History of Sapphire Lakes/Burlingame Country Clubs

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Darnall Boyd

Burlingame Country Club, as it is now known, can trace its history back to the late 1800’s. The cool, clean air and beautiful scenery of the Blue Ridge Mountains, called “America’s Switzerland,” drew travelers to Western North Carolina.  Toxaway Company had built the Fairfield Inn and Lake in 1896 at a location a few miles from here, where Camp Merrie Woode is now located. The Sapphire Inn and Lake Sapphire were built in 1897 on property now known as Whisper Lake, located less than a mile from the present day Burlingame community. A railroad link to Toxaway coincided with the opening in 1903 of the Toxaway Inn on Lake Toxaway, a few miles away. Containing 500 rooms, it was one of the most luxurious hotels at the time anywhere in the United States. At the peak of its popularity, as many as six trains a day brought guests to the Inn. The boom period came to an unexpected halt on August 13, 1916, when historic flooding caused the dam to burst at 7:10 pm. Fortunately, warnings had already been telegraphed downstream. Aside from wildlife, it is said that the only loss of life was a blind mule. Record amounts of water spilled into nearby communities, causing devastating destruction and leaving piles of debris 15 to 20 feet high.

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Fairfield Inn Circa: 1903

For the next 10 years the Toxaway Inn sat empty beside the dry bed of what had been Lake Toxaway.  The vacant inn and lake were  watched over by Tolvin T. Miller, whose family home was located within present day Burlingame, at what is now Miller Falls Park. Miller’s family cemetery remains on the property near the Horsepasture River, next to #2 fairway of the Burlingame Country Club golf course.  A mile from the Miller Family home, Sapphire Inn had been destroyed by fire in the early 1930’s.

 

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Lake Toxaway Flood circa: 1916

In 1960, a group of investors, including Darnall Boyd and Reginall Heinitsh, heard about the availability of 8,900 acres of land in the Lake Toxaway area. Investigating the property via a very rough Highway 64, they found very few houses remaining. Nor could they determine where the lake had been because of the growth of trees and underbrush. Mr. Boyd and Mr. Heinitsh purchased the land for $50 per acre. They began to rebuild the dam in its original location, a project that took two years to complete. After building the new dam, construction crews began filling the lake in the spring of 1961, and Lake Toxaway was reopened.

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Sapphire Lake/ Whisper Lake Circa 1960

In 1973, a few miles from Lake Toxaway,  Darnall Boyd acquired another 1,450 acres next to the scenic Horsepasture River, naming this community Sapphire Lakes. The first building constructed was a Sales Office on Highway 64. Then came construction of the country club, beginning with the pool house, where the dining area was first located. The first homes on the property were Fairway Villas at Hole #10. In 1983, work began on the first nine holes of a golf course. The back nine was completed in 1985.

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Toxaway Inn Circa: 1906

Over the years the Clubhouse and the other facilities have been added on to and expanded to meet the needs of the growing membership. In 2005, Mr. Boyd sold the Club to Mark Meadows, who at the time owned a real estate business in Highlands. Mr. Meadows’s tenure saw several improvements to the facilities, including the construction of the Deck by the pool and the Fitness Center/Pro shop. He planned to develop “Burlingame,” named after a nearby creek, on the other side of the Horsepasture River. Members decided to embrace the Burlingame name, which was adopted for the entire community.

Transfer of ownership to the members began in 2009; the sale was complete by the Annual Meeting in 2010.