It was the Paleo Indians who first inhabited what is now known as Big Canoe, some 4,000 years ago. Rock piles scattered through an area named Indian Rocks Park are still visible. The Cherokee Nation occupied the area until they were forced to relocate to Oklahoma in the 1830’s, and the beginning of the infamous “Trail of Tears” is landmarked a few miles from Big Canoe’s entrance gate.
A few years later, marble was discovered nearby, and Colonel Sam Tate purchased hundreds of acres and began to quarry high-quality white and a rare pink marble. A little-known fact is that the marble used for the White House, the Lincoln Memorial and other famous monuments came from the Tate Marble quarry, still operating today.
Colonel Tate and his family were instrumental in building a school, which is now the Big Canoe Racquet Club, and a school farm that grew crops where the Sconti Golf Course is today. The Canoe Lodge, which houses the POA office, once housed cattle and horses! The Chimneys Conference Center, used for frequent weddings and executive meetings, was named after what was left of two chimneys of the primary residence of Steve and Lucille Tate that burned to the ground in 1959.
The development and branding of Big Canoe as a mountain resort community was begun in 1972 when Tom Cousins of Cousins Properties in Atlanta and the Sea Pines Corporation of Hilton Head purchased about 8,000 acres. From the beginning, over 30% of the virgin forest was designated as a green belt for perpetuity, and most of the Big Canoe real estate was platted for ¾-acre lots, with some lots as large as five acres.
In 1987, The Byrne Corporation later joined by the Greenwood Development Corporation, assumed the development and sales and marketing of Big Canoe homes and lots. In 2016, the undeveloped property was divided, and the Property Owners Association purchased 730 acres, comprised of 51 parcels in order to preserve and protect future development of what is affectionately referred to as “Mother Canoe.” Byrne and Greenwood sold their interests in the property in 2018, and 1,100 undeveloped acres on the east side of Steve Tate Highway were sold to a group who have put the property into a land conservation trust.
“The Character of Big Canoe,” a document that was formalized in 2004 describes the vision of the POA and residents perfectly: “Big Canoe is a private, gated master-planned community designed to achieve a harmonious integration of the natural beauty of the land with those elements most desired in a resort and residential community.” To read the full document, click here.