History of Sapphire Lakes/Burlingame Country ClubsFairfield Inn and Lake was built in what is now Burlingame in 1896 by the Toxaway Company. As people began traveling to the Blue Ridge Mountains for the natural resources offered, being the cool, clean air and beautiful scenery. The Sapphire Inn and Lake Sapphire were built in 1897, following the immediate success of the 1896 development.
The Toxaway Inn was opened in 1903, the year the railroad was completed to Toxaway. It was one of the most luxurious hotels of its time anywhere in the United States and contained five hundred rooms. This area was billed as “America’s Switzerland.” At its peak of popularity, as many as six trains a day deposited guests at the station only a few hundred yards from the Inn.
The boom period came to an unexpected halt on August 13, 1916 when historic flooding from the previous month caused the dam to burst at 7:10 pm. Fortunately, warnings had already been telegraphed downstream which prevented much loss of life. Aside from wildlife in the path of the water, it is said that the only loss of life was a blind mule. At the time of the flooding, the lake was forty years old and was the largest private lake in North Carolina. Though little loss of life, there were record amounts of water spilling into nearby communities with unsurmountable destruction, leaving piles of debris fifteen to twenty feet high. Over 100 years later, some of this debris remains.
For ten years the Toxaway Inn sat empty beside the vacant lake, watched over by Tolvin T. Miller who lived on property, this later became Sapphire Lakes, what is now Burlingame. His family’s cemetery remains on the property near the Horsepasture River next to #2 fairway, of the Burlingame Country Club golf course.
In 1960, a group of investors, including Darnall Boyd and Reginall Heinitsh, were contacted by a real estate agent about a “deal” on 8900 acres of land around the Lake Toxaway area. Four potential investors drove to the area to investigate. When the four potential investors arrived, there were very few houses remaining and they could not even determine where the lake had originally been located due to the growth of trees and underbrush. The only road leading to the area was a very rough Highway 64. The original four determined that they did not have the funds needed to redevelop the land.
In 1973, two of the potential investors dropped out leaving Mr. Boyd and Mr. Heinitsh to proceed if they chose to do so. These two purchased the 8900 acres for $50 per acre. After the purchase they began to sell off certain parcels to finance development. They took over one of the few remaining homes for their office and began to rebuild the dam on the same location as the original dam. They visited the site every two weeks, in particular, to oversee the removal of trees to make room for the dam. It took two years to restore the dam.
After development started, Mr. Boyd and Mr. Heinitsh divided the acreage. On February 28, 1973, 1450 acres were transferred to Boyd and Co. of Columbia, S.C. The division between the gentlemen was friendly and they stayed close throughout their lives. Mr. Heinitsh took the Lake Toxaway area and Mr. Boyd chose the Sapphire Lakes area.
The development at Sapphire Lakes laid dormant for some twenty years. In the early 1980s, Mr. Boyd decided to develop the property. The first building constructed was the Sales Office on Highway 64. Mr. Boyd then began to sell property in the development and promised all purchasers that there would be a country club within five years.
When Mr. Boyd started construction on the buildings for the country club, the first building was the pool house. In fact, this is where the dining area was first located. The first living accommodations were the Fairway Villas at #10.
In 1983, work began on the first nine holes and the back nine was completed in 1985. A year or so after completion of the back nine there was a terrible rain storm which totally washed all the new grass off the back nine, where it had to be completely reseeded.
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 2003, Mr. Boyd made it known to the members that he was interested in selling the Club. Subsequently, a number of meetings occurred with the membership, however with nothing substantial coming from these discussions. In 2004, Mr. Boyd communicated that the proposal to sell the Club was off the table. In 2005 he sold the Club to Mark Meadows who at the time owned a real estate business in Highlands.
During Mark’s tenure, several facilities improvements were made including the construction of the Deck by the pool and the Fitness Center/ Pro shop which replaced the old Pool House. Later Mr. Meadows would change the name of the entire development to Burlingame.
In 2008, Mark Meadows decided to sell the Club and Sales Office. An Advisory Committee was established in the summer of 2009 and the sale to the members was complete by the Annual Meeting in 2010. The purchase included not only the Club, but also the Sales Office.
Thus, this is where we are today, a thriving Member Owned Private Country Club with the Friendliest Membership on the Mountain!
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