stuart Auditorium to commemorate the historic event with a photograph. Let’s do it again. Everyone is invited to join in the replication of this historic photo.

To find out more about Lake Junaluska’s Centennial Celebration and to see a complete schedule of events, please visit or call us at 800.222.4930.

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