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Cullowhee NC

Cullowhee North Carolina
“Valley of the Lillies”

Town of Cullowhee North Carolina

Located in the Great Smoky Mountains, this little mountain town is home to a big university, Western Carolina University! With the pleasant climate, scenic beauty and great outdoor activities, Cullowhee is a fun tiny town! You can visit the Mountain Heritage Center or take a tour through the campus of Western Carolina. Western Carolina University, with a student body of over 10,000 students, a member of the University of North Carolina system is located in a scenic valley in Jackson County about 45 minutes west of Asheville.

Cullowhee is also a stopping point for the millions of visitors who are drawn to this mid-mountain region for its spectacular landscapes and vast array of outdoor recreational opportunities, including world-class mountain biking, backpacking and whitewater rafting. The beautiful Tuckasegee River flows though the Cullowhee area and passes right by the Western North Carolina campus.

History of Cullowhee NC

The town of Cullowhee is one of the oldest settlements in Jackson County. The town reportedly had the first school in the area in 1830. At first the area was mostly farmland, but was cleared out in the 1800s. In 1883, Painter Post Office was founded by Rolling A. Painter and operated out of his store. The Post Office led to further development of the Old Cullowhee Road area, turning it into a business district. The Post Office was renamed Cullowhee in 1908. Cullowhee High School was founded in 1889 by Robert Lee Madison and is now Western Carolina University.

In 1940, a massive flood caused severe damage to the business district of Cullowhee. The flood wiped away almost all the buildings on one side of the river. The flood peaked at 21 feet above the Cullowhee Dam, the highest on record.

The area underwent a massive growth spurt starting in the 1960s and continues on today. Much of the town has remained undeveloped after the flood of the 1940s washed away much of the downtown area.

Western Carolina University

Western Carolina University is a coeducational public university located in Cullowhee, North Carolina. WCU was founded to educate the people of the western North Carolina mountains, and now serves more than 10,000 full-time undergraduate and post graduate students, providing an education to students from 48 states and 35 countries.

In 1888, the residents of Cullowhee desired a better school for the community came to be known as Cullowhee Academy. Founded in August 1889 as a semi-public secondary school and chartered as Cullowhee High School in 1891 (also called Cullowhee Academy), it served the Cullowhee community and boarding students from neighboring counties and other states. The founder, Robert Lee Madison, wanted to provide an education for the young people in the region and train teachers to spread education throughout the western part of the state. In 1905, the state assumed title to the school’s buildings and property and made it a state institution. That same year, the school’s name was changed to Cullowhee Normal & Industrial School. In 1925, the school’s name was changed to Cullowhee State Normal School. During its years as Cullowhee Normal, the stated purpose of the school was to train teachers for the North Carolina public schools. A coeducational institution, Cullowhee Normal trained over two thousand teachers by the mid-1920s.

Over the next forty years, the school expanded its curriculum and evolved into a junior college, and in 1929 it was chartered by the Legislature as a four-year institution under the name Western Carolina Teachers College. Called “the Cullowhee experiment”, Madison’s idea became a model for the other regional colleges in the state. The demand for both liberal arts and other programs led to an expansion of the school’s offerings. In 1953, the name “Western Carolina College” was adopted. In 1967, the institution was designated a regional university by the North Carolina General Assembly and given its current title, “Western Carolina University.”

Jackson County Recreational Complex

Cullowhee is also home to the Jackson County Recreational Complex, a public use park located on Cullowhee Mountain Road that includes a 24,000 square-foot facility complete with full size gym, state of the art fitness room and multipurpose meeting rooms. The park has softball  and soccer fields, a  basketball court, picnic shelters, playgrounds and 10,000 feet of running trail.

Tuckasegee River


Mountain Heritage Day  Festival

The annual Mountain Heritage Day is a combination of old-fashioned mountain fair and a showcase for Southern Appalachian music, arts, dance and song. The event is known for portraying the feeling of a big family reunion. Located on the campus of Western Carolina University, the festival will feature three live entertainment stages, handmade arts and crafts, Cherokee Stickball Games and children’s activities. There will also be Shapenote Singin’, canning and baking contests, tractor & horse & mule wagon rides, workshops and an antique car show. Don’t miss out on this one-of-a-kind festival! […more info]

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