Preserving Treasured Qualities of Vacation Life for over 70 Years....A Secluded Lodge & Seven Spacious Guest Cottages for Quiet Getaways or Family Retreats...B&B with Activities or Lodging Only Rates...Recreate or Relax...Wood-burning Rock Fireplaces ...A Private Portal for Hiking Trails to Magnificent Overlooks...A Fleet of Boats for all forms of Water Sports...Massage, Tennis, Golf & Horseback Riding...A Glimpse of the Past...Warm Hospitality...A World Away at Lake Lure, NC         

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Happy New Year! ~ We Thank You for Visiting us during our 2008 Season!

The Chalet Club is Closed for the Winter

Please check back for the yet-to-be-announced 2009 Rates & Dates 

 

 

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One Family’s Heritage of Hospitality since 1934

By Bob Washburn

Entering the 70th anniversary year of my Grandfather opening the doors of his chalet to guests inspired me to recount some of my family’s experiences as innkeepers. In a recently discovered letter from P.T. Barnum to my great grandfather, his descriptions of orchestrating a three ring circus seemed very familiar with the juggling act - or some might suggest the clown act - that we have performed on a daily basis as innkeepers.  Along with all of the different jobs entailed, the gifts of friendship with those who have crossed the Chalet’s threshold and the privilege of raising children in this mountain paradise standout in the snapshot of our family business.

 Influenced by his love of the German Alps that had surrounded him as he attended medical school at the turn of the last century, my granddad, James Murray Washburn, immediately grasped the opportunity to buy a lot from the Morse family’s Chimney Rock Mountains land development company in 1925. Granddad had journeyed to the region from his home in Chicago to visit his oldest son, Ned, who was employed by the Elmore’s textile mill in Spindale. With the assistance of his architect brother-in-law, Courtland Van Brunt, Granddad developed the plans for his chalet.  On subsequent visits to the area, he cleared the lot and constructed a tower from which he took photographs. He then superimposed pictures of the scale model of the chalet, which he had built from Courtland’s blue prints, to find the perfect orientation on the lot with its spectacular view of Hickory Nut Gorge. The timing was perfect – soon after the centerpiece lake of the Morse’s venture reached full pond, the craftsmen completed construction of the Washburn’s dream home. The roaring twenties were to bring travelers and summer residents to this posh new town of Lake Lure that was to be the Hamptons of the Southeast. The yet to be constructed - horseracing tracks, amphitheaters, arboretums, yacht clubs and golf courses in almost every cove of the steep terrain would complete the plans for their resort community, but the financial chaos of the depression kept some of the Morse’s dreams from reaching fruition.

Nevertheless, the lure of Lake Lure and their wonderful Chalet proved too much to resist. After much deliberation, Granddad and my Grandmother left their home and his medical practice in Chicago and became innkeepers - opening “The Chalet” to guests in 1934. In addition to the caretaker’s cottage (now known as the Honeymoon Cottage), they constructed two more dwellings – the East and West Cottages in which his mother and they would reside while guests occupied the Chalet during the season.  Staffed by wonderful folk from the area, (Lester and Laura Belle Logan and John Bradley representing the core group) the small inn began to establish itself as a wonderful vacation destination.

Granddad had bought lots on the lake as well as the one on Pool Creek Mountain where the Chalet was built. Guests would gravitate to the boathouse to swim or to explore the lake in one of Granddad’s canoes or his electric boat, “Slip Along”.  Lester and Granddad began a family legacy of digging hiking trails into the slopes of the mountain.  Four generation of Washburns with the assistance of Chalet staff have – up to this point – carefully carved seven miles of paths to overlooks on the upper reaches of the mountain and to the waterfalls at the Bottomless Pools below.  A project requested by my teenage father in the late twenties was the construction of a tennis court. Given a limited budget of $200 by his father, Dad contracted with Oscar Robertson (Daisy Nobblet’s father) and a family who lived in the shadow of Shumont Mountain. Oscar dug the court out of the mountainside with his mule team and drag-pan. Recollections of seeing Mr. Robinson’s campfire flicker by his covered wagon during the evenings of the court’s construction still dance in Dad’s memories of his youth.

Granddad and Gam (Grandmother) decided to close the Chalet during the Second World War, but continued in their role as hosts. They regularly entertained troops that were on leave at the Lake Lure Inn. Presenting his wonderful collection of photographic slides on the screen in the Chalet’s living room was the evening event for Granddad. The troops delighted in his sense of humor, as well. In the midst of the show, he would project a scantily clad blonde bombshell onto the screen and mention that the picture had been taken while she was sunning on one of the rock overlooks on the mountain. Needless to say, the hiking trails saw a lot of activity the following day.

After a whirlwind romance with Dorothy Hudson, who was vacationing with her family at the Lake Lure Inn in 1938, Dad proposed to Mom on board “Slip Along”. In 1946, while raising their family in New York City as Dad worked his way up the ladder with Pan American Airlines, the same decision was made that his parents had reached… the lure of Lake Lure and the Chalet were too great. Lester and Dad spent many months renovating the structures and The Chalet Club was reopened for business in 1947. The “club” part was added as a means of marketing through word of mouth advertising. John Bradley continued to prepare wonderful meals and the warm smiles from Lester and Laura Belle amplified the quality of their service. Clientele were returning home - singing the praises of their newfound vacation hideaway and introducing new members.

Through the fifties and the sixties membership in the club slowly grew, and every year, many members returned to vacation for the same week. Relationships between the Washburns and their guests became more like that of a family. Profits from the business were reinvested into improving the offerings along with acquiring neighboring land and cottages. A swimming pool, motor boats for fishing and water skiing, and air conditioning the accommodations were some of the improvements of the era.

In the seventies, my wife Anne and I took the reins of the management team. During our tenure, we have honored the Washburn heritage of hospitality, plus improved and expanded the offerings for our clientele. Possibly our most challenging task has been to preserve the qualities of vacation life that were treasured by the families who traveled here for seven decades. In this world of dramatic change, maintaining sameness is valued as a remarkable calm. There are now seven guest cottages that, along with the Chalet, accommodate up to a total of 40 guests. We continue to welcome friends - both old and new - to our family home.

 

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