By Dave Leestma
As The Mountain Breeze celebrates its 30th anniversary year serving the greater Lake Lure area, we are recognizing local history makers for each of our 2017 Breeze editions. Rolland King is certainly qualified to be one of them. I interviewed Mr. King on his 95th birthday, last October 3rd.
Being a major land developer in Sarasota, Florida, how and when did you discover Lake Lure?
It all began when I arranged for my two older sons to attend a boys camp outside Hendersonville, NC, back when they were 8 and 12 years old. The program at the camp was for eight weeks during their summer vacation. While they were there I went to Hendersonville to visit them and stayed in a motel nearby.
Joe Bell was the owner of the camp. I got to know Joe while visiting the camp, and having fallen in love with the beautiful mountainous area, asked him if he knew of any good ten acres around there that I could buy and build a cabin on. He said no but he knew of the best deal there was anywhere over on the north end of Lake Lure with lake frontage and a beautiful home totaling 1500 acres. I was at the time involved with the biggest deal of my life in Sarasota – a 1200 acre tract right on US 41 three miles from downtown Sarasota which I was developing, and told Joe I couldn’t think about that at this time. The next year business had been good in Sarasota and I arranged for the boys to attend Camp Arrowhead again that year.
That summer I again visited the boys at the camp and again asked Joe about those 1500 acres in Lake Lure. Yes, it was still available, so Joe gave me a name of a real estate who had the listing. The agent drove to Hendersonville, picked me up and drove me to Lake Lure. I remember driving there and thinking to myself I was wasting this guy’s time and my own. When we got to the farm and I saw the location from the north end of Lake Lure and seeing the setting with Young’s Mountain to the east and mountains ranging to 4000 feet to the west, I was excited.
I returned to Sarasota and kept thinking about the land in North Carolina. The real estate agent had contacted me and of course was trying to sell the property. After some period of time I made a ridiculous offer that I thought the seller would never take, and low and behold they accepted it.
Please tell us some history about the property.
The land had been owned by a Mr. Leslie Cheek who was from the Maxwell House Coffee owner family. During the period when he owned the property he had been out on the lake with his two children and his caretaker’s child. The boat hit a submerged floating log caused by a recent big storm and turned over. The caretaker’s child drowned! This so saddened Mr. Cheek that he sold the farm.
There was not much of a real estate market in those days. Three local timber farmers had acquired the property and had cut most of the good timber. They were several years behind in their payments to Mr. Cheek and were about to be foreclosed on. They still owed Mr. Cheek about $80,000. The place looked terrible, all rundown with about 20 house high sawdust piles from the timbering. The house and outbuildings while rundown had been well built by Mr. Cheek.
My offer to purchase the property was $80,000, the amount owed to Mr. Cheek. This would get the timber guys out of debt – after all, they had made money on the timber they sold. I negotiated with Mr. Cheek. The US was in the middle of a depression and banks were not loaning any money on real estate.
I had come to North Carolina to put the deal together and stayed in the old Lake Lure Hotel. I had negotiated with Mr. Cheek and got the down payment reduced. Since most of my money was tied up in the Southgate (Sarasota, Fla,) project, I had to raise the money elsewhere.
I owned some beachfront land on Siesta Key (Fla.) that at the time was worth about $40,000, but not selling. I had a friend, Russ Groner who dabbled in real estate. I had tried to sell the lot to him in the past. In order to raise money I called Russ up and said, “Russ, if you bring me $20,000 this morning you can have that lot on the beach.” He said, “I’ll be right over.” With a few other deals like this, I put together $55,000. I then was able to get Mr. Cheek to accept this and take back a note for the balance.
Thank you for your personal story about this beautiful place we now call Rumbling Bald Resort. Are there any hobbies or activities you enjoy?
Until I got too old, snow skiing at Vail, Colorado was a big sport that I enjoyed for many years.
What do you like most about living here?
Our climate and getting away from Florida’s hot climate in the summer.
With 95 years behind you, what are your future plans?
I will return to Sarasota for the winter. When I arrive, I will invite some of my boating friends to go out on our sailboat in Sarasota, take along our lunch and a bottle of wine and talk over all our experiences in boating.
A final word, please.
No matter what your circumstances or physical limitations, try to enjoy each day.
Thank you, Mr. King, and all the best to you and your wife, Francine.
For more about the Mr. King’s personal history and development of the north end of Lake Lure, you can read his autobiography, “My Family – A Community Builder’s Destiny” available at Mountains Branch Library, Lake Lure.