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Our Beginnings Run Deep

Chimney Rock Village has been the center of a tourist Mecca for over 400 years.  According to documents from the Madrid library, Hernando Desoto led his conquistadors through Hickory Nut Gorge on the way to the Mississippi River.  Hunters and trappers used the Gorge as a passage to and from Asheville and Revolutionary War patriots known as the Overmountain Victory Men passed through on their way to defeat the British at the Battle of Kings Mountain.


The earliest settlers near Chimney Rock were around 1805, about the time area newspapers were reporting mirages or apparitions that had been seen against the cliffs of Chimney Rock Mountain.  In 1830, Colonel Leventhorpe came to the Gorge in search of gold which had supposedly been buried here by a party of Englishmen when they were ambushed by Indians.  Although there was reportedly a map of the location of the gold, the Colonel did not find it, and as late as 1928 people were still hunting for it. 


From about 1875 the Freeman family owned the actual rock column known as Chimney Rock and constructed the first bridge between the cliff and the top of Chimney Rock.  For 25 cents they would take visitors up the mountain by horseback.  Around 1902, Dr. Lucius B. Morse came to the area and with his two brothers bought the Chimney.   The Morse family developed the property into present day Chimney Rock Park, encompassing over 1000 acres. In 2007, it became an official North Carolina State Park

Historic Timeline


A series of earthquakes begins. Centered in Bald Mountain (Rumbling Bald). 


Jerome B. Freeman purchases 400 acres of land, including Chimney Rock, from a land speculation company for $25.

Chimney Rock Post Office opens.


Chimney Rock opens to the public by J. B. Freeman.

1890-  1893

J. B. Freeman purchases additional acreage from M.L. Toms, H. and S. Ewart, J.W., and L.C. Freeman, and J. H. and L. Freeman.


Steps are constructed to Chimney Rock.


Col. Thomas Turner opens the Esmeralda Inn and operates it until 1937. 


George P. Horton opens Mountain View Inn across from Chimney Rock.


James M. and Lavena Flack purchase Mountain View Inn.


J.  B. Freeman sells 64 acres including Chimney Rock to Dr. Lucius B. Morse and brothers for $5000.


Rutherfordton - Asheville Highway completed, and construction on the graded road to Chimney Rock Park begins.


The road and bridge to Chimney Rock Park opens. A major flood causes extensive damage in the Gorge, kills eight people In Bat Cave, and destroys the Chimney Rock Bridge.


The Esmeralda Inn is destroyed by fire.


 Cliff Dweller’s Inn opens on top of Chimney Rock Mountain.


The owner of Chimney Rock, Lucius Morse, and his brothers envision a large summer resort in the area and form Chimney Rock Mountains, Inc. 


 Chimney Rock Mountains, Inc. purchases 8,000 acres east of Chimney Rock Park.


 Construction of the Lake Lure Dam begins.


Morse sells Chimney Rock and adjoining land to Chimney Rock Mountains, Inc.


Lake Lure was created and filled. The Town of Lake Lure is chartered.


The Great Depression stops or slows the development of Lake Lure and Chimney Rock projects. Lucius Morse and his brothers repossess the original Chimney Rock Company property.


Fire in the heart of Chimney Rock Village destroys nine buildings.


The Washburn family purchases the old Logan House. It becomes Pine Gables Inn.


Cliff Dweller’s Inn is demolished. An elevator is installed at Chimney Rock Park.


The Mountain View Inn is destroyed by fire.


Chimney Rock Village incorporates as a government municipality.

20th Century Fox films “The Last of the Mohicans” in Chimney Rock Park.


A major flood causes extensive damage in Hickory Nut Gorge. On Sept. 4th, thirteen inches of rain falls in three hours. 


The Esmeralda Inn is again destroyed by fire.


A comprehensive zoning ordinance approved for Chimney Rock Village.


A referendum to allow liquor by the drink is defeated 69 to 31 percent. (Also defeated in 1995 with 56% against, and again in 1999 with 76% against.)


The North Carolina House and Senate pass and the Governor signs a bill to create Hickory Nut Gorge State Park.


The 1000-acre Chimney Rock Park offered for sale to the public for $55 million. The state of North Carolina had offered $20 million.


The state of North Carolina purchases the 996-acre Chimney Rock Park from the Morse family for $24 million.


Spearheaded by Chimney Rock Mayor Barbara Meliski, an amphitheater to be known as "The Gathering Place"  was completed in downtown Chimney Rock and hosted an inaugural town celebration and pig roast.


The state's master plan for the new state park, now renamed Chimney Rock State Park, was completed and published. Contained within it are short-range plans and a long-range vision covering all aspects of park development and amenities.

Compiled by Dr. R.J. Wald, resident of Chimney Rock Village
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