To purchase a print of this drawing by author/artist
Lee Pantas, visit
Cherry Orchard Studio
Flat Rock, located a
few miles south of Hendersonville, grew up along the road up the mountain from
South Carolina. The road is winding and narrow and lined with large old trees
and most of the houses are set back from the road. For many, the only visible
sign of their presence are the stone gates at the entrances to the driveways.
Flat Rock is characterized by peaceful, uncluttered roads, large open spaces
interrupted only by tree-lined drives and the absence of any major commercial
intrusions among the stone fences and gates that lead to the many concealed
estates and great houses.
Tourism was a major factor in shaping Flat Rock since the area was settled
largely by wealthy South Carolinians in search of a cooler climate in which to
escape the hot lowland summers. The country estates represent a unique segment
of Southern social history and preserve as a living record the scale and quality
of life led by these affluent South Carolinians.
One of the most important landowners in Flat Rock was Charles Baring, a
prominent rice planter in South Carolina and a member of a well-known banking
family of England. He settled in Flat Rock with his wife, Susan, in 1827 where
he purchased substantial acreage and began construction of a home, Mountain
Lodge, the first Flat Rock house built by Charlestonians. After the Barings
settled at Flat Rock, others followed and also began to live in the mountain
area. Baring is credited with being among the first of many to find the climate
and terrain of Flat Rock to their liking. He and his wife also constructed the
beautiful church St. John in the Wilderness as a private chapel which they later
donated to the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina.
In this chapter, some of the historic homes and structures will be presented.
The ones included are those that are visible from the road. They will be
presented in the form of a self-guided auto tour that begins at the Flat Rock
Playhouse and ends with a tour of Connemara, the Carl Sandburg Home. Flat Rock
is rich with many historic residences and buildings but many of these will not
be presented since they are inaccessible and not visible from public domain. All
of Flat Rock has been declared an Historic District and is listed in the
National Register of Historic Places.
An organization which is instrumental in preservation work in Flat Rock is
Historic Flat Rock, Inc. Chartered in 1968, Historic Flat Rock, Inc. is actively
involved in education, preservation and restoration projects. Recently they were
responsible for the restoration of the Lowndes House. The organization may be
reached by writing to P.O. Box 295, Flat Rock, NC 28731.
The folowing self-guided auto tour of this area will start at the Flat Rock
Playhouse located on Highway 25 south at the junction of Little River Road.
Right next to the Playhouse is The Lowndes Place.
The Lowndes Place (NRHP) Juncture of Hwy. 25 South and Little River Rd.
Built in 1885 by Richard I. Lowndes, it was named “The Rock” because it is near
the rock outcropping from which Flat Rock takes its name. The Vagabond School of
the Drama acquired the building in 1956 and used it as an administrative office
building and dormitory in its operation of the Flat Rock Playhouse and Drama
School. The two-story, five-bay house has some distinctive features in the use
of splayed eaves without brackets and a one-bay gable porch at the central bay
of the second floor.
While at this site, you will of course want to take a look at the Flat Rock
Playhouse itself. From the Lowndes Place take
Highway 25 north to St. John in the Wilderness Church on your left.
St. John in the Wilderness Church (NRHP) 1895 Greenville Hwy.
A unique spot of southern history in a setting of idyllic beauty, St. John in
the Wilderness Episcopal Church in Flat Rock is a gable roof brick church that
has at its southeast corner a three-story square tower with pyramidal roof.
In 1833, Charles and Susan Baring built the church as a private chapel, and at
the formation of the Episcopal Diocese of Western North Carolina in 1836, the
Baring family gave up their rights to the church as a private chapel, turning
the deed to the bishop of the newly-formed diocese.
Among the family plots in the graveyard are the graves of Christopher Memminger,
first secretary of the Confederate treasury; Rev. John Grimke Drayton, developer
of the world famous Magnolia Gardens; members of families of three signers of
the Declaration of Independence; and Edward P. King, the World War II general
who led the infamous Bataan death march.
The church and graveyard are open daily 9 a.m.-4 p.m. for visitation.
Continue your tour by returning down Highway 25 heading south. After you pass
the Flat Rock Playhouse, look for the Old Post Office Building on your left.
Old Post Office (NRHP) Greenville Hwy. at Little River Rd.
This small frame building was built around 1846 by Peter Stradley, a blacksmith
who was appointed postmaster in 1845. It is two stories high and its three-bay
gable end sits almost flush with the highway. The building was used as a post
office until 1877, and then intermittently the following years until 1965.
Currently it is home to a bookstore, The Book Exchange.Continue past the Old Post Office a half a mile and look for the Flat Rock Inn
on your left at 2810 Greenville Highway. Turn into the inn’s driveway. Park if
you wish and get out and take a close look at this wonderful old building. The
inn’s owners welcome visitors.
Flat Rock Inn (NRHP) 2810 Greenville Hwy.
The Flat Rock Inn was built in 1888 as a summer retreat by R. Withers Memminger,
a minister from Charleston, South Carolina and a son of C.G. Memminger, the
first Secretary of the Treasury for the Confederate States. Officially known as
Five Oaks, the Inn served as a summer home until 1911 when it was purchased by
Thomas Grim-shawe, who resided there with his wife, Elizabeth, until 1930. The
home was given to their daughter Greta Grim-hawe King and her husband,
Campbell. Sold in 1940, the house was used as a summer residence by a number of
owners for the next 45 years. Beginning in 1985, the inn was renovated by
Barthela Galloway and ultimately purchased in 1992 by Dennis and Sandi Page,
who own and manage the property as The Flat Rock Inn.
After leaving the Flat Rock Inn, you will see directly across the street the
entrance to the Woodfield Inn.
Woodfield Inn (NRHP) Greenville Hwy.
Built in 1852, the Woodfield Inn has been a favorite destination for travelers
and vacationers for over 135 years, and is one of the most visible landmarks of
Flat Rock. It is a three-story, hip-roof, frame structure with a two-story porch
running the length of the building.
The Inn was conceived in 1847 when several prominent landowners in Flat Rock
purchased four hundred acres in the center of the community “with the design of
promoting the establishment of a good, commodious tavern at or near the Saluda
Road.” Construction was completed under the direction of Henry Tudor Farmer,
who purchased the property in 1853 and operated it as an inn under the name
“Farmer’s Hotel” until his death in 1883. Mrs. Annie T. Martin, a later owner,
changed the name to the Woodfield Inn.
The Woodfield Inn has played host to many famous people throughout its
century-old history, and during the Civil War, a company of Confererate soldiers
was bivouacked at the inn to protect the Flat Rock community from renegades. The
Woodfield Inn today is owned by Mike and Rhonda Horton and is considered one of
the premier country inns in Western North Carolina.
After leaving the Woodfield Inn, turn left and continue north on Greenville
Highway. Turn left onto Little River Road and look for the parking lot of the
Carl Sandburg Home on your left. In order to see the house and grounds properly
you will have to park here and proceed on foot. Allow one to two hours for your
visit. Connemara, as it is known, will be the last stop on your tour
of historic Flat Rock.
Connemara (NRHP, NHL) Little River Rd.
Designated a National Historic site because of its association with Carl
Sandburg, who lived there from 1945 until his death in 1967. It was built in
1838-1839 by Christopher Gustavus Memminger, later secretary of the treasury of
the Confederacy, on land purchased from Charles Baring. Memminger named the
house Rock Hill and after his death, the new owner Captain Ellison Adder Smyth,
a textile executive, changed the name to Connemara. The farm today includes 264
acres of rolling hills, forests, lakes, goat barn and buildings. The grounds and
farm are open for self-guided tours, and guided tours (admission charged) of the
home are scheduled daily.