by Wiley Sloan
The Peggy Crosby Center is home to a trio of Highlands' most celebrated residents.
During the 18th and 19th centuries, botanists explored the Southern Appalachians in search of rare plants.
William Bartram, the son of explorer John Bartram, visited the region in 1776 and noted the wealth of unique varieties of plants found here.
Famed French Botanist Andre Michaux spent six years between 1785-1791 keeping detailed journals and sending more than 90 cases of plants back to France for further study.
South Carolina native Silas McDowell lived most of his life in southeast Macon County near the ancient Cherokee town of Sugartown. McDowell wrote articles expounding on the Thermal Belt (the no-frost zone) of the Southern Appalachians that provided a favorable area for fruit trees and other plants.
Eventually, McDowell's writing came to the attention of Samuel Truman Kelsey and Clinton Carter Hutchinson, the two men credited with founding the town of Highlands. The duo believed that they'd be able to draw people to their community because of its unique flora and fauna and its health benefits.
Many of Highlands' earliest settlers came here because of the bio-diversity of the trees and plants that line the mountain slopes and creek sides.
Botanist turned educator Thomas Harbison walked from Pennsylvania to study the plant life of the area. Little did he know he'd end up spending the remainder of his life here.
The Highlands Improvement Society (the precursor of the Highlands Land Trust) and the Ladies Floral and Industrial Society were both formed to protect and preserve the natural beau- ty of the area.
A prime example is the Franklinia Tree named after Benjamin Franklin. You may have noticed its beautiful white blossoms in the front of the Peggy Crosby Center at 348 South Fifth Street in Highlands. It's one of three Heritage Trees -- those specimens that are found only in our area of the Southeast. The Franklinia Tree (Franklinia alatamaha) is a small deciduous tree or large shrub which grows to be approximately 15 to 20 fees tall and 15 feet wide. Its elongated, dark green leaves turn orange, red, and pink in the fall. Its snowy white flower (2 to 3 inches in diameter) reminds some people of the bloom of the camellia. This Franklinia Tree is a descendant of the trees that were propagated by Bartram in the Bartram Gardens outside Philadelphia. These trees are nearly extinct in the wild but are readily available through nurseries. They like sandy, high acid soil that is well drained.
The Peggy Crosby Center property also includes the European Silver Fir planted by Thomas G. Harbison and the Nordman Fir (a threatened species). Stroll up Fifth Street and walk the property to see these gems. The Peggy Crosby Center Board of Directors is constantly working to protect these unique plants. If you would like to help, give them a call at (828) 526-9938.
by Wiley Sloan
Thanks to generous benefactors, the Peggy Crosby Center is the healthy home of some of the area's most vibrant non-profits.
The Peggy Crosby Center, located at 348 South Fifth Street in Highlands, is the home of many of the non-profits of our area.
Its convenient location provides free parking and easy ·access for citizens of all ages, making it a hub of activity for The Highlands Literacy Council, The International Friendship Center, The Center for Life Enrichment, Gilliam's Promise, The Counseling Center of Highlands, and The Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust. In addition to these non-profits, some specialized businesses fulfill needs to our community like geriatric care, catering, financial services, and an entrepreneurial consulting service helping emerging businesses. Without the Center, these businesses might not be able to locate in our community. This building was Highlands's first hospital, built more than 65 years ago. When the hospital moved to its present campus approximately 20 years ago, town leaders struggled to find the best use for this property. Thankfully, a gracious benefactor bequeathed money for the newly formed 501 C(3) entity, thus the name The Peggy Crosby Center.
Each year the PCC Board works diligently to fulfill its mission of "providing affordable office space to organizations who offer community services." They struggle to raise funds from both public and private donors to cover the capital expenses of maintaining this aging structure. The rents charged cover the cost of only the operating expenses - no capital expenses. This is no easy task since the PCC is not affiliated with any other organization and receives no ongoing funding from any source. Also PCC has to be careful that their fundraising does not take funds away from their non-profit tenants. Key donors have been Cullasaja Women's Outreach, Western NC Community Foundation, Fibber's, Cannon Foundation, Laurel Garden Club, and Wild Azalea Garden Club, plus many private donors.
Over the past three years the PCC has received an updated, vibrant look with fresh new paint, carpeting, and art work. Entering the building you are energized with the beauty of your surroundings. While beautiful, the improvements that have been made are not just cosmetic; new energy efficient windows, additional insulation, and new doors all help to reduce the monthly utility costs and make the building more ecologically friendly. Let's not forget the improved fire safety that tenants enjoy. The improvements would not have been possible without the generous donations of many of you and the professional expertise of the folks at Summit Architecture.
If you're not familiar with the Peggy Crosby Center, please take time to stop by and visit the premises. There is still work to be done on the landscaping. The PCC property is home to some of nature's, most valuable trees -- the Franklinia Tree is considered to be one of the rarest trees in the world. There is also the Nordman Fir, a well-known indicator of environmental change that begs to be preserved. Finally, the European Fir, planted by early pioneer Thomas G. Harbison, is believed to be one of the-oldest of its kinds in North Carolina.
The Peggy Crosby Center -- one of Highlands' many assets.