History of the Calhoun House
The Historic Calhoun House
was built sometime before 1925, possibly as early as 1904, as a boarding
house and according to local legend, the boarders helped to construct
It was operated by a number of owners until the Granville I. Calhoun
family bought it. Granville Calhoun and his children operated
the place as a boarding house and hotel until 1967. Mr. Calhoun
lived to be 104. He was a legendary mountain man renowned
for his feats as a hunter, fisherman, and storyteller. He
lived in the Hazel Creek area of Swain County before purchasing
the building and renaming it the Calhoun Hotel. At Hazel
Creek he had owned and operated a boarding house also. Calhoun
was written up in Horace Kephart's book Our Southern Highlanders,
which was published first in 1913. He was later quoted in
Michael Frome's book, Strangers in High Places, the story of the
Smoky Mountains, which was published in the early 1960's.
It is said by local people that Kephart was a regular visitor
to the hotel before Calhoun bought it, and it may have been Kephart
who told Calhoun of the building and urged him to buy it.
Granville Calhoun and the Calhoun Hotel figured prominently in
the development of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Horace
Kephart was one of the writers who wrote about and promoted the
establishment of the park over a period of almost thirty years
from about the turn of the century until his death.
The Calhoun Hotel was one of the places leaders in western North
Carolina used for a meeting place when they were planning the establishment
of an organization called Western North Carolina Associated Communities
in the late 1940's and early 1950's. The WNCAC led to the
development of the Cherokee Historical Association which started
the outdoor drama, Unto These Hills, the most successful outdoor
drama in the United States.
The WNCAC and the Cherokee Historical Association started the
Oconaluftee Indian Village on the Cherokee Indian Reservation which
is a recreation of a two hundred year old Cherokee Indian Village. WNCAC
and the Cherokee Historical Association started the Qualla Craft
Shop on the Cherokee Indian Reservation which markets authentic
crafts made by the Cherokee craftspeople. All three of these,
the drama, the village, and the craft shop, contribute to the education
and economy of the Cherokee people.
WHen the Fontana Dam was being planned and built, during the thirties
and forties, some of the planning meetings were held at the Calhoun. Later
in the 1940's, when construction was underway, some of the leaders
found lodging and food at the Calhoun.
According to local legend, in the 1930's, 40's, and 50's, the
Calhoun was the only public place in Swain County where white people,
black people, and Cherokee Indian people worked together peacefully
and profitably without problems or prejudice of any kind.