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The Story of Lake Lure

Updated: Apr 19

Many people know Lake Lure as the setting of their favorite 80’s classic, Dirty Dancing. But did you know the lake was man-made? The lake resort surrounding Lake Lure today was the vision of one man: Dr. Lucius B Morse. Morse was a physician from Missouri who had been diagnosed with tuberculosis and was in search of a healthier climate. Morse gained financial backing from his brothers, Hiram and Asahel, and purchased 64 acres of land in present-day Chimney Rock State Park for $5,000 from Jerome Freeman. Later, the brothers acquired enough money to purchase 8,000 acres of land. The mountains in Chimney Rock State Park contained a rare sight (Chimney Rock), which rose 315 feet into the air, and provided spectacular views for climbers. The centerpiece of Morse’s vision was to be a man-made lake created by the Rocky Broad River. Morse’s wife, Elizabeth Parkinson, is credited with naming the lake Lake Lure. 


This project required the construction of a dam, which began in 1925. The dam was completed in September 1926, and the lake was formed in 1927. The town of Lake Lure also became incorporated in 1927, the boundaries of the town included Lake Lure. Unfortunately, Morse’s resort dreams were squandered by the failure of the economy in 1929 and the subsequent Great Depression.  


An often unknown fact about the 80’s classic Dirty Dancing is that the movie was produced on a shoestring budget. Filming began on September 5, 1986, and only lasted 43 days. The scenes filmed in Lake Lure were filmed at a former Boy Scout Camp called Occoneechee, which is a private residential community called Firefly Cove today. Specifically, the scenes include Baby carrying the watermelon and practicing on the stairs, Johnny’s cabin, the staff cabins, and the golf scene where Baby asks for $250. The famous ballroom lift scene was filmed in the ballroom of the Lake Lure Inn. 


Today, fans of Dirty Dancing can have the time of their life by attending the Dirty Dancing Festival Weekend Getaway, in Lake Lure. The Festival is supported by Lionsgate Films, Eleanor Bergstein (the writer of the film), and much of the cast and crew. The Dirty Dancing Festival is a non-profit fundraiser managed by a team of volunteers to raise awareness, support, and funds for PanCAN (the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network) and the Chamber of Hickory Nut Gorge. In 2010 the festival began its first year with a candlelight vigil for Patrick Swayzee, after his two-year battle with pancreatic cancer. In that first year, the event drew 1000 local attendees but recently the festival has drawn over 3,000 fans from across the country and all over the world. 

--Mia D'Agostino


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