For centuries, the land the makes up High Hampton has been a retreat for generations of families. First, for the storied Southern Hampton family, then for an important American family, and now under the careful stewardship of a group of Southern families, High Hampton continues the traditions that have drawn families from all over the world back time and time again.
Our story is centuries in the making.
History of High Hampton
High Hampton has been a summer retreat since the early 19th century when the Hampton family began buying parcels of land in the Cashiers Valley in the mid-1800s.
Our story begins with Wade Hampton II (1791 – 1858), a member of the South Carolina upcountry planter aristocracy, is best remembered as the man who made “Millwood; The Hampton plantation outside Columbia, SC the social center for Southern aristocracy.” Millwood had served as a farm and hunting preserve for the Hamptons and their friends.
When Wade Hampton III (1818 – 1902) was a young man he spent a lot of time in the valley learning to hunt and ride. He soon became the most well-known of the Hampton family because of his service as General in the Confederate army and his active career in politics, including terms as Governor and US Senator from South Carolina after the Civil War
The Hamptons and the Cashiers Valley
The original 450 acres in the Cashiers Valley the Hampton family acquired was an escape from the heat, humidity, and malaria of Charleston and Columbia in the summer months. The “Hampton Place” or “The Valley” as it was known in contemporary correspondence, included a two-story cottage, which had seven bedrooms, a kitchen building, servant’s quarters, and assorted outbuildings. As some point in the 1880s, this property was transformed to the unmarried sisters of Wade Hampton II who then sold it Dr. and Mrs. Halsted (Caroline Hampton Halsted, niece of Wade Hampton III) shortly after their marriage in 1890.
The Halsted Era Begins
Caroline Hampton, daughter of Frank and Sally Baxter Hampton lost both parents when she was less than two years old and was raised by her three aunts. In 1889, Caroline completed nursing school in New York City and moved to Baltimore to join the nursing staff of the newly opened Johns Hopkins Hospital. For a brief period, she served as Dr. William Halsted’s scrub nurse in the operating room.
Dr. William Steward Halsted (1852-1922), first Professor of Surgery at Johns Hopkins and renowned for his numerous contributions to the development of surgery, derived the name “High Hampton” from the title of his ancestral estate in England – “High Halsted.”
High Hampton served the Halsted’s as a retreat from the heat and humidity of Baltimore summers. While Mrs. Halsted would spend the entire season here where she would supervise tasks about the grounds and farm, which were far more appealing to her than the social life in Baltimore. Dr. Halsted would come and go as his schedule allowed. In the Cashiers Valley, he would find rest reading, writing, raising dahlias and pursuing an interest in astronomy.
High Hampton Expands
The original Hampton cottage and outbuilding remained on the initial 450 acres, while 50 additional acres were devoted to farming. During his tenure, Dr. Halsted gradually increased the size of the property to 2,200 acres by buying out the surrounding farmers. The Halsteds are responsible for many of the trees and shrubs seen on the grounds today. Both Dr. Halsted and and wife died in 1922. Because they had no heirs, the estate was left to Johns Hopkins Medical School, and was subsequently put on the market.
The Modern Era Begins
In 1922, the estate was purchased by Mr. E. Lyndon McKee and his wife Gertrude Dills McKee of Sylva, North Carolina. They constructed a small tw0-story inn on the site of the present inn. However, in 1932 a fire started in the Halsted Cottage and spread to the Hampton Cottage and the original inn – sadly, all buildings were destroyed.
The present High Hampton Inn was completed in 1933 and took only six months to build as it provided necessary labor for many local men during the height of the Great Depression. The huge four-sided fireplace still standing today was crafted of local granite; the floors and walls were made of locally felled oak; and chestnut bark provided an insect-resistant covering for the exterior walls.
Much like it had been used by the Hampton and Halsted families, families from the low-country had begun to travel to the cool mountain of Western North Carolina to escape the summer heat, mosquitoes, and humidity. With the influx of guests in the 1920s, Mr. McKee decided to build a golf course, as well as tennis courts, to entice guests and provide sporting activities for them to enjoy. In 1923, J. Victor East built the golf course. After eleven holes were complete, Mr. East is reported to have presented a bill to Mr. McKee whereupon Mr. McKee said, “Stop now.” Mr. East replied, “Mr. McKee, there has never been an eleven hole golf course.” Mr. McKee replied, “There is now!”
Building America’s Southern Mountain Retreat
From the 1920’s through the 1940’s, the McKees visited High Hampton often on the weekends. Their home, The Nancy Cottage, was on what is now the #14 fairway. They entertained friends at the Inn – as many of our residents still do today. Mrs. McKee served as the first female state senator in North Carolina and was also very involved in women’s rights and education. She planted the Copper Beech that stands on the main lawn still admired today. In 1948, she died unexpectedly of a heart attack.
In 1952, day-to-day management of the Inn and the property passed to Mr. and Mrs. E.L. McKee’s son, William D. McKee. Stewardship of the High Hampton Inn continued under W.D. McKee until his death in 2003, when his son, W.D. McKee, Jr., took over management of the family resort. William McKee and his sister, Ann McKee Austin, spent summers living at High Hampton and working at the Inn. Under William’s guidance, High Hampton expanded their offerings, created the quintessential mountain cottage community. And it’s been as a result of their dedication and passion that Inn at High Hampton has become a destination for generations of families looking to slow down, cool off and connect with what matters most – family, friends, and the good life.
Family Ownership Continues
In 2016, the McKee family sold High Hampton to a group of families from Birmingham, Alabama. Today, those families are committed to “staying true” to the traditions of High Hampton while updating the resort, the golf course and bringing a new level of service to the storied Southern retreat so it will be vibrant and sought after for generations to come.
Experience High Hampton
The best way to experience High Hampton is to visit, just as generations of families have. Although the Inn is closed for renovations, we are available to work with you to build a one-of-a-kind mountain experience in 2019 through our home rental program.
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