Sarah E. Kucharski photo
The red fox in downtown Brevard was the first work commissioned for the outdoor public art trail in downtown.
Brevard, N.C. is known for two things—waterfalls and white squirrels.
The moniker “Land of Waterfalls” comes from the 250 waterfalls located throughout Transylvania County including Whitewater Falls, which is the highest waterfall in the Eastern United States at 411 feet.
The most popular waterfalls naturally are those that are easily accessible. Looking Glass Falls is one of the most photographed waterfalls in America. Connestee Falls is a 110-foot double waterfall that bears a local legend in which an Indian maiden leapt to her death over the falls after losing her lover. Bridal Veil Falls is one of the most unique as it drops off an overhanging ledge that allows
A guide to the Brevard area waterfalls can be found at the Transylvania County Tourism Development Office on Main Street, or go to www.visitwaterfalls.com. Always remember that waterfalls are beautiful, but dangerous. The rocks that surround them are quite slippery. Pay attention to people and pets.
As for the white squirrels, the striking animals easily can be seen scampering about town with their nearly solid white fur. But these oddities are not albinos, rather they’re descendants of a carnival act. The story is that Mrs. W.E. Mull received a pair of white squirrels from her brother-in-law. Mrs. Mull’s brother-in-law got the squirrels from a friend in Florida in 1949. A carnival truck had overturned near the friend’s house and the squirrels had escaped, and were later caught playing in the man’s pecan grove.
Mull kept the squirrels until she married and left home in 1951. Eventually one squirrel escaped and the other was let go. On their own, they began breeding in the wild. The population of white squirrels has nonetheless remained small compared to that of the ubiquitous grey squirrel. City Council members voted in 1986 to declare the town a squirrel sanctuary.
Since 1997 volunteers help students at Brevard College count the white squirrel population. Each fall, Bob Glesener, director of the White Squirrel Research Institute, coordinates the effort. The study area is approximately three square miles following the original city limits. It is divided into 35 sectors, each roughly 20-30 acres in size. During the years of study, the population of the white squirrels in Brevard has held steady at about 25 percent of the entire squirrel population. Although the count is not an actual census, it does give an accurate estimate of the percentage of the white versus gray squirrels.
Using other methods, the Institute has also estimated the squirrel density on the Brevard College campus to be more than twice that of most of the rest of the study area. The high squirrel population and resulting high percentage of the white variant make the campus one of the best places for visitors to view their first white squirrel.
Find a grove of trees, sit quietly, watch and wait. Each spring the town hosts the White Squirrel Festival featuring live music, street vendors, children’s activities, races, wildlife exhibits, a guided tour to look for the white squirrels, a white squirrel photo contest and more. For more information about the festival, visit www.whitesquirrelfestival.com.
Spend a day knocking about downtown Brevard enjoying the quaint shops and unique places to grab a bite to eat. The downtown area is pedestrian friendly and offers a wide selection of things to do.
Children particularly will enjoy Rocky’s Soda Shop, which brings back 1950s America with its silver and red décor, lunch counter, and hand-dipped ice cream. Around the corner O.P. Taylor’s bills itself as “the coolest toy store on the planet” and offers an excellent selection of educational toys, classics and gizmos. Children who are old enough to spend a little time on their own can take in a matinee for $6.25 at the Co-Ed Cinema while the adults while away the hours in the shops. Those of note include The Proper Pot, a large and well-stocked kitchen store; the Brevard Antique Mall and Underground Salvage Co., with its rooms of fascinating remnants of the past; several art galleries each with their own spin on things; the White Squirrel, a downtown shopping institution; and D.D. Bullwinkle’s, which offers clothing and accessories geared toward the outdoors.
Choosing a place for a mid-afternoon pick me up is perhaps the hardest choice downtown Brevard visitors will have to face. Kiwi Gelato makes its treats from scratch using all natural ingredients and flavors ranging from cappuccino latte to rum raisin, or dairy-free sorbetto in flavors including blood orange, green apple and mango.
Bracken Mountain Bakery is an excellent spot for a fresh baked good and a cup of coffee or espresso, for which the beans come from Brown Bean Coffee Roaster just down the street. Bracken Mountain bustles with customers buying snacks for themselves and whole loaves, which include Blue Ridge Sourdough, Honey Cracked Wheat and Bracken Harvest Brown. Down the street at the Hollingsworth Shops, Quotations is a classic coffee café open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It offers free wireless Internet.
And for dinner don’t miss Marco Trattoria, Hob Nob and Square Root. Of the three, Marco Trattoria is best for kids with its wood oven pizza, pasta dishes, and a special menu for those under 12. Hob Nob is located immediately next door and puts a bit of a Cajun flavor into the menu. The brie and Granny Smith apple grilled cheese served with Frangelico praline sauce at Square Root is worth going out of one’s way for, and the menu earns high marks for being vegetarian friendly.
A destination for two
Brevard makes an excellent getaway for families—or couples seeking the great outdoors. Hiking, biking and horseback riding are just some of the activities to enjoy. For lunch place an order of sushi at Sora—which is well known for its fresh fish and Zen-like interior despite its strip mall location. Then feel the love while sharing a signature massage and mini foot reflexology treatment at Elements Spa. The spa uses BioMat technology that combines amethyst crystal, negative ions and far-infrared heat, which increases circulations, relieves pain and inflammation, and strengthens the immune system. Feeling refreshed, stroll on over to Downtown Chocolates to fill a box with your choice of their handmade creations. Their chai chocolates are luxurious.
Like the majority of western North Carolina, the area around Brevard was home to early settlers who were descendants of the Scots-Irish. Many migrated up from South Carolina. Settlers lived in relative peace with the native Cherokee until approximately 1839 when the Indian population began to be viewed as a deterrent to the further expansion of the white community. The native population was greatly impacted by diseases brought in by white settlers and was driven from native lands, which in turn brought an influx of white settlers.
The town of Brevard began in the spring of 1861, the same year the county originated. The county was named Transylvania from the Latin “trans” meaning across and “sylvan” meaning woods. Brevard itself was named for Ephriam Brevard, a colonel in the Revolutionary Army and surgeon. He was esteemed for having drafted the Mecklenburg Declaration, which is considered to be the first Declaration of Independence made in American during the Revolution. The document supposedly was written in Charlotte, N.C. on May 20, 1775; however, no original text exists. North Carolina’s government nonetheless was persuaded that the Mecklenburg Declaration was authentic and that the state consequently was the first to assert its independence from Britain. To this day, the state seal and flag bear the date of May 20, 1775. A monument in front of Brevard City Hall honors Col. Brevard.
Brevard grew slowly and by 1867 the town had only 50 people. More settlers streamed in when the railroad came into Transylvania County in 1895, providing much needed transportation. Soon commerce was booming, largely due to a successful tannery and the creation of several resorts targeting wealthy visitors in search of relief from summer’s heat. Henry Ford and Thomas Edison were among those who came to visit the area.
Today, the town’s population is around 7,000 full-time residents. Part-timers swell increase number in the warmer months.
Smoky Mountain Living visited Brevard's unique eco-lodging option Down to Earth Cottages, located off the Scenic 276 South Fine Arts and Craft Corridor. The three cottages are tucked in amongst the rhododendrons, a flower, herb and vegetable garden, and large campfire area. Each cabin incorporates eco-friendly touches such as recycling containers, fluorescent light bulbs and essential oil soaps. Owner Hannah Small also offers kayaks and canoes to use to explore the French Broad River, which borders the property.
www.downtoearthcottages.com • 828.884.7572
Adventures in Brevard also were courtesy of Lake Toxaway Realty Company, which manages Davidson River Outfitter's West Fork cabin. The secluded rental is an ideal place to escape with the family or fishing buddies. The waters of the West Fork offer up trophy rainbow trout. At a screened-in porch, non-anglers can idly pass the time.
www.lake-toxaway.com • 828.966.4029
Lodging in downtown Brevard can be found at the charming and historic Red House Inn. Built in 1851 and newly remodeled, the inn is a welcoming and comfortable place that brings luxury to one's stay. An added benefit is a delicious, cooked English breakfast using local ingredients.
www.brevardbedandbreakfast.com • 828.884.9349