Historic, hospitable, horsey and artsy. Come see our mascot, Morris the Horse, standing prominently in town to greet all visitors. One look at him and you’ll understand our quirky, offbeat personality is what sets us apart. A visit to the Nina Simone statue and the artist’s childhood home are favorite stops as is the drive to Pearson’s Falls. Our boutique shops and restaurants, art galleries, historic museum and our old-timey movie theater make Tryon a perfect destination for an urbane experience in a small town setting.
Tryon, NC was incorporated as a town in 1885 with the expansion of the railroad westward. The train brought many tourists seeking to escape the hot, humid weather of the low country of South Carolina. Tryon became known as the place to come for health advantages as well as a mild climate.
Oak Hall, later became Tryon City Hall, was the largest of the hotels in the area with 66 rooms and several outhouses. It was built in 1882 and many famous people stayed there. In 1911 Thomas Edison and Henry Ford made their way through the area showing off the “Tin Lizzy”s ability to handle rough roads and stayed at Oak Hall. The actor William Gillette, who played Sherlock Holmes, first stayed at Oak Hall than purchased several hundred acres and built an estate making Tryon his permanent home.
One of the most notable guests who frequented Oak Hall was Lady Nancy Astor, whose sister, Nora Flynn, built the estate “Little Orchard” on Hunting Country Road and was a gracious and charming hostess holding many parties throughout the seasons
Nancy and her husband “Lefty” Flynn (an actor) moved to Tryon in 1937 and hosted many famous friends such as David Niven, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Lady Astor and her husband Lord Brand, English Ambassador. TH Perkins (chairman of the board 1st National City Bank, now Citicorp) after such a visit to the Flynn’s decided to stay and built the Cotton Patch Plantation house. Perkins brought many friends down from the north to visit and helped create Tyron’s ambiance and reputation.
Carter Brown came to the area from Castle Park, MI and started the Tryon Riding & Hunt Club in 1925. The TRHC’s mission was to promote horse sport and maintain hundreds of miles of trails for residents and guests to enjoy equestrian activities. Carter bought a sanatorium in 1917, renovated it and turned it into the Pine Crest Inn. The inn was primarily used for guests, family, and friends who loved horses, horse sport and foxhunting. The original building was on 9 acres and included a 200-year-old log cabin, woodcutter cottage, stonecutter cottage and the main lodge with 30
They Tryon Horse & Hound Show was the forerunner to the present Tryon Horse Show organized by the TRHC. Originally the show catered to local riders, horses & hounds but as the popularity grew larger numbers of competitors came from outside the area. To this day, the show is held at FENCE and can have as many as 500 horses and riders competing for prizes and prestige. The original show was held on Wednesday and brought out the entire county. Businesses were closed, schools let out early and everyone came for the free BBQ and festivities. Carter Brown also started the Block House Steeplechase which is held today in April at the FENCE steeplechase track. Tens of thousands of spectators come each year rain or shine.
Along with its rich equestrian history, Tryon became established as a town, which supported the arts and encouraged many artists, craftsmen, and sculptors to move to the area. Over the decades, many artists have chosen Tryon as the ideal place to live and work. Studios like the Mills-Mosseller Studio have created heirloom quality pieces that have been in museums and private collections throughout the world.
The residents of Our Carolina Foothills have been taking to the stage since 1895. Before the Tryon Fine Arts Center, plays were staged at the Opera House on Melrose Ave by the group calling itself “Drama Fortnightly”. In 1948 the Tryon Little Theatre was established and in 1969 the arts community built the Tryon Fine Arts Center. Frances Mayo directed the first play performed there, February 12-15, 1969, was the “Madwoman of Challiot
The Tryon Movie Theatre was originally built in the early 1900’s as the telephone & telegraph headquarters for Polk County. In the 1920’s it was converted into a vaudeville and movie theatre for whites only. A fire in the 1930’s damaged the building and in 1938 it was reopened with a balcony and outside concession stand to accommodate blacks. In the mid-1940’s the theatre was packed with almost 400 guests for the premiere of “Gone With The Wind”. The theatre houses many original telegrams from various movies stars celebrating its reopening and premieres. These may be viewed today in the theatre lobby. The theatre is rumored to have a ghost still in residence today. In the 1950’s the manager, Mr. Marvin Ball, was shot and killed and the murderer was never found.
The movie theatre thrived through the 1970’s and was sold the Crowell family, who in 1985, applied for and received the first malt beverage license and today still serves beer in the upper balcony.
The most famous of the Tryon Toy makers and Wood Carvers were Eleanor Vance and Charlotte Yale who came to the area in 1915 to retire after working for years at the Biltmore Estate. Queen Alexandra of England officially recognized their work as they won the gold medal for crafts at the Panama-Pacific Exposition.
After the death of George Vanderbilt, the pair left Asheville and moved to Tryon to teach weaving, pottery & woodcarving. Over time they went from making furniture to toy making. Vance and Yale made the original Tryon Horse mascot, Morris. In 1923 the toy business was flourishing and the pair built the Toy House on Howard Street, which is still standing today.
One of the most internationally acclaimed artists from the area is Nina Simone. She was born Eunice Waymon in Tryon in 1933. Her music career began in the church, as her mother, Katie, was a Methodist minister. Eunice, who was naturally talented, was given piano lessons at the age of 6. In recognition of her talent, a “Eunice Waymon Fund” was started to raise money to send her to the Julliard School of Music in New York City. When the money ran out she went to Philadelphia were her family had moved. Eunice began her stage career in Atlantic City where she played and sang for $90 a week. She took the stage name Nina Simone in order for her mother not to find out about her choice of career. Nina created a sensation. In 1959 she became an international star with her version of “I love you, Porgy”. Nina suffered from personal pain, frustrated passion, and loneliness and complicated family relationships. She returned to Tryon in August 1991 for the filming of her life retrospective by the BBC.