The History of Highland Lake Inn & Resort
Land Grant to John Earle, who established the 1st grist mill (to the right, in front of the waterfall as you enter the property) and opened the first road to the area.
Officially named “Flat Rock.”
Charles Baring built “Solitude” on a hill overlooking the lake.
Sold to George Trenholm, Secretary of Confederate Treasury, who lived there one year and sold it.
The Honorable William Aiken – Governor of South Carolina, purchased the property. Passed it on to his daughter, Mrs. A. Burnet Rhett, whose father-in-law, Robert Barnwell Rhett, owned “The Charleston Mercury” and was the author of the first draft of the Ordinance of Secession. The mill was renamed Rhett’s Mill and was located on Rhett’s Mill Pond, now called Highland Lake.
Highland Lake Club – Joseph Holt and a group of Columbia and Charleston, SC, businessmen organized the Highland Lake Club as a corporation. They bought nearly 500 acres of land in the Flat Rock area and enlarged the lake to the largest in the county at that time. The land of this new corporation was subdivided into large lots which were to be sold for summer homes. An owner of a lot had all the privileges of the lake, such as boating, swimming, and fishing, as well as the privilege of the Highland Lake Club House. It was a big rustic type hotel that had all of the modern conveniences of the day including a large lobby and dance hall, which were to be lighted by electricity- a rare thing in this area in those days. The Club would furnish hotel accommodations to club members and their guests and serve meals to those members who had built cottages. The Club had its own orchestra that played at meal times and for dances. John Ingils (or Ingles), a nationally known golf expert, was brought here to lay out the only 18 hole golf course in the entire mountain area of Western North Carolina at the time and predicted to become the Mecca of golf enthusiasts the world over. Too far ahead of its time, the Club failed after two years.
Fleet School for Boys, a preparatory school, operated during the fall, winter and spring months. During the summer months, the facility operated as a hotel called Highland Lake Inn. Unfortunately, the original Inn burned, but, you can still see some of the footings.
The Carolina Military and Naval Academy (under the auspices of the Georgia Military Academy). Just before World War I, Highland Lake Inn and the surrounding property, including the cottages and the lake, was purchased by Colonel J.C. Woodward, who established a school for boys (also known as Camp Highland Lake) that offered a choice of either military or naval training. Camp Highland Lake was under the direction of Colonel J.C. Woodward until the time of his death in 1939. His son, Major C.D. Woodward, then continued as owner and director of Camp Highland Lake until 1947.
Robroy Farquhar opened “The Old Mill Playhouse” in the mill, starring actresses “Kim Hunter” and “Joanne Woodward.” (Later moved and became the Flat Rock Playhouse.)
Property sold to Berryman Longino who ran the “All American Boys Camp.
Camp Brandeis, a summer camp and school for young people of the Jewish faith.
Our Lady of the Hill’s Camp, a Catholic camp for boys and girls on Madonna Lake, now Highland Lake.
Highland Lake Inn and Conference Center, operated by the Lindsey family.
Highland Lake Inn & Resort is purchased by the Grup family. Today, the entire property has been lovingly restored to offer unique and charming dining and lodging experiences. Our award-winning restaurant, Season’s, takes pride in offering fine dining in a casual country setting where seasonal menus are based on the flow of produce from our organic gardens.