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Connestee Falls News

 

Last updated 3/25/2021 at 9:32am

Lake Ataga'hi, one of four man-made lakes, was named for the legend of the Yunwi Tsundsi - a medicine lake that healed wounded animals and birds. The lake could only be seen by Cherokee hunters after fasting had sharpened their spiritual sight.

Happy 50th Connestee Falls!

This year marks the golden anniversary of Connestee Falls, a community "stitched together with bits of myth, truth, tales and lore." Its moniker honors the twin waterfalls that are located just outside the development's property line: the 85-foot Connestee Falls waterfall and Batson Creek Falls.

The beautiful land on which Connestee Falls is built has a history all its own.

The first settlers to the area were members of the ancient Cherokee Nation. Myths about a broken-hearted Indian princess who jumped from Connestee Falls to her death whisper in the wind. But between fires, war, riots and arguments over jurisdiction, the area experienced great turmoil. Thankfully, because of its fertile ground and pleasing weather, people from all over were inspired to come and explore the majesty of the mountains. By the end of the 1800s, when sawmills and gristmills began popping up, the area began to thrive.

It wasn't until 1971 when the development Connestee Falls began to take shape. The Realtec Corporation of Florida purchased just under 3,000 acres and formed the Connestee Falls Development Corporation, which focused on creating "a new year-round recreational community of more than 2,500 home sites," according to a June 10, 1971 article in The Transylvania Times.

Realtec sought out locals to construct, market and sell the development, but attracting future homeowners took some ingenuity. Without social media and internet advertising, the developers got creative. They enlisted actor Eddie Albert, who, at the time, was starring alongside Eva Gabor in the television series "Green Acres," to serve as their spokesperson. Brevard native MaryAnn Duvall had the opportunity to be one of the development's first employees.

"There was a direct mail campaign inviting potential buyers to Connestee Falls for a free meal and a weekend stay," she said. "I worked at the motel and guided guests up to the sales office where they began their tour. From there I was a housekeeper, and later became the motel's receptionist. When the hotel was booked, the Imperial Motor Lodge in town helped to accommodate guests – it was a great time."

Duvall fondly remembers the early days of development:

"For residents living in Connestee today, it's hard to image that back then the roads weren't paved. Construction vehicles had to be pulled up by bulldozers to make their way up the mountain. The development sure has come a long way."

Today, Duvall runs Shadowbrook Farms off Wilson Road. Be sure to pay her and the animals a visit! Dubbing itself as "a casual mountain club community," Connestee Falls offers a championship golf course, a clubhouse with a restaurant, 18 miles of Hiking trails, a pool, tennis and pickleball courts, bocce, a wellness center, and lots of social and other interest clubs.

In those early stages, Stanley Whitcomb, executive vice president for Realtec, said, "Connestee Falls is a place where people and nature live together in harmony."

This holds true today, and adding to its charm are the Cherokee-named streets like Udvawadulsi, Wodigeasgohi and Gvli, which make pronouncing one's address and navigating the roads quite interesting!

One of the development's neighbors isn't a who, but a what.

Carson's Creek Baptist Church and cemetery sit on the development's footprint. The church stood on the land 86 years before homes were ever built. Founded in 1885, the church was rebuilt in 1895 on its original site near a small graveyard on Lake Atagahi. When development for the community began, Realtec wanted to make certain that Connestee Falls remained a gated community, and worked with the church's leadership to renovate it. It's now a special part of the property.

While you may think that "a development is just a development," Connestee Falls is so much more that. Its residents not only care for and nurture the natural areas within the neighborhood, but they also care for the larger community of Brevard and the businesses and people who live and work there.

"Throughout our history, we have been a large employer in the county and currently employ 65 full-time and 30 seasonal employees," Rodgers Livengood, current president of the Connestee Falls Property Owners Association (CFPOA), said. "We created the Connestee Falls Scholarship Fund to provide college scholarships to local students, and since its inception have raised over $1 million and funded 600 scholarships. The impact of our volunteer efforts is hard to quantify because there are countless number of residents who volunteer and offer financial support to charities all over Brevard, which makes this development so unique."

Whether it's a school clothing drive, a canned food drive or reading to children, the residents of Connestee Falls give of themselves to help wherever needed.

Life on top of the mountain is blossoming.

The population of the community is evolving, and more and more families of all ages and backgrounds are planting roots alongside the native rhododendron. Livengood points out that with the fairly recent surge of residents choosing to raise their family here, he believes that Connestee will continue to be a special slice of paradise for generations to come!

The spirit of Connestee Falls belongs to its residents who continue to give back. This past holiday season, the Newbies Club hosted a "Drive by Toy Collection Drive" for local children in need.

"It's the natural beauty, lakes, trails, many activities, and the feeling of being connected with nature and each other through the many groups that creates the deep love I have for Connestee Falls," he said.

This former girl from Miami couldn't agree more.

Join me in wishing Connestee Falls a very Happy 50th!

(Information for this article was compiled from the book, "The Spirit of Connestee Falls," written by the Connestee Falls History Committee 2010, 2012 and 2013.

Be sure to check back here the last Thursday of the month to learn about what the residents of Connestee Falls are doing to help build a better community.)

 
 

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