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Indian Cave Lodge and Indian Cave Park – Hendersonville, NC

Old Postcard of Indian Cave Lodge
Old Postcard of Indian Cave Lodge

I found photos of Indian Cave Lodge in Images of America – Hendersonville. This is an excellent series of books. It had the postcard above captioned, “This c. 1920 postcard shows a great photograph of Indian Cave Lodge. The mountain views are spectacular from this very special Laurel Park location. The lodge has been replaced by a private residence.”

Indian Cave Park Postcard
Indian Cave Park Postcard

Below it had this postcard of the cave.

Photographed c. 1920, a group of picnickers enjoys the daay at Indian Cave Park near Indian Cave Lodge. The park was a very special place for vacationers staying at the lodge. Picnics were packed and excursions were made for all-day outings.

Images of America – Hendersonville
Galen Reuther and Lu Ann Welter

Both postcards are printed in black and white, but I found them on eBay.


A friend and I went out to find the old hotel. I found Indian Cave Park Road on Mapquest, (it was around 2005), and we drove over to look for it. It wasn’t difficult to find. We went down a likely driveway and there it was. There were also a lot of no trespassing signs, so we took a few photos, which I can’t find, reversed out, and went to lunch.

Remington Figures at preview for the Indian Cave Lodge online auction
Remington Figures at preview for the Indian Cave Lodge online auction

Indian Cave Lodge Auction Preview

Then my daughter texted me to ask if I could go take a look at some little Remington figures in an online auction to let her know if she should bid on them. She gave me the address, and I thought it might be the Lodge.

We drove over and the Indian Cave Lodge was open for the Auction Preview.

Indian Cave Lodge Auction Preview
Ends Sun, January 19, 2020

Downsizing online estate auction from historic Indian Cave Lodge in Hendersonville, NC  This auction features a huge selection of antique, vintage, and contemporary furniture, art, pottery, bronze and concrete statues, relics, rugs, stained glass, and more that celebrate the Native American culture, the old west and cowboy life, and the rich history of Hendersonville past.  You will find Limbert style Arts and Craft furniture, Molesworth Cowboy Life reproduction living ware, Rare Sonya Holy Eagle Custom Native American oversize drum, Frank Lloyd Wright design style bar front, mission style chairs and side tables, Lane Mid Century, David Tiffany and Art Deco table lamps, custom Old West and Rustic furniture, carved bear bench, deer horn chair,  Sovereign custom Buffalo chair, ottoman, and side table, teak patio items, Hampton Bay, exquisite Emile Galle reproduction glass vases and lamp,  Brush McCoy, Weller, Van Riggle, and Shawnee pottery, rare drip edge green line pottery serving ware pottery, Native American and tribal rugs and runners, Garman, Remington, and Fraser Bronze and Brass statues, Weber Genesis gas grill, life size concrete Native American warrior, and so much more , Don’t miss this important and rare opportunity to capture a piece of the past.

estatesales.org/estate-sales/nc/hendersonville/28792/indian-cave-lodgepreview-times-thursday-1752733

The little figures had already been bid up to more than they were going for on eBay, but we got to wander around the house.

Indian Cave Lodge now
Indian Cave Lodge now

This is what it looks like now. Only the rockwork looks like what is on the postcards.

Entry to Indian Cave Lodge
Entry to Indian Cave Lodge

This is the entry.

Front Steps to Indian Cave Lodge
Front Steps to Indian Cave Lodge

The archway to the front door.

Front Hall at Indian Cave Lodge
Front Hall at Indian Cave Lodge

You come in the front door into this dark entry.

Open Living Area at Indian Cave Lodge
Open Living Area at Indian Cave Lodge

The steps bring you into this living room. The ceiling is open and there are catwalks to reach two rooms upstairs.

Open Living Area at Indian Cave Lodge
Open Living Area at Indian Cave Lodge

These are the stairs to the catwalks.

Indian Cave Lodge Catwalks
Indian Cave Lodge Catwalks

Everything has an Indian motif. I bet that triangle skylight is supposed to be a Teepee.

View of the downstairs from the catwalks at Indian Cave Lodge
View of the downstairs from the catwalks at Indian Cave Lodge

This is looking down from the catwalk into the living room. The rock stairs are the ones from the dark entry.

View from the bedroom sitting area at Indian Cave Lodge
View from the bedroom sitting area at Indian Cave Lodge

This is the view from the sitting room off the master bedroom.

The side of Indian Cave Lodge
The side of Indian Cave Lodge

This is the side of the house. There are lots of porches.

Old Postcard of the view from Indian Cave Lodge
Old Postcard of the view from Indian Cave Lodge

The original Indian Cave Lodge has a lot of porches, too. The view is amazing.

Lantern at the top of the driveway to Indian Cave Lodge
Lantern at the top of the driveway to Indian Cave Lodge

As we left, the sun finally came out just a little bit. This is the lantern by the driveway.

Indian Cave Lodge on Trulia

When we got back, we looked it up on-line to see the real estate listing.

Historic Indian Cave Lodge

Own a piece of history in this awe-inspiring mountain masterpiece encompassing over 1.44 acres with sweeping panoramic mountain views and city light. The lodge is documented as the 1926 training camp for famed heavyweight boxer Jack Dempsey. This lodge style estate boasts open floor plan, 45’ catwalks with hand forged supports, oak floors, pine planked vaulted ceiling, reclaimed stain glass windows, unique hand carved staircase railing, great room w/ gas fireplace and primitive tile surround, bar/sitting area, kitchen w/ custom oak and walnut cabinetry, granite, open dining area with Tiffany inspired lighting, master suite w/ sitting area, built-ins, His/Her closets and luxurious bath. Upper level features 2 quest rooms (one being ensuite) and office. Lower level boasts natural stone, unique water feature, gorgeous inlayed wood/tile design floor and flex space. Outdoor entertaining options abound with expansive covered veranda and observation deck. This spectacular residence is located minutes to Downtown Hendersonville. Truly an Artistic Masterpiece!

www.trulia.com/p/nc/hendersonville/253-indian-cave-park-rd-hendersonville-nc-28739–2027035176

There are a lot of photos on Trulia from when the house was completely furnished.

Indian Cave Lodge
Indian Cave Lodge

Volume 3 of From the Banks of the Oklawaha by Frank L FitzSimons has a chapter about Indian Cave Lodge.

FitzSimons tells that Captain Gilbart, an English sea captain by way of Florida built Indian Cave Lodge in 1917*. He divided some of the surrounding land into building lots and named the area Indian Cave Park.

The name came from the large cave high on Mount Hebron. Legends handed down tell that the cave with its awe-inspiring view was used by the Cherokee Indians to hold their religious rites and ceremonies. Legend also says that the cave was used as a place to hide by deserters and draft dodgers during the Civil War.

Indian Cave Lodge
From the Banks of the Oklawaha Volume 3 by Frank L FitzSimons

This area got a lot of tourists. When it got really hot in the southern states, people who could afford to came to our mountains to get out of the heat and humidity.

Indian Cave Lodge was very popular in the 1920’s with guests coming up from Florida and South Carolina to get a reprieve from the heat.

From Photo Gallery & History of Indian Cave Lodge
sites.google.com/site/indiancavelodge/RS
Site no longer up or available on the Internet Archive Wayback Machine

Indian Cave Lodge
Indian Cave Lodge

Indian Cave Lodge became nationally known because it was where Jack Dempsey trained for his fight with Gene Tunney,

In 1925, the manager of Laurel Park Estates Harvey Hester was at an event in Florida where he met Jack Dempsey. At the time, Hester was   selling luxury real estate at the top of Cantrell Mountain. He came up with the idea that Dempsey could do his spring training in Laurel Park and benefit from the pure mountain water and air. In an effort to draw potential buyers to the area, Hester and the Mayor of Laurel Park offered Dempsey $35,000 to train here.  Dempsey accepted and began his training in April of 1926. He was training for his upcoming title defense against Gene Tunney for the Heavy Weight Championship of the World.

History of Indian Cave Lodge

Newspapers all over covered the story.

Dempsey stayed at the Lodge while training and thousands flocked to Mount Hebron to see him work out with his sparring partners Tilley Kid Herman and Pete Angelos**. With him that summer at Indian Cave Lodge was Dempsey’s wife, the glamorous moving picture star, Estelle Taylor. She was as famous in her own right as was Dempsey.

Every morning, as part of his training, Jack Dempsey ran all the way from the Lodge to Hendersonville Post Office and back.

Indian Cave Lodge
From the Banks of the Oklawaha Volume 3 by Frank L FitzSimons

Laurel Park Inn
Laurel Park Inn

There were three training rings set up. One at Indian Cave Lodge. One at Laurel Park Casino.

Postcard of the 15 story Fleetwood Hotel at the top of Jump Off Mountain near Jump-Off Rock
Postcard of the 15 story Fleetwood Hotel at the top of Jump Off Mountain near Jump-Off Rock

And a third at the top of the mountain where they were building the Fleetwood Hotel.

It was planned that Dempsey would have his workouts in public and that there would be an admission charge of fifty cents to watch him and his sparring partners.

Dempsey Arrives in Hendersonville
From the Banks of the Oklawaha Volume 1 by Frank L FitzSimons

They set up a boxing ring on the front lawn of Indian Cave Lodge and charged 50 cents admission to watch the champ spar and train for the fight.  The lodge at that time had 20 rooms to rent. The idea was a major success as they sold out all the properties in the area at record breaking prices. At the end of May, Dempsey departed for his fight with Tunney.

History of Indian Cave Lodge

This was in the workout room at Indian Cave Lodge
This was in the workout room at Indian Cave Lodge

Unfortunately Jack lost by decision. Rumor has it that one of his training partners spiked his energy drink just before the fight.  After this, Laurel Park was never mentioned again in boxing history books.

History of Indian Cave Lodge

This area was hit hard even before the depression. The 1916 Gulf Coast Hurricanes wiped out many of the visitors and the businessmen who operated the hotels. The hurricanes cause a series of floods here. Every dam that supplied hydropower was washed away.

The Fleetwood was never finished. And a lot of hotels failed.

Old Sign from Millers Dude Ranch and Indian Cave Lodge
Old Sign from Millers Dude Ranch and Indian Cave Lodge

For a while the Lodge was a dude ranch. There was a sign when we went to the auction preview. I don’t know if it was original or a reproduction.

The property continued on through many incarnations, including a boarding house and dude ranch. Due to the Depression, the Lodge was vacant from about 1935-1970.

History of Indian Cave Lodge

When Frank L FitzSimons visited, it was empty.

In 1969 it was a ramshackled derelict, ravaged by the creeping decay of neglect during the passing years. There was a time though that it was a place of splendor, filled with the gay rippling laughter of young people and of the old ones who were still young in spirit.

Indian Cave Lodge
From the Banks of the Oklawaha Volume 3 by Frank L FitzSimons

Atkins Hopes To Keep 'Movin' On' Asheville Citizen-Times September 2, 1975
Atkins Hopes To Keep ‘Movin’ On’
Asheville Citizen-Times
September 2, 1975

In the 1970s the Lodge was chosen as a location for filming the hit TV series “Moving On’.

History of Indian Cave Lodge

Atkins Hopes To Keep 'Movin' On' Asheville Citizen-Times September 2, 1975
Atkins Hopes To Keep ‘Movin’ On’
Asheville Citizen-Times
September 2, 1975

Movin’ On was a TV show about two truckers, Sonny Pruitt and Will Chandler. It starred Claude Akins and Frank Converse. Each episode had them in a different area.  If you have ever heard some good ol’ boy say “do it like Pruitt” or “do it like Pruitt used to do it,” it came from this show.

Movin' On episode Please Don't Talk to the Driver Apple Festival Parade
Movin’ On episode Please Don’t Talk to the Driver
Apple Festival Parade

Sonny, Will, and our rig, the third star, become features in the 1975 Hendersonville Apple Festival Parade down Main Street…. with many, many, folks lining the street cheering our boys.

movinontvshow.com/episode-guide/1375-2/

For some reason trucking got to be really popular for a while in the ‘70s. There were a lot of movies, TV shows and songs about trucking. People even got CB radios so that they could talk to truckers from their homes.

At least two episodes were filmed in Hendersonville. In the episode Please Don’t Talk to the Driver they haul apples and end up in the King Apple Parade. The episode Long Way to Nowhere uses a truck from a local trucking company, B & A Hyder Trucking Co in the show.  Both trucks are hauling peaches. I don’t know which episode used the old Lodge as a filming location.


Indian Cave Lodge in '20s Indian Cave Lodge Now
Indian Cave Lodge in ’20s
Indian Cave Lodge Now

In the early 1990s, David Parrott, a well-respected designer schooled in the Frank Lloyd Wright discipline of architecture, along with his wife Andree Parrott purchased the property. Due to the neglected condition of the property, it was decided that the top portion of the lodge would be removed and a new modern yet rustic design would be constructed on the original stone foundation.

History of Indian Cave Lodge

That explains why the lodge doesn’t really look like the old postcards.

Public Facebook Photo tagged at Indian Cave Lodge from 2014
Public Facebook Photo tagged at Indian Cave Lodge from 2014

Kevin and Karilea Rhea owners of Olympia Moto Sports Apparel purchased Indian Cave Lodge in 2004. Through extensive renovations, Kevin and Karilea have created a modern mountain master piece.

History of Indian Cave Lodge

Henderson County Permits and Inspections are public records.  They show that from 2007 until 2019, they Rheas pulled 15 Zoning, Building, Electrical, Mechanical, Plumbing, and System permits.

The on-line records don’t go back to the renovations the Parrotts made.

Indian Cave Lodge footprint
Indian Cave Lodge footprint

This is the footprint of Indian Cave Lodge, built on the foundation of the original Lodge.

The Rheas sold Indian Cave Lodge in January of 2020. Their public Facebook says they moved to a house on an island in the middle of Lake Lure.

Indian Cave Park Postcard
Indian Cave Park Postcard

Indian Cave

The cave isn’t much of a cave. I couldn’t find anything about it going deep into the mountain.

Frank L FitzSimons says that “Legends handed down tell that the cave with its awe-inspiring view was used by the Cherokee Indians to hold their religious rites and ceremonies.” I think it more likely that marketing came up with the idea.

Indian Cave Road is down the mountain from the Lodge on Indian Cave Park Road. I am guessing the cave must be somewhere near there. Perhaps at the Cantrell Cottage by Indian Cave? It was still there after the Great Flood of 1916, when most of the other caves mentioned in old books were washed away.

Is this the cave?

If you look behind Cantrell Cottage, there is a path and steps. It comes out right behind Indian Cave Lodge. I would bet that is the cave. But I could be totally wrong.

*Hendersonville Records show that the lodge was built in 1892.
** Jack Dempsey’s sparring partner Pete Angelos retired to Hendersonville when his boxing career ended.