Last Updated on April 24, 2023
Can you name five famous residents of Polk County? How about the author who once wrote a poem about a local ice cream shop? Do you know why there’s a giant toy horse sitting along Tryon’s main drag? Or why local residents once held regular Sherlock Holmes festivals?
You already live like a local. Want to know the area’s history like one, too? Here are four museums you need to visit to understand the ins and outs of the history of Polk County.
Polk County History Museum
History buffs of all ages and interests will enjoy visiting the Polk County History Museum. A wide range of historic artifacts illustrates the history of Polk County, from an early 1800s stagecoach to antique farm tools and implements. There are also displays recreating a school room, home setting, doctor’s office, and beauty parlor from olden days. Of particular note are the items related to actor William Gillette, who created Sherlock Holmes’ iconic “look” and lived in Tryon during his later years. In addition, the museum’s research desk can provide assistance with genealogical searches. The museum is within walking distance of the Polk County Courthouse, built in 1859, and historical markers and points of interest such as the Howard Monument, the DoughBoy statue, and Stearns Park.
There is no charge for admission. Those interested in taking history home can purchase historical books and DVDs, vintage postcards, and more at the museum’s store.
60 Walker Street, Columbus | (828) 894-3351 | polknchistory.org
Saluda Historic Depot & Museum
Saluda, NC has the honor of hosting the steepest, mainline, standard gauge railroad in the U.S. Opened in 1878, the three-mile Saluda Grade crests in its namesake town. The historic depot serves as a modern icon of Saluda’s beginning and subsequent prosperity from the train line that brought this small mountain town into being. Since 2016, a train and heritage museum has occupied the depot, offering visitors a chance to tour the restored structure and learn about its interesting history. (It was originally located elsewhere.) Stop in for exhibits and events that preserve and promote Saluda’s heritage, celebrate its culture, and showcase its natural resources.
32 W Main Street, Saluda | (828) 769-9016 | saludahistoricdepot.com
Tryon Historical Museum
Located just off S Trade Street, the town’s main drag, is a modest looking museum packed with big stories. The Tryon Historical Museum is committed to preserving and sharing Tryon’s unique story in the most accurate and imaginative way possible. The museum offers regular exhibits and presentations, including their popular Tales of Tryon series. Look for upcoming events from this series on the third Wednesday of every month.
The Tryon Historical Museum doubles as the town’s visitors center. The museum is free and open to the public, but donations are cheerfully accepted. Annual memberships are also available for individuals and families.
26 Maple Street, Tryon | (828) 859-0123 | tryonhistorymuseum.org
House of Flags
Every museum offers interesting, one-of-a-kind objects to examine. But the House of Flags Museum is in itself the only museum of its kind in the country. The museum has more than 300 American and international flags on display. This unique tourist destination is dedicated to nurturing and promoting patriotism, flag etiquette, and historical understanding of the evolution of the American flag in particular. In fact, multiple exhibits educate visitors on the history and evolution of our nation’s flag. All flags are full-size faithful reproductions accompanied with detailed descriptions of their story. Admission is free, but donations are accepted to cover expenses.
33 Gibson Street, Columbus | (828) 894-5640 | houseofflags.org
Live Abundantly in Polk County
Polk County has a rich history. But locals also appreciate it for its outstanding natural features and proximity to iconic destinations. Known as the “First Peak of the Blue Ridge,” Polk County welcomes flatlanders to a higher altitude. The county has elevations ranging from just under 800 feet at the Green and Broad Rivers to over 3,200 feet on Tryon Peak and Wildcat Spur. Most of Polk’s 20,000 residents cluster near the county’s three main towns of Saluda, Tryon, and Columbus. Tryon International Equestrian Center, a sprawling, $100-million equestrian center and luxury resort, operates nearby in Mill Spring.
Does that sound like the perfect lifestyle for you? Find your dream home in Polk County now!