January 1st marks the 89th anniversary of the official opening, in 1932, of the highway connecting Brevard and Greenville. Then known as highway 284 in North Carolina (now U.S. Route 276, the southern portion of which is also known as the Greenville highway), the new connection added approximately 50 miles to the existing road, and linked Brevard to the then-new South Carolina highway at the state line. Brevard and Greenville were finally joined by a modern road.
|Postcard of section of unpaved highway to
Greenville, S.C. Undated
If you’ve ever traveled on the southbound 276 to Greenville, you will probably agree that even though 89 years may have passed, the highway is still “a remarkably fine piece of engineering construction throughout, and evidences unusual road building skill, particularly in the manner in which it negotiates the difficult curves and grades necessary to an ascent to the Head [Caesar’s Head]” (The Greenville News, January 2, 1932).
The achievement was greatly appreciated by all in 1932, as residents of both Transylvania and Greenville counties rejoiced at the fact that a trip that once “called for an all-day journey and far into the night” could now be made in a little over one hour’s time. Transylvania farmers and truckers were very happy, since they now had two good markets at which to sell their goods, both within a short distance of home. The development was also hailed by members of the Brevard and Greenville Chambers of Commerce; these local business leaders were quite excited at the prospect of greatly increased economic activity between the two areas, particularly tourism. Indeed, the new stretch of highway now made it much easier for Transylvanians to go shopping in Greenville’s larger stores, and in general to enjoy the varied cultural offerings of a city considerably larger than Brevard. For their part, Greenvillians could more easily access our beautiful mountains. In the sultry summer months, Greenvillians could now quickly escape the oppressive heat of the city and enjoy the much cooler temperatures just an hour away.
To celebrate the opening of the new road, a splendid party was held on New Year’s Day 1932 at Caesar’s Head Hotel, the midpoint between the two towns. Organized jointly by the two Chambers of Commerce, the noontime gathering featured an “old fashioned turkey dinner” with “all the trimmings” for 200 people.
By all accounts, the party was a huge success; it was well attended by notables and residents from both towns, and the gathering was generally seen at the time as a pivotal moment in the region’s history. All the local Brevard and Greenville newspapers covered the event, all of them very favorably. The following account, published in The Greenville News, perhaps best sums up the spirit of the occasion: “Fog and lowering clouds, together with chilly weather, made driving conditions unpleasant, but the disagreeable conditions were forgotten before the glowing fire in the lobby of the hotel and in the dining room, which was heated for the occasion. A spirit of friendship marked the event, many new acquaintances between residents at the two cities being made and old friendships renewed.” And that spirit of friendship between the two cities can still be felt today.
Photographs and information for this column are provided by the Rowell Bosse North Carolina Room, Transylvania County Library. This article was written by Anne-Monique Ransdell. For more information, comments, or suggestions, contact NC Room staff at [email protected] or 828-884-1820.