Waynesville's National Treasure

Waynesville’s
National Treasure?Really?

With the 4 th of July celebrations over for this year, you might not be thinking about national events and treasures, but shouldn’t we celebrate our nation and its treasures every day? Here in Waynesville, you can do that without having to travel to our Nation’s Capital or fight the crowds of the Smithsonian Institute.  Don’t get me wrong, Washington D.C. and the Smithsonian Institute are awesome, but so is Shelton House and its right here, in your own backyard…literally for some of you.

The Shelton House, built in 1875 for High Sheriff of Haywood County Stephen Shelton, is of itself a piece of local history but, several things about it make it a state and national treasure as well.

Locally, Shelton House stands as a reminder of our late 19 th century southern heritage and agrarian lifestyle. Local farmer, Stephen Shelton, fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War. As most small farmers in Haywood County, he most likely didn’t own slaves but, as most of the people in North Carolina who supported the Confederacy, he was born and raised here and loved his state. Although a difficult decision for many, “statehood” for people who had rarely traveled out of their local area, was a stronger concept to them than “The United States”. So yes, Stephen Shelton, as a Confederate Officer in the NC 25 th North Carolina Infantry and as a man who served as High Sheriff of Haywood County, is a part of our local and state history but how and why is Shelton House considered a national treasure?

In 1977, Mary Cornwell purchased the Shelton House and soon after, with the help of the Department of NC Archives and History, the home was nominated for, and included in, the National Registry of Historic Places.

At this point, some of you are thinking that there are several other places in Waynesville listed on the National Register and there are; Main Street, Frog Level, The Spread Out District and several other houses including the Way House on Main Street and the Boone Withers House on Haywood Street but, Shelton House is the only Nationally Registered House in Waynesville that is open to the public for tours. That in itself makes Shelton House a National Treasure but there is so much more!

William Shelton, the son of Stephen Shelton, served as an “Indian Agent” for the Cherokee and later the Navajo from the late 1880’s through 1917. This was a controversial time in our Nation’s History, as the National Government attempted to “civilize” the Native Americans and claim their lands as western expansion continued. It is well documented that the Native Americans were often forced to give up their traditions during these times, forced to learn English and become “westernized”. 

Interestingly, as our nation was dealing with westward expansion, the railroad, the question of the Native Americans and land, Western North Carolina was also facing the challenge of westward expansion. At the same time that Will Shelton was sent to work with the Navajo, the railroad first entered Waynesville and with it came the tourist industry and an influx of people moving into the area. Local mountaineers, who had lived a somewhat solitary life up until that point also feared for their traditions, mountain dialect, music, arts, crafts, and land.  The comparison may seem far-fetched but to the mountain people, often looked upon by “Easterners” as uneducated and ignorant “hillbillies”, this was a great concern.  

Here, at Shelton House, we pay homage to the struggle of the Native Americans to maintain their culture and traditions while, at the same time, learning to adapt to a more modern, commercialized America.
Will Shelton was sent to Shiprock, New Mexico to teach agriculture, crafting, and marketing to a native group that had survived without such help for hundreds of years. Easterners moved into the mountains of Western North Carolina buying up land for lumber and other industry and expecting the mountain people to readily accept this more commercialized, often destructive way of life.  And so, at Shelton House, we also honor the cultural heritage of the people of Western North Carolina, forced to eventually give up their agrarian lifestyle to begin working in the factories that littered this area in the early 1900’s. Cotton Mills, Textile Mills, Lumber Mills, Paper Mills…they all came and changed a way of life forever.

When, in 1980, Mary Cornwell opened the “Museum of North Carolina Handicrafts” here at Shelton House, she also was trying to preserve a part of that Appalachian and North Carolina heritage. She had seen throughout her lifetime, the waning of hand made crafts, so skillfully done in a traditional style. Not just in Western North Carolina but throughout our nation, the skills to create utilitarian art were quickly being replaced by manufactured items, less time consuming for a generation now having to labor in the factories to make ends meet. Mary Cornwell created a museum, inside a 19 th century agrarian homestead, that would recognize the skill of “heritage crafts"; traditional, utilitarian art that was fast becoming a piece of the past.

From the traditional crafts of the Cherokee, Navajo, Hopi, and Sioux that represent the national struggle of these and all Native American groups at the end of the 19 th century, to the handmade dulcimers of Haywood County’s Edd Presnell, who was such a skilled craftsman that the Smithsonian Institute holds three of his dulcimers in their collection, and to every piece in between, a visit to Shelton House is a cultural and historical adventure that is sure to rival some of the best nationally recognized historic homes and museums throughout our great county. Small, but packed with artifacts that tell a story of Haywood County, North Carolina, Native American, and America’s struggle to preserve and carry on the traditions, culture, art, and crafts of the “melting pot” of humankind that share this great land.

Last Kid's Craft Event at the Shelton House Barn is scheduled for Saturday,
August 10 at 10 am .
This is you last chance to drop your kids off for fun,crafts, and treats while you browse Haywood's Historic Farmers Market. $5 donation is requested.
Hope to see you there!

This months Crafter Showcase will be held on Saturday, August 17 from 10 am - 12 pm in the Shelton House Barn
Julie Wilson and
Hannah Shimabukuro will demonstrate their weaving and spinning techniques. Beautiful pieces available for purchase.
Shelton Carriage House
Gift Shop
Open through December 20 for your Holiday Shopping!
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It won't be long until the green leaves of Summer become the bright orange, red, and gold of Fall. Be sure to mark your calendars for our Fall and Winter Events

  • Don't miss our Annual "Ghost & Growlers" Event, Friday Oct. 25 at 7pm. Food, Wine, Beer and Fun!

  • Sunday December 8 at 5pm. An Old Fashioned Appalachian Christmas and Grand Illumination with Santa Claus!
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  • Sunday, December 8- through Jan. 2, 2020. The new "Tinsel Trail" will be lit around the Shelton House walkways. Stop by and see the decorated trees from various businesses throughout Haywood County.
What is the Shelton House Tinsel Trail?
The Shelton House Tinsel Trail is a display of Christmas trees on the Shelton Campus. It is Intended to promote community. Each tree is sponsored by a local corporation, group, or family, and can be decorated by its sponsor or another organization designated by the sponsor.

Who decorates the trees?
Each tree is sponsored by a local corporation, group, or family, and decorated by its sponsor. Trees can have themes that match the company’s mission, or sometimes they’re just totally unique! Each tree has a sign with the sponsor and decorator’s names.

How can I participate?
Sponsoring a tree is a great way to market your business, boost employee morale, and just be creative.

Tree sponsorships are available for the price of $250,
If you’d like to support our initiative, but don’t have time to decorate a tree just let us know and we’ll donate your tree to a worthy nonprofit organization.

If your organization would like to be considered as a non­-profit decorator please let us know to get on the waiting list for a sponsored tree. These trees are subject to availability, but we'll do our best to accommodate all requests.

What payment options do I have for sponsoring a tree?
We encourage sponsors to utilize our easy online "Sponsor a Tinsel Tree" process through our webpage (www.sheltonhouse.org), where you can place your order and securely pay with your cred it card in just a few short steps. If you prefer to mail a check, please contact us  and a Shelton House representative will contact you.

After receiving your payment, we'll reserve your tree and you will be good to go! Trees will not be reserved until payment is received. 

When does the Tinsel Trail open & how long does it last?
Tinsel Trail will open on Sunday, December 8, 2019 at the Grand Illumination of Shelton House and stay up through January 2, 2020 !

Do I have to pay to enter the Tinsel Trail?
No. This is a FREE community event. 

What are the hours of the Tinsel Trail?
The Tinsel Trail is open to the public daily until 9 pm. Trees are lit from dusk until 9 pm each night.   

Don't Wait. Trees are limited! Call Today to reserve your tree!
Shelton House - History, Heritage, and Crafts
PO Box 145
49 Shelton Street
Waynesville, NC 28786
(828) 452 - 1551