The dramatic changes which brought Western North Carolina from a primitive mountain wilderness to one of the most desirable year-round vacation spots in the United States began in 1888 when George W. Vanderbilt purchased 3,000 acres of land and created the famed French chateau-style estate, Biltmore. Soon, other northern entrepreneurs followed. In 1901, Edward Baccus came to the area and built "The Cold Mountain Lodge", the present day Canaan Land.
The area became known as "The Switzerland of America" and encompassed several fabulous resorts such as the Fairfield Inn, the Sapphire Inn, and the Toxaway Inn. These resorts could not have been developed if Southern Railway had not built a rail system from Asheville, which, incidentally, was the steepest railroad system in the United States. At the time, there were very few roads in the region and the railroad was a vital link between the resorts and the affluent travelers they needed to attract.
The arrival of the railroad coincided with the creation of Lake Toxaway and the opening of the Toxaway Inn in 1903. The Lake and the Inn were magnificent achievements for their time. Lake Toxaway was the first artificial lake built in the Appalachian Mountains and there was not another comparable private lake in the Eastern United States.
The Toxaway Inn accommodated 500 guests. It rose five stories above the lake and was elegantly designed and decorated. More than 40 species of wood was cut from the property and used for the woodwork. Within this marvel were modern wonders: central heat, electrical engineering, private indoor plumbing, long-distance telephones and even elevators.
French chefs prepared the finest cuisine. Guests were served in a romantic dining room adorned with imported crystal and dinnerware, gleaming sterling silver and the finest linens. The lavish style of the Inn attracted the most famous of families. Names frequently seen on the guest register were Ford, Firestone, Burroughs, Edison, Reynolds, Vanderbilt, Duke and Wanamaker.
In 1903, Edward Baccus built the "Cold Mountain Lodge" with the original estate consisting of three chestnut log buildings; the two-story hunting lodge (Cana), a staff/caretakers cabin (Damascus), and a large stable (Fair Haven), all overlooking a spring fed lake.
Mr. Baccus was a Brazilian rubber plantation owner and sold crude rubber to Americans. He built his hunting lodge to entertain rubber buyers and personal guests. The older local people of Lake Toxaway, whose families served on the Baccus staff, tell of visits by Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, Thomas Edison, John Burroughs and other famous dignitaries. It is reputed that a member of the Roosevelt family gave Mr. Baccus a small, footed bathtub for the Lodge, which is still in use today. The story is told that Henry Ford, being a tall, angular man could hardly fold himself up enough to bathe in the tiny tub.
With the outbreak of World War 1, Mr. Baccus left the United States and subsequently sold his estate in 1917 to Jerome Moltz, a lumber baron and his wife, Lucy. Mr. Moltz commissioned the railroad built to extend to the backside of the "Cold Mountain Lodge" and the old railroad bed varies little from the present car road to Canaan Land today. All the rocks were hand drilled and broken with black powder. The brakeman on the Shay locomotive, Guy Whitmire, tells of making two trips a day from “Canaan Land atop Cold Mountain” in the 1920’s. This same train would later be used from 1922-1940's to transport girls to the exclusive “Camp Toxaway”, aka Canaan Land, which is reflected on many North Carolina maps and surveys.
Mrs. Moltz thought the weather atop the mountain was too cold, so she had Greystone, now the Greystone Inn, built and sold the Lodge to Sally Joiner Davis and her sister Katherine Davis in January of 1922. At this time, four other buildings were added to the property and operated successfully as "Camp Toxaway", a camp for girls, most of whom were the daughters of the millionaires frequenting the Toxaway Inn.
Baccus' Cold Mountain Lodge (Canaan Land) is located in Cold Mountain Gap, above Lake Toxaway, at the headwaters of the Toxaway River. It is Swiss/American Mountain architecture and was built over a three-year period from 1903-1906. It was constructed of native chestnut logs up to 16” in diameter, chosen because the chestnuts were then being subject to the East Indian Blight, which eventually killed them all. The logs were cut and hauled up the mountain on oxen drawn carts lined with hay to protect the bark, which remains mostly in tack today. To construct the buildings, tripods with block and tackle were built so that the oxen could pull the logs up earthen slopes mounded higher and higher as the walls went up. The Lodge has twin red brick fireplaces with intricate brick sculpturing and were built for Edward Baccus by the Moss family. Mr. Baccus also ordered the large stone fireplace in the stable to keep the horses warm in the winter.
The interior walls of the 8-room hunting lodge are hand hewed chestnut logs. The exposed ceiling beams are poplar logs with tongue and groove oak planking, forming the ceilings and the floor for the second story. Oak planking was also used for the second story ceiling and interior gables and first story floors. The Lodge has ten gables, two covered porches and diamond mullioned windows being reminiscent of a 19th century hunting lodge. Original and "of the period" craftsmanship has not been altered in 110 years except for kitchen rehabilitation and the addition of electricity in the summer of 1986.
In 1955 the estate was purchased by Pastor and Mrs. J. Dan Williams and their church from Greenville, South Carolina. It was operated as a Christian camp for children and as a retreat for groups looking for the perfect getaway spot. At this time the property was renamed "Canaan Land" to reflect the Christian convictions of Pastor and Mrs. Williams. The building were given biblical names: the gatehouse was named Antioch; the caretakers cabin, Bethel; the "Cold Mountain Lodge", Cana; the staff cabin, Damascus; the stable, Fair Haven; and a guest cottage, Galatia.
Upon the death of Mrs. Williams in 1983, the property was offered for sale and subsequently purchased in May of 1986 by George Corbett and his wife Nancy for the purpose of a retreat for Pastors, missionaries, and other full time workers of the Baptist faith. Since then a two-story cabin (the Lodge), maintenance barns, shop, and a waterfront pavilion have been built. Also, 12 birdhouse cabins (donated by the Wilds Christian Camp) and a one story cabin (Mountain Laurel) have been added to the property and put into service. In addition, 2 new fishing ponds and 6 RV sites were added at the entrance to Canaan Land for traveling evangelist and volunteer workers. In 2002, an authentic amusement park ride-on train was added. Also a children's "Noah's Ark" play area is a recent addition.
Presently under construction, is a western themed mountain-style Putt-Putt golf course and a gem-mining flume both due to be finished in 2018.
In June of 1986, the U.S. Department of the Interior placed "Canaan Land" on the National Register of Historic Places. Since 1986, thousands of guest and hundreds of volunteers have all been a part of God’s plan.
The above information has been compiled from:
The National Register of Historic Places of the United States
The Toxaway Company Archives and The North Carolina Division of Archives