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Unlike many of the other towns and counties of Western North Carolina, Sylva is not named after a war hero or a pioneer, but instead a wayfaring Danish handyman. At least that’s how the story goes. In the 1870s, a man by the name of William Demetrius Sylva spent a month working on the home of E. R. Hampton, who owned much of the land that would later become the town. When Hampton decided to charter a post office in the area in 1880, he asked his daughter, Mae, what she thought he should name the town. As she was smitten with the dashing Dane, Mae allegedly responded, “Sylva.” Though there are several differing accounts of this story (including that the man’s name was Selvey, that he was not a wandering Dane but a Georgian with family ties to Western North Carolina, that he spoke fluent Spanish and not Danish, among other things), the odd narrative fits this unique mountain town of around 2,800. After gaining a railroad station just a few years after the post office was chartered, Sylva quickly grew to prominence. It incorporated in 1889, and then became the seat of Jackson County in 1913. Many of the buildings along Sylva’s Main Street date back to this time. The architectural gem of the town, however, is the original Jackson County Courthouse, which was completed in 1914 and built in Classical Revival style. Perched on a hill overlooking Main Street, the courthouse continues to reputedly be one of the most photographed public buildings in North Carolina. It was recently renovated, restored, and reopened as the Jackson County Public Library Complex and Genealogical Society after a more modern courthouse was built nearby. Though Main Street below continues to have a historic railroad town aesthetic, it has become a hub for younger artisans and artists, as well as a major destination for dining and nightlife. Four breweries have recently cropped up along Main Street that attract beer connoisseurs, while more sophisticated cocktail bars and restaurants serve as a magnet for foodies from throughout Western North Carolina and beyond. Main Street is also home to several live music venues, while the town hosts a summer concert series every Friday at the Bridge Park gazebo. For those who are looking for a quick escape into nature, Pinnacle Park—an 1,100-acre stretch of wilderness owned by the Town of Sylva—contains loads of trails, allowing visitors to explore streams, waterfalls, and an expansive vista from the 5,008-foot pinnacle for which the park is named. For those who want to go further afield, Jackson County offers tons of camping, hiking, kayaking, fishing, and skiing. The Blue Ridge Parkway runs along the county line, while Great Smoky National Park is just a few miles beyond. Travel east for no more than 45 minutes and you’ll arrive in the city of Asheville. Nestled deep in the Great Balsam Mountains, Sylva combines the charm of a quirky mountain town with easy access to outdoor adventure and the city.

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