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Hendersonville Magazine

Laurel Park – From Resort Town to Enchanting Residence

The charming cottages and narrow curving roads of present-day Laurel Park are gentle reminders of this town’s lively past as a summer resort. A quiet, year-round, mainly residential community today, the Town of Laurel Park remains a captivating tangle of interesting lanes, mature landscaping, thickets of rhododendron and attractive neighborhoods.

From the early- to mid-20th century, Laurel Park was known for its active summer schedule. Rhododendron Lake – the largest of the community’s several lakes, which also was sometimes informally called Laurel Park Lake – had a beach, a waterslide and a pavilion with the second largest dance floor in the region jutting out over the water.

Beginning in 1903, a special rail line brought summer residents from Hendersonville directly up Fifth Avenue to Laurel Park. The Casino at Rainbow Lake – an entertainment venue including a roller skating rink, dancing arena, playhouse, and more – first opened in 1908. In 1910, an incline railway was added to take tourists up the mountain to an observation deck with a spectacular view of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The mid-1920s saw a real estate boom that started in Florida and rapidly spread to other resort areas including Henderson County. Commodore J. Perry Stolz, builder of the famous Miami Beach Fleetwood Hotel, bought land atop Laurel Park near the famed Jump Off Rock and began construction on a 15-story Fleetwood Hotel in 1925 – the same year Laurel Park incorporated. The next year, a devastating hurricane hit Florida. Commodore Stolz lost everything. Construction was halted. In 1929, the Great Depression made efforts to complete the hotel hopeless. The unfinished building was sold to salvage in 1935.

As automobile ownership increased, people could vacation where rail lines did not go. Laurel Park began its transition from an active summer resort to a tranquil residential community. Although the beaches, the big lakes and the pavilion remained active through the 1970s, they too slowly disappeared.

Today, the site of the old Rhododendron Lake is now Rhododendron Lake Nature Park, another lovely natural amenity of Laurel Park. Still lush and beautiful, Laurel Park is a town rich in history that continues to attract new residents who discover its unique charm.

Hendersonville Magazine 2023-2024