For those people who live here, stay here, or visit here, Sugar Top is like a good friend, and like a friend, we like knowing when they were born, how they were raised, and their life experiences along the way, and so it is with Sugar Top.
She was conceived in the minds of some fine architects, engineers, planners and administrators from the Resort Investment Corp. and the US Capitol Corp. developing company of Columbia, SC.
Their dream was of a 5-story wood and steel building, which would have covered pretty much the exact same square foot base as Sugar Top actually does today. At that time, the plan was for the 1100 square foot individual condo units to be built somewhere else and for the completed units to slip into the readied slots, like stack trailers, much the same as many motels are built. There was to be a five-story atrium in the center.
They hired S & W Construction Co. as the original contractor, to start early in 1982. That company folded and the Fireman’s Fund Bonding Company stepped in to pay off any outstanding debt. Next, the LP Cox Construction Co. of Sanford North Carolina came in, and was the company that completed the job.
Early on, when the five story building was still being considered, it was realized that the building as originally planned, would have not been able to withstand the already clocked winds of hurricane force, over 160 miles per hour up on the ridge of the mountain. It was at that time that the original plans were substituted for the 10 story tower that stands today. The original plans with many deviations were then built down below Sugar Top, and are still known as the country club condos.
From the inception of the building of Sugar Top right up to completion and beyond there was unrest from the local inhabitants of Banner Elk and all of Avery County, and eventually all of North Carolina and beyond. The people were upset because the huge skyscraper dominated the view of the lovely rolling mountain landscape, taking away the natural beauty that Mother Nature alone, had blessed the area with.
The building of Sugar Top became the most controversial living quarters in the history of North Carolina, and because of this, the Avery County Board of Commissioners passed a moratorium in March of 1983 on all High Rise construction in the county, in anticipation of a State Ridge Law. That Ridge Law made Sugar Top the last of it’s kind to be built on the ridge of a mountain, and that law was made even before the building was occupied. However, all 320 units were planned and designed well before the battle for the statewide ridge top development regulation began in the legislature. Therefore, Sugar Top is exempt from the law’s provisions. The exclusivity that the Ridge Law gave Sugar Top had proven to be a boon for the developers.
Sugar Top as we know her, was about to grow into the proud strong fortress that she is today. She started her life with three huge concrete and steel structures, already 10 stories high, one at each end of the building and the third on in the middle. These structures held the staircases, and were the end markings for all 320 condos to be attached together to form the 10 story High Rise. The entire building is a magnificent structure of steel and concrete, and completely fire proof. The huge round columns that are quite prominent everywhere, are steel and concrete. There are several hundred such columns, and they go down deep into the mountain sixty, one hundred, and more feet to insure how sturdy she is.
There was a concrete plant where you now see parking lot B, and huge cranes carried the finished products to the growing High Rise. In early 1983, and before the resort was completed, there were 240 condos already sold, and 80 units to be added, were still on the drawing board, and already one fourth of those had also been sold. Sixty percent of those who first bought condos, were from out of state, and half of them were from Florida, and seventeen percent were from South Carolina. Those purchases had all been made by mail, and most were to be investment properties.
The first 40 units had been sold from 1981 to 1983, for $69,900 when problems occurred, some changes were made, and the prices had to go up. However, the company honored their contracts, and built the condos at a cost of $98,000.00 each, of course losing money, big time. Another interesting statistic is that some condos sold for as high as $180,000.00, and the lowest priced went for $39,000, about twenty years ago. The unique status of Sugar Top actually boosted prices in the beginning. All units were sold completely furnished, making it a delight for owners to easily move right in, and there were three different choices, according to furnishing and amenities. There was the Standard, the Deluxe, and the Luxury to choose from. Some had washers and dryers. Of course for those who did not, there are spacious laundry rooms on every other floor, available to everyone.
As people first moved in, problems here and there showed up, and were taken care of immediately, by a 50 man crew on hand, 24 hours a day to take care of the unforeseen complaints, such as a window or two that cracked, and wind that blew in to the bathroom of one unit making an eerie sound. As in buying a brand new car, all the little bugs were removed, leaving Sugar Top, strong proud and secure.
Plans had been made for a restaurant, of coat and tie formality, along with a Grillroom for the casual eating, plus a deli for all hour snacks. Some of these ideas were started, but were not successful ventures. Even a small store for necessities and souvenirs were part of the plans.
October 19th, 1983 was the first day for new owners, and in four days, 160 people took possession of their condos. Sugar Top was being referred to as North Carolina’s Premiere Resort Locale. She was indeed an impressive High Rise sitting on the ridge of the mountain, to be seen from all directions below.
What more could we want? That says it all. We, who live stay or visit Sugar Top, have a warm feeling with her, and appreciate the history of her growth. Just stand and look out your window, no matter which unit you are in. You will never see a more beautiful landscape to appreciate. It can take your breath away. You have to see her to understand and experience life here to appreciate Sugar Top.