The peaks of crumbling outbuildings peer through overgrown vegetation at the Russell Farmstead in Mountain Rest. Though today motorists could easily bypass this site without a second thought, beginning in the late nineteenth century the property was an essential stop on the well-traveled route between Walhalla and the resort town of Highlands, North Carolina.
The land was purchased in 1867 by William Ganaway Russell, a wealthy cattle driver who subsequently built a spacious farmhouse and several outbuildings on the property; the following two photos are of a dilapidated cattle barn. Russell initially lived in an existing house on the property; when that dwelling burned, he replaced it with a two-story farmhouse.
Because the Blue Ridge Railway brought tourists flocking to Highlands only as far as Walhalla, Russell established his property along the Chattooga River as a stop for travelers continuing the trip by stage coach. Russell enlarged his farmhouse in the 1890s with an L-shaped, two-story addition on the rear; the addition could accommodate up to 80 guests at a time.
Both the inn and its dining room were popular destinations for those seeking a place to stay for the night or just a hot meal to sustain them on the journey. Despite the death of Russell in 1921 and the advent of automobiles, the inn continued operating into the 1950s, run by family members.
The federal government purchased the property, which is located in the Andrew Pickens Ranger District of the Sumter National Forest, in 1970 as a National Forest Historic Site. The farm house and three outbuildings were destroyed by arsonists in 1988; stone ruins of the house remain on the site. Other existing outbuildings include barns, storage buildings, an ice house, a corn crib, and a spring house. Above stands the stone chimney of the farmhouse, and below, stone steps lead to an extinct entrance.
The photo below was submitted to us by family member, Karen Fitzgerald. The photo depicts William and Jane Russell, with some of their children, and dog, gathered around the spring house.
More Pictures of the Russell Farmstead Outbuildings
The property of the former Russell Farmstead includes several extant outbuildings, despite the loss of other structures due to arson. Below are two storage buildings, a corn crib, and a root cellar. The root cellar was built into the bank to help maintain its cooler temperature.
The Russell Farmstead is listed in the National Register as the Russell House:
The Russell House was constructed sometime after 1867 and considerably expanded around 1890 and in the early twentieth century. The house, which burned in 1988, was significant in the area of transportation for its role as a late nineteenth and early twentieth century stage stop and inn, which was operated by William Gannaway Russell (1835-1921). The inn provided accommodations for travelers between Walhalla and the mountain resort area around Highlands, N.C. The Russell House complex, which includes 10 agricultural outbuildings constructed in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, is also significant in the area of agriculture. The outbuildings are representative of the diverse aspects of a small, turn of the century Appalachian farmstead. The various outbuildings, including the ruins of a log barn, a spring house, outhouse, garage, corn crib, and potato cellar, among others, illustrate common building types and construction techniques used in the region. The main house, two storage buildings, and a privy were destroyed by fire on May 14, 1988.