Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Looking Around Downtown Sylva North Carolina

…after departing from our hotel in Franklin North Carolina, we headed up US Hwy 441 and US Hwy 23 toward the town of Sylva.  We had plenty of time to make the short drive through the mountains to our home in East Tennessee, so a little more exploration was warranted...

After leaving the highway en route to Sylva, we passed through the town of Dillsboro North Carolina. (Population about 250) We didn’t stop and look around but I did stop long enough to take a photo of this old hotel that is under renovation.  The Jarrett House was built by W.A. Dills, the founder of Dillsboro, in 1884.  It was originally named the Mount Beulah Hotel.  This is one of the few remaining original grand Southern Railway Resort Hotels.  The hotel was sold for back taxes a bit over a year ago.  The new owner is a Sylva native who is in the process of developing his vision for the future of The Jarrett House.

FYI, The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad is a freight and heritage railroad based in Bryson City North Carolina.  The railroad operates tourist excursions on the former Southern Railway branch line between Bryson City and Dillsboro.  Website: https://www.gsmr.com/.

Sylva North Carolina is just up the road from Dillsboro.  This huge and impressive home caught my eye as soon as we rolled into downtown Sylva.  This town, with a population of about 2,500 residents, is the county seat for Jackson County North Carolina.  The town was apparently named for a handyman who had worked in the town for a short time in its early days…

The Dr. D.D. Hooper House is a 2-story Queen Anne-style home that was built in 1906.  One of the wings was added to the house in the 1930s and it served as Dr. Hooper’s office.  The home was deeded to Jackson County in 1986 and then it served as the county library.  Today, it is operated by the Chamber of Commerce and it serves as the county’s welcome/information center…complete with gifts and souvenirs for tourists.

Before this impressive home was built, Dr. Hooper was boarding at a local hotel.  While he was there, Thomas Edison came to Sylva looking for barium.  They became friends and boarded together for 6 months.  While Edison was in Sylva, Henry Ford drove his first version of the Model-T to visit him.  Dr. Hooper rode to the nearby town of Webster and back with these two American originals.  Later, the doctor purchased the first “motor car” in Jackson County.

This is the Farmhouse Mercantile and Coffee Bar at 582 West Main Street in Sylva.  In addition to home décor items, gifts, mugs, handcrafted jewelry, clothing, candles, wallets, purses and bags, this store also offers coffee and bakery treats in a pleasant setting.  Phone: 828-734-5835.  Website: https://www.thefarmhousesylva.com/.

The Farmhouse Mercantile is one of the many buildings in downtown Sylva that are featured as part of the Heritage Walk.  This particular building was built in 1902.  Named the C.J. Harris Building, it was the home of the Sylva Supply Company from 1902 until 1999.  A tannery and bank also rented space here.  Two different chapters of the Knights of Pythias and a chapter of the Odd Fellows regularly met on the 3rd floor of the building.  This is one of many buildings that are included in Sylva’s downtown “Heritage Walk”.

I’m still scratching my head over this statue on display in an open space between 2 buildings in downtown Sylva.  What the heck is an artistic replica of an Easter Island Moai sculpture doing in northwestern North Carolina?  Quirky for sure…but I couldn’t find any information about it…

I wouldn’t have guessed that a book store like Harry Alter Books at 528 West Main Street would be found in a small town like Sylva.  This store offers about 20,000 titles for customers to browse through and consider.  Who said that small town independent book stores have disappeared!  Phone: 828-631-9070.  This bookstore can be found on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/harryalterbooks/.  

This book store is also located in a building featured on the town’s Heritage Walk.  Named the P.L. & S. Building, this former clothing store was built by 3 siblings in 1932.  Sol Schulman leased it from the other siblings and the business continued from 1933 until 2002.

There are 41 contributing buildings included in Sylva’s Heritage Walk.  They include: a former auto dealer (1934); a movie theater (1927); an auto service garage (1920); a hotel (1920); a five and ten Cents store (1935; a hardware store (1920), and; a general store (1908).

To learn more about the Heritage Walk and to view a number of photos in the tour brochure, go to https://www.discoverjacksonnc.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Sylva-Heritage-Walk.pdf.

Western North Carolina with its plethora of cool mountain brooks and streams is a fly fishing paradise.  Jackson County has the largest number of stocked fish anywhere in the State.  The Tuckaseegee is just one of many streams to fly fish.  Fly fishing is a bit addictive…and there are 3 Tuckaseegee Fly Shops in North Carolina.  In addition to this location at 530 West Main Street in Sylva, 2 other stores can be found in the area, one in Bryson City and the other in Waynesville.  Fly fishing affectionados can buy everything from rods and reels to logo shirts and hats.  All necessary supplies for tying flies for a fishing expedition are stocked in this store.  Website: https://www.flyshopusa.com/.

The Tuckaseegee Fly Shop along the Heritage Walk occupies the former Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company’s location…and many of us older folks remember this once dominant grocery chain.  The company continued operations here from 1925, when the store was built, until 1956.  FYI, the structures and buildings included in the Heritage Walk are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

If you like shopping…Sylva has much to offer!  Check out the possibilities at https://www.mainstreetsylva.org/shopping.

I couldn’t find any direct historical information regarding the First Baptist Church at 669 West Main Street in Sylva.  Nevertheless, it is a large and imposing structure in the center of town.  I did find an article from the Asheville Citizen-Times Newspaper from April 7, 1923, that reported a major fire in the heart of Sylva.  Many shops and stores were destroyed or damaged “and only streams of water pouring from a dozen hydrants on Main and Jackson Streets saved the fire from spreading to other businesses along Main Street, as well as the First Baptist Church. 

This impressive old Classical Revival style courthouse is situated high on a hill looking directly down Main Street in Sylva North Carolina.  The former Jackson County Courthouse was constructed in 1913.  From the fountain and plaza at the foot of the hill there are 107 steps leading up to the building’s front portico.  The cost of the building was agreed on…not to exceed $30,000 and it came in on budget.  The building served as the courthouse until 1994.  In 2007, it became the new Jackson County Library.  No, I did not venture up all those stairs for a close up of the building!

Here’s a little more about Sylva… With a growing population of about 2,750 residents, the town continues as the county seat for Jackson County North Carolina.  As per popular but not necessarily accurate accounts, Sylva was named after William D. Sylva, a Danish handyman who spent a bit of time in the home of General E.R. Hampton…who owned much of the land that became the downtown area.  Two major festivals are held here every year, the ‘Greening up the Mountains Festival’ in April and the ‘Hook, Line and Drinker Festival’ in May.

Several movies have been filmed in and around Sylva.  They include “Deliverance” (1972), “Paradise Falls” aka “Carolina Low” (1997), portions of “The Fugitive” (1993) and, “Three Billboards outside Ebbing Missouri” (2017).

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave


  1. Those building and houses look well-maintained and very beautiful. The church looks impressive, but the 2nd one in Sylva North Carolina is my favourite. p.s I would definitely venture up all those stairs to get a complete view.

  2. Great to read about the whole town through your lens. But we both were attracted to the strange Easter Island head! I'm sorry that the one bookstore we didn't go in had been closed on Monday...and all our steps often went in the same direction as yours! Thanks for all the research which you so diligently shared.

  3. We never made it into Sylva but when we were setting up our RV in Franklin, the new campground owner came by on his golf cart with a growler of beer from the brewery in Sylva and offered us a welcome glass. It now looks like there are four of them.

  4. There are always undiscovered treasures, like that independent book store, even in small towns. We have been to Bryson, NC, and taken an excursion on The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad.