Sapphire Valley 1954-1970
Eugene M. Howerdd, Sr. bought 8000 acres in the heart of Sapphire Valley in 1954. Mr. Howerdd was a founding executive of Georgia Pacific and bought the property with the intention of building a golf course.
The Country Club of Sapphire Valley
was begun in 1955 and opened in 1956. The course was designed by George W. Cobb with every hole taking advantage of the surrounding mountains.For a mountain course, The County Club of Sapphire Valley is really very flat for a mountain golf course - with total elevation change across the course of only 12 feet.
View the Country Club of Sapphire Valley under construction in 1955 here.
In order to have a place for friends and family to enjoy the new course and mountains, the Howerdd's bought the Fairfield Inn and renovated it. Originally built with 56 rooms and only 2 baths per floor, the Howerdd's converted closets in each room to provide private baths.
An elevator was added [which came from an old Palm Beach hotel], telephones in each room, and many upgrades to the lobby, dining room and guest rooms.
The Howerdd's daughter, MaryJo, operated the Inn's Gift Shop along with Doll McDevitt, the Howerdd's niece. Items in the gift shop came from the finest shops in New York and Palm Beach as well as fine items brought back after trips to Europe.
Katie and Gene Howerdd expanded the Fairfield Inn by adding a rear terrace, almost across the entire back side of the Inn, which provided a great place to relax and enjoy Fairfield Lake and Bald Rock Mountain.
When the Inn was ready, they renamed the area Sapphire Valley Inn and Golf Club.
As their friends continued to visit and build second homes, areas around the Golf Course and the Fairfield Lake became summer residences for many. Those areas exist today as Round Hill Estates and Golf Club Estates.
Ski Sapphire Valley Ski Area
Gene Howerdd, Jr., after several visits to the new, nearby Cataloochee ski area, knew Sapphire Valley would be perfect for southern skiing. So in 1964, the Sapphire Valley ski area was built. The Ski area included a beginner area with rope tow and a double chair lift servicing a 1500' main slope with snow making equipment. View images of the first ski run in 1964 on our sister site, SkiSapphireValley.com!
Mr. Howerdd, Jr. combined the Ski Area development to the creation of Hogback Lake and the first Holly Forest section. Lot owners in Holly Forest were given Ski Area Membership and many new homes were built on the new lake.
To complete the experience, Mr. Howerdd, Jr. had two Austrian Ski Instructors, Hans and Deter, on the slopes for many years.
The Ski Area operates to this day with a new quad chair lift and the Frozen Falls snow tubing experience.
The Howerdd Family, relatives and friends operated the Inn, Country Club, Ski Area and real estate development until 1970