By Kathy M. Newbern & J.S. Fletcher © 2011
Part 2 of 3
With a record-setting five days of 100-or-higher temperatures here in the Triangle, we appreciate even more our recent trip over to The Greystone Inn on Lake Toxaway. The community is located at the decidedly cooler elevation of 3,010 feet, with Mt. Toxaway rising to 4,777 feet.
As you read in Part 1, there’s lot to do at Greystone, but it’s easy to understand why one activity – the complimentary evening champagne cruise aboard the Miss Lucy – is everyone’s favorite: It’s cool in so many ways.
Cool air, cool water, cool people aboard, cool scenery, cool homes around the lake, cool captain telling cool stories, cool refreshments headlined by cold champagne. This is an outing you don’t want to miss.
Signing up for a seat is recommended due to its popularity. The cruise leaves every evening from the boathouse a few steps below the President’s Suite corner of the main inn. We signed up both nights of our stay, and each time the boat was full of jovial guests.
Miss Lucy, a 26-passenger mahogany launch, is enclosed to protect from direct sun or inclimate weather, but her windows open so the cool air flows through. As you’ll see in the accompanying slideshow, she is a Hacker-Craft (which has nothing to do with golf though Lake Toxaway Country Club is steps away). To the contrary, Miss Lucy was hand made by the legendary, hundred-year-old boat company Hacker-Craft, famous for designing and building beautiful mahogany runabouts, sport boats, launches, utilities, commuters and water taxis from 20 to 42 feet.
Miss Lucy comes in at 33 feet and utilizes a half-dozen car batteries to power her 3.5-horsepower electric engine. As speedboats race by pulling water skiers and tubers at speeds approaching 30 mph, the quiet, leisurely pace of this stylish boat is ultra relaxing and perfect for viewing the lavish estates around the lake and hearing about them.
We had two different captains: the second night, volunteer Wes, a lake resident; and on our initial outing, Inn Manager Clark Lovelace who confided that among his many jobs “cruise captain is the best of those titles.”
Wes and Clark were equally enthusiastic on the water. The guests were from all over, some first-timers, but mostly repeaters who really could have led the tour themselves. The Greystone Inn is a magnet for honeymooners and anniversary celebrants, illustrated by the high percentage of both of our cruises.
The captains were gracious leaders, knowing when to speak and when to let the repeaters tell the tales, such as Hal from Athens, GA, who’s been coming here for 20 years. “We love this place,” he told us, so he and his bride of 51 years were celebrating that milestone at Greystone Inn. Other cruisers were marking their 40- and 25-year anniversaries. We announced we were celebrating – um, Tuesday!
The Real Miss Lucy
We watched the gentle lapping water as Miss Lucy moved adjacent to the shoreline, dotted with homes and trees and the mountains beyond. We listened to Clark explain, for insteance, that “Toxaway” is Cherokee for red bird, which explains the prominent cardinal in the inn and lake logo.
We also heard how, in 1902, the lake resulted from construction of a 500-foot dam by E.H. Jennings. Not long after came Greystone Inn’s predecessor – the 250-room, luxury Lake Toxaway Inn were guests often arrived by train car as the railroad line ended close by.
The story continues, sadly, with the demise of that inn because of the 1916 flood that burst the dam: 23 inches of rain in 24 hours (miraculously no one died). It was, incidentally, the largest recorded rainfall in North Carolina’s history. The story takes a heartwarming turn, though, because of the people who stayed and helped grow the area to its present stature.
Among those determined few was Lucy Armstrong (Miss Lucy is named in her honor). She and her first husband, George, came here in 1910. It was on her fifth visit that she announced, looking out over the expanse of water: “George, I’d like so much for you to build me a home here.”
Clark tells how her doubtful husband said if she could stick it out a summer camping here, then he’d consider her request. “Miss Lucy was a very unique lady,” Clark continues, “so she said ‘OK, George, let’s shake on it.’ ”
She then proceeded to have a hardwood floor put down for 2,000-square-feet of tented living space for her “summer of roughing it” – she and her servants.
By the end of 1915, her dream of a home here was completed.
After the untimely death of her husband George, Miss Lucy remarried Carl Moltz, all the while continue to develop the lakeside estate. It became known as the Moltz Mansion and eventually became part of The Greystone Inn. (In Part 1, you read how the Inn’s Presidential Suite encompases what was the mansion library.)
Key to the more recent history was the re-damming in 1960 that formed the current Lake Toxaway, at 640 acres the largest private lake in North Carolina.
That likewise led to the formation of Toxaway Estates those 51 years ago with prices starting at $50 an acre. Now, of the community’s 900 homes, half are lakefront and half of the lake area is accessible from state roads. Waterfront, land alone goes for about a million for two-thirds of an acre.
Many of the current homes dotting the lakefront are impressive; one has an asking price of $14.5 million. Gliding past the homes, more modest to the lavish, imagination runs wild as we hear the owners are entrepreneurs from Coca Cola, NAPA Auto Parts, Home Depot, Race Track Gas, and more. We can easily picture the parties, barbecues and countless weekends of fun.
Only 12 percent of homeowners live here full-time, so for many, this is their getaway, leaving behind the big-city “heat, humidity and traffic” of say, Atlanta, Charlotte and Raleigh.
We hear there’s one dog on the lake, Max, who knows the Miss Lucy by sight and will bark in welcome (though he must have been napping on our outings).
Clark, whose father was part of the development team for the current inn, notes: “To me, the neat thing about Toxaway is that we continue to make small changes but we do it in a way so people coming back say, ‘Oh, I like how nothing ever changes.’”
We bet that when you visit Lake Toxaway, even if you play golf, tennis or croquet; swim, boat or hike; dine, spa or fish, you will be among those who rate the champagne cruise aboard the Miss Lucy your most favorite activity.
Oh, and adhere to Clark Lovelace’s two tenets: 1) if you see a boater in trouble, help him because you’ll be the one needing help someday, and 2) don’t tell any secrets on the lake – your voice carries.
If You’re Going: Ask about the “Camp Toxaway” package at Greystone Inn now through August. After picking up the kids from summer camp, enjoy a family getaway starting at $199 per night mid-week. Or, schedule an autumn visit in the height of leaf season with Greystone’s Waterfalls package September through November (excluding holidays). It starts at $299 midweek and $399 weekends. The Inn is located in Transylvania County, the Land of Waterfalls – there are 250 of them.
To book these or other stays, call 800-824-5766 or 828-966-4700 or visit www.greystoneinn.com. And for more on what to see and do in the North Carolina mountains, go to www.visitnc.com, or phone 800.VISIT.NC.
Coming up in Part 3: Dining at Greystone Inn. And, read about the many activities at Greystone Inn in Part 1.
If you enjoyed this story, you might also enjoy:
• Other stories by Kathy M. Newbern, Luxury Travel Examiner
• International travel stories by Newbern and Fletcher
• Stories by JS Fletcher, International Travel Examiner
Luxury Travel Examiner Kathy M. Newbern and spouse, J.S. Fletcher, report on luxury destinations, spas and cruising around the globe. They are award-winning members of the Society of American Travel Writers and created YourSpaReport.com and YourNovel.com, their personalized romance novel business.