Nestled in the mountains of northwestern North Carolina, Banner Elk (population 1,035) is a town dedicated to protecting and promoting its historic resources. The first inhabitants of Banner Elk were Cherokee Indians; the first non-native settlers arrived in the area in 1825. In 1848, Martin L. Banner established the first permanent settlement in what became known as “Banner’s Elk.” When the town incorporated in 1911, the name was changed to the current Banner Elk.
Early settlers were largely self-sufficient, raising a variety of crops and cattle, and trading furs. By the beginning of the 20th century, tourism had become a major industry in Banner Elk, and remains so today. Other key employers in the town include Grace Hospital and Lees-McCrae College, a private, four-year institution founded in 1900.
Recently, the Greater Banner Elk Heritage Foundation (GBEHF) has worked to promote heritage tourism in a variety of ways. Renovation of historic buildings has been a large part of this process. The old village grocery has been reincarnated as a tourist information center, and a former cheese factory is now home to the Avery County Arts Council. Both sites, as well as others, are visited in a two-mile walking tour of historic Banner Elk. The tour begins at the Banner House Museum, one of the earliest houses in Banner Elk, which was recently purchased, renovated, and opened as a museum by the GBEHF.
In addition to tours of the historic house, the Banner House Museum, open from June-October, offers a series of four youth workshops called “Elk Camp,” which focus on historic activities such as 19th century games and plant dyes.
Designated a Preserve America Community in March 2008.