3 Things You Didn’t Know about the History of Hazelwood, NC

Here are three things you probably don't know about Hazelwood Village.
Historic view of Hazelwood | Photo via The Mountaineer

On the west side of Waynesville is an area known as Hazelwood Village. Once the incorporated town of Hazelwood, NC, the neighborhood has maintained its own identity and evolved into a revitalized retail district. Locals and visitors enjoy arts and shopping along the walkable Hazelwood Avenue, including the iconic Hazelwood Soap Company, Robin Blu, and local favorite Smoky Mountain Coffee Roasters

But today, few people remember the history and development of this unique neighborhood. Here are three things you probably don’t know about Hazelwood, NC.


Hazelwood was a 20th Century Industrial Town

The town of Hazelwood incorporated in 1905 as an “industrial suburb” of Waynesville and home for employees of W.H. Cole’s sawmill. There were three significant manufacturing facilities in the town that employed a large percentage of the local population: the Junaluska Leather Co., the Waynesville Furniture Co., and Unagusta Manufacturing Co., also a furniture manufacturer. In the mid-1920s the Royle & Pilkington Company, a textile company, established a plant in the town, employing 200 people from the start. Wellco (shoes) and Dayco (rubber parts) were established later in 1941. Some of the original factory buildings remain in Hazelwood (notably the Royal & Pilkington textile mill), although most have been modernized. 

But the manufacturing boom would not last forever. Due to financial troubles, this once independent town was incorporated into Waynesville in 1995. Today, its boundaries are known by the perpetuation of the 28738 ZIP code.


Hazelwood Almost Exploded

In 1976, Unagusta Manufacturing Co. became Benfield Industries, a bulk chemical mixing and packaging plant. Neighbors complained about the conditions of the plant from the start, and unfortunately, their fears were well founded. At 3:20PM on April 21, 1982, a suspected electrical short caused a spark in the plant. The result was one of the largest and most dangerous fires in Haywood County history, destroying the plant. Almost 2,000 people living within a half-mile radius were evacuated quickly. Against orders, some employees, local firefighters, and the firefighters’ wives lingered in the area. Their efforts exposed them to harsh chemicals, but by working into the night, the team managed to keep the seven chemical storage tanks stored onsite from exploding and taking half the town with them.

In addition to the dangers of the fire, the blaze spread toxic fumes throughout the community. But that wasn’t the worst of it. Even after the fire had been extinguished, cleanup was slow. And the discovery of chemicals dumped directly into the soil tied up the site in nearly four decades of bureaucracy. It became Haywood County’s first Superfund site.


Hazelwood is a Global Destination

Since the 1980s, Hazelwood has been home to the Folkmoot Friendship Center. The center serves as the headquarters for the two-week Folkmoot international dance and music festival held every July. Folkmoot means “meeting of the people” in Old English—and the festival is certainly designed to do just that! Events provide opportunities for cultural exchange, from meeting the performers to learning their native dances. More than 100,000 people enjoy performances from 8–10 international dance groups each summer. Performances are held across WNC, including in Asheville, Cherokee, Franklin, Hendersonville, Lake Junaluska, Maggie Valley, and Waynesville. Recent groups have come from as far as the Czech Republic, Ghana, Jamaica, Thailand, and Venezuela, as well as from nearby Cherokee.


Live Abundantly near Hazelwood in Waynesville!

Today, Hazelwood is located within Waynesville town limits. High peaks surround the town of Waynesville, once billed as the Gateway to the Smokies and now the seat of Haywood County. The town’s proximity to Asheville offers residents the best amenities of a larger city while still holding on to its small-town atmosphere. The recently restored Frog Level train district has gained recognition as a National Historic District and is now home to a collection of small galleries, a coffee roastery, and a microbrewery. From outdoor adventures to cozy spots downtown, Waynesville welcomes people from many different backgrounds to visit and stay for life.

Does that sound like the perfect lifestyle for you? Find your dream home in Waynesville now!

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