The NC Digital Library and Rockbroook

The Transylvania County Library recently contributed over 200 photographs and newspapers to the North Carolina Digital Library.  The digital library includes a searchable database of the entire NC Digital Heritage Center Archives.  With the ability to search images and newspapers from the early days of Brevard, we have had a great time finding out more about the history of Rockbrook and it’s founder, Nancy  Clarke Carrier.

Our first article we discovered is from the Sylvan Valley News, Brevard’s first newspaper which was published from the 1890’s until 1916.  The article is from May, 1908.

Nancy Clarke wins
Sylvan Valley News, 1908, Brevard, NC

Nancy Clarke was 19 years old at the time of this tournament.  We know from past research that she was a student at Columbia College for Women, so possibly this was a school sponsored tournament?   As mentioned in a previous blog post, The Rockbrook House featured a tennis court in the side yard.  Perhaps this is where Nancy honed her tennis skills?

Carrier House Tennis Court
The Rockbrook House Tennis Court

When Rockbrook was founded in 1921, tennis was one of the activities offered that first season.  With our new insight into Mrs. Carrier and her love of tennis, it is no surprise that she would include it in the activity roster.  We continue to offer tennis today and know Mrs. Carrier would be proud to see her legacy continued!  Stay tuned for more from the digital archives.

camp tennis 1940
Rockbrook Camp Catalog, 1940

The Rockbrook House and Richard Sharp Smith

Clarke Carrier House, Brevard, NC
The Rockbrook House, 1930’s

The Rockbrook House, also known as The Clarke Carrier House, is located in the center of Rockbrook’s property.  It was built in 1895 by Henry Peck Clarke, father of Rockbrook’s founder Nancy Carrier.  Clarke hired Richard Sharp Smith, supervising architect of The Biltmore House, to design his mountain home.  The house was completed in 1895, just a few months after The Biltmore Estate was completed.  At that time, Smith opened his own architecture firm and began designing homes and civic buildings around western NC.  He is considered to be one of the most prolific and influential architects during the 1900’s in the Asheville area.  He, along with his firm Smith and Carrier, designed over 700 structures throughout western NC. His work is known for its Craftsman and Colonial Revival Styles,  such as the use of pebbledash stucco on the exterior, half timbering, and diamond pane windows.  These features are all part of The Rockbrook House.  (Note the diamond pane windows flanking the front door).

As you travel the back roads of western NC, you are sure to spot examples of his influence around every turn.  We here at Rockbrook are proud to share a piece of the architectural history of our region. Here are some other examples of Smith’s work around NC.

Kanuga cottage
Kanuga Conference Center Cottages, Hendersonville, NC
Annie West house
Annie West House, Asheville, NC
Biltmore Estate
The Biltmore Estate, Asheville, NC
Anderson Audotorium Montreat NC
Anderson Auditorium, Montreat, NC

The Rockbrook Water Wheel Song

Rockbrook Water Wheel
Rockbrook Water Wheel, 1923

Did you know that in the 1920’s the power for most of Rockbrook was created by a water wheel?  In 1923, a water wheel was installed just below the lake and dam to run the electricity for the camp.  The water wheel came from the Federal Distillery right across the road from camp. The Distillery building is one of three in Transylvania county, and currently the only one still standing. The distillery is believed to have operated from the mid-nineteenth century until Prohibition when the wheel was removed and relocated across Hwy 276.  The water wheel was such an important feature of camp there was even a song written about it!  Check out the sheet music that we found in honor of Rockbrook’s Water Wheel.

Swimming, Diving, I’ve Been Striving

Swim Lessons at Rockbrook Camp, 1920's
Swim Class at Rockbrook, 1930’s

Since 1921, Rockbrook has offered swimming lessons to campers of all skill levels using the Red Cross swimming system.  In those early years swimming was required each day for every girl. After an 8 week session ( there was only one session of camp back then) you would be a fantastic swimmer! Rockbrook also taught Lifeguarding classes to the older campers to help prepare them as they developed into counselors themselves.  One famous Rockbrook swim teacher was Helen Chiere, who taught swimming for over 25 summers.  She taught generations of Rockbrook girls how to swim and was famous for her style of instruction which included sayings like “scrape the jelly off the belly” for learning the backstroke, or “pick an apple and put it in the basket” for learning the side stroke.  Her humor and warmth helped all the junior campers have a great experience at the lake.

The camp lake is still the center of daily life at Rockbrook!  Between swim classes, free swim, canoeing, kayaking and trips down the water slide it is always abuzz with activity.  Most of the campers these days already know how to swim, but lessons and fun are still at the center of it all at the lake.  And as the camp song says: “Swimming, diving, I’ve been striving, striving hard to pass my test, and before the summers over, I’ll be swimming with the best.  Jump on the spring board, dive in, SPLASH!”

The Summer Camp Dance

Vintage Camp dance NC
Rockbrook and Camp Carolina Square Dance, 1950’s

Who does not remember the excitement and nerves that came with your first summer camp dance?  Multiple generations of Rockbrook Girls have participated in this summer ritual.  The dances originally were held in our Dining Hall (see photo above) but are currently held in our Gymnasium.  They are usually held once or twice a session, the dates of which are a highly guarded secret.  The Hi- Up campers get to announce the dance to the camp and the reaction is quite  loud and boisterous.  It is a very light and fun experience with everyone dancing together, laughing and being silly.  For those who are not interested in participating we also offer a separate activity that is equally fun!  Feel free to share with us any camp dance stories that you have- we would love to hear them!

Basket Weaving at Rockbrook

Basket Weaving at Rockbrook Camp
Campers gather at the creek to work on baskets circa 1970

One of the traditional mountain crafts that is still taught at Rockbrook today is basketweaving.  Curosty, our weaving and basketry center, has been the home of this mountain activity since Rockbrook’s founding in 1921.  With its location right next to the creek, it is the ideal sight to learn this ancient art.  Campers soak their reeds (dried grass) in the creek for several hours until the reed is soft and pliable.  Then they are able to weave them together to make baskets of all shapes and sizes.  For the younger campers we provide a weaving base which helps them to arrange their reeds in the proper order.  It is quite a special moment when all of your weaving efforts pay off and you have a functional art piece, handmade at Rockbrook!

woven basket from summer camp
The finished product!

The Brevard Music Festival

Brevard Music Festival program

We came across an interesting document the other day while doing some research for the Rockbrook archives that features Nancy Carrier, Rockbrook’s founder.  We have mentioned in a previous blog post that Nancy Carrier was instrumental in the creation of The Brevard Music Center and served on it’s board of directors until her death in 1977.  Here is a copy of the Music Center’s very first summer series from 1946, featuring a great picture of Mrs. Carrier.

Nancy Carrier, Founder of Rockbrook was instrumental in the founding of The Brevard Music Center
Brevard Music Festival Officers

Rockbrook Road Trip 1930’s

We found some wonderful pictures of Nancy Carrier, Rockbrook’s founder, and her family on a road trip.  The photographs are dated from the 1930’s.  Nancy is pictured on the left in the first photograph and second from left in the middle photograph.   She is also pictured at right taking a photograph.  We can only imagine the adventures they had as they all piled into the car and hit the road.  Other pictures we found show the same group camping out on a mountain top with a gorgeous view, riding in the car, taking photographs and hiking.  It looks like quite an adventure!  Nancy Carrier’s adventurous spirit continues today at Rockbrook!

If you haven’t seen this video about the history of Rockbrook Camp, it’s a “must see!”

Nancy Carrier and friends prepare for a road trip
Nancy and friend camping
Nancy Carrier, at right, enjoys a road trip with friends