Head for the Hills
Flat Rock, North Carolina and the surrounding area attracts Louisianians fleeing the heat
Photos Courtesy: Hubba hubba smokehouse; flat rock playhouse
Louisiana residents don’t have to be told how hot and miserable the deep coastal South can become when the depths of summer take hold. When temperatures climbed in Charleston, our South Carolina brethren headed to the mountains for relief, in particular to Flat Rock, a quaint town located on a unique plateau south of Asheville that boasted of an ideal summer climate.
“About 90 years ago, a few friends from Charleston, South Carolina, took the trip here to look for a suitable location for a summer resort,” wrote Alicia Middleton Trenholm in the 1908 “Flat Rock, North Carolina; a Sketch of the Past.” “They finally decided upon the plateau, upon which Flat Rock later materialized, as most desirable for many reasons. The scenery being beautiful; for the peaks of the Appalachian ranges could be seen in the far distance, melting into the horizon. The fine climate and delightful water were great inducements, also the fact that good roads were possible, the country being not too mountainous, which in the days of difficult transportation meant a great deal.”
Because of Flat Rock’s wonderful attributes, the folks from South Carolina eventually attracted Louisiana company. Many owned homes.
“A lot of New Orleanians have homes all over the area,” said Alex Treadway of New Orleans, whose family has property in both North Carolina and Louisiana. “My grandfather had an honest-to-God log cabin in Waynesville.”
“Historically there was a huge Louisiana and, in particular, New Orleans contingency that came up here,” said Starr Teel, owner of Flat Rock’s Hubba Hubba Smokehouse and the newly opened Campfire Grill. “Of course, Louisiana is hot in the summer and everybody wants to get up in the mountains.”
Historic Home and Theater
Even poet and author Carl Sandburg left the shores of Lake Michigan for Flat Rock to live on the former estate of Confederate leader Christopher G. Memminger. His wife, Paula, wanted to raise goats and be closer to her brother who lived in the Asheville area.
Next door to the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site lies another piece of history. The Flat Rock Playhouse, the state theatre of North Carolina, began in 1940 when the Vagabond Players decided to make Western North Carolina their home. The combination of residents and tourists made their move successful and today it hosts a nine-month season of plays, which includes Broadway musicals.
Dining with History
But what many people associate with Flat Rock, as well as Brevard and Henderson today are the summer camps, still a welcomed respite from the brutal summers further south. New Orleanians and many from the Deep South have spent much of their youth at camps with names such as Camp Ton-A-Wandah, Camp Wayfarer and Camp Pinnacle. The list goes on and on.
Teel, who hails from Missouri, attended Falling Creek Camp as a counselor. He returned to Flat Rock, opening Hubba Hubba in a renovated building along the town’s “Rainbow Row,” a colorful collection of historic structures that’s a nod to Charleston history. Teel has been serving up wood-fired barbecue for 15 years at his establishment, located along the state’s historic barbecue trail.
“This [Flat Rock] is the epicenter of summer camps,” he said of the region. “A lot of us here are also lawyers, doctors, teachers, politicians, but we’re all here because of the summer camp community. We came, we had that experience, and we kept looping back. Now, we’ve settled here.”
His latest restaurant offers a nod to the numerous camps of the region. The rustic wood décor of Teel’s Campfire Grill reminds visitors of previous summers, with a variety of camp photos gracing the walls — kids scaling mountainsides, building campfires, swimming in lakes. It’s meant to feel like a community gathering space, he offered, much like those childhood experiences of summer.
And these are devoid of the hot and humid climate we know back in Louisiana.