horizontal banner with Preserve America logo and images of a historic downtown, farm, courthouse, and mountain

Preserve America is a national initiative in cooperation with the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation; the U.S. Departments of Defense, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, and Education; the National Endowment for the Humanities; the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities; and the President's Council on Environmental Quality.

Preserve America Community:
Transylvania County, North Carolina

Transylvania County (population 30,991) was formed in 1861 from parts of Henderson and Jackson counties, with Brevard as the county seat. The county was originally created because remote parts of Henderson County were extremely isolated from towns, a courthouse, or adequate representation in the state government.

Essentially an agrarian society, many water-powered mills operated throughout the county, along with a foundry and the Gillespie Gun Works. It was a misfortune, however, that the Civil War began during the county's fledgling days. Taxes were used to equip soldiers for war, and the county made do with only a wooden courthouse until 1884.

Transylvania County has always been known for its scenic beauty and waterfalls. Besides farming and logging, tourism became an important industry as early as the 1850s. The Gower Hotel was constructed in Cedar Mountain, along with a few summer homes for the privileged populace of the "low-country."

When the Hendersonville-Brevard Railroad reached Brevard in the late 19th century, industry began to thrive, mostly in the form of logging and tanneries. Tourism continued to grow as well, and today it is the main industry of Transylvania County. Heritage tourism is an essential part of that, and 23 homes and two historic districts have been locally designated in the county, several of which are also on the National Register of Historic Places.

For many years, the people of Transylvania County had wished for a museum to preserve the folkways and history of their mountain county. In 2007, a group of citizens founded the Transylvania Heritage Coalition, which partnered with other groups and government offices to plan, fundraise for, and establish a museum. The Transylvania Heritage Museum opened in 2008, and has a threefold focus: to tell the county's history with exhibits and displays, to provide strong educational programs for adults and children, and to present a distinct destination for tourism.

In 2009, the Transylvania Heritage Museum was chosen as one of three sites in a 22-county area to participate in Friends of Mountain History's Oral History Program. That year the museum also hosted its first Annual Founder's Day Fair, a street festival that celebrates the founding families of Transylvania County. Crafters demonstrate their skills and sell their wares in old-fashioned arts like spinning, weaving, patchwork, woodcarving, and more, many dressed in period costumes, and local musicians play throughout the day.

For more information:

Transylvania County: http://www.transylvaniacounty.org/
Transylvania County Historical Society: http://www.preservingourpast.org/
Transylvania Heritage Museum: http://www.transylvaniaheritage.org/
Friends of Mountain History: http://www.fomhnc.org/

Updated October 25, 2010

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