Froneberger House

She is officially The “Froneberger House” circa 1892 ………….

We usually just call it “Our House”. She is a grand old Victorian and has also been called:

  • Smith/Cralle House
  • The Old Froneberger House
  • LyonWood
  • The Manor
  • Hickory Knoll
  • HamHouse
  • The Big Yellow House

Welcome to the official web page for the Ham family residence. The home has a long history both for the town of Highlands and our family. It is located on a beautiful property right in town. Within five blocks can be found main street, Performing Arts Center, rec-park, conference center, ballpark, biological station, Kelsey trail, and most other town amenities. It sits on the crest of the ridge at Hickory Street with a view overlooking Main Street and Satulah Mountain to the south. A barrier hedge of native Rhododendron of provides privacy and a country setting. The original house has had four major additions over the years. The home is one of several recognized in the “North Highlands Historical District”.


Some Highlands History:

  • 1875- Samuel Kelsey obtains Lots 309 and 310 during town development period
  • 1889- Samuel Kelsey sells the two lots to Sophie Smith of Charleston, SC
  • 1892- Sophie Smith has house built by Barack Wright
  • 1900- William Cralle pays $500 to heirs of S. Smith
  • 1911-1924 Corinne Froneberger operates a private School from the house
  • 1913- Corinne Froneberger purchases from sister Louise Cralle the heir to William Cralle
  • 1925- Florence Thompson pays $3,400 to the heirs of Mrs. Froneberger
  • 1943- J. A. Lyons, J. J. Lyons, and T. H. Wood pay $2,100 to Florence Thompson
  • 1960- Hilbert and Edith Mueller acquire property from Wood’s estate.
  • 1969- Clyde and Charlotte Mehder purchase property for $36,000.
  • 1970- Jim and Louise Scott acquire property and sub-divide the portion fronting Chestnut St.
  • 1975- William and Henrietta Maret acquire property
  • 1983- Charles and Jeanne Clewis acquire property
  • 1989- The Ham Family acquires property

HamHouse in Bloom:

Random Occurrences and Bits of “Old Froneberger House” Knowledge:

In 1892 to 1893, Barak Wright was the builder of the original house. Barak was the father of Charlie Wright, who was famous for his rescue on Whiteside Mountain. His level headed action saved a friend from death and earned Charlie the Carnegie Award for Heroism.

In 1909 Mrs. Froneberger was one of the original donors to “The Satulah Summit Purchase”. Joining Margaretta Ravenel and dozens of other Highlanders, $500 was raised and the summit of Satulah Mountain was saved from future development. The resulting land trust was one of the earliest environmental land trusts in America.

Mrs. Froneberger’s son lived in the upstairs room over the kitchen. He was declared non-compos mentis. Those who knew him said he was a little different.

During May of 1956, J. McKinney constructs the stone wall around the house and driveway along with the unique outdoor fireplace with grill and smoker.

In 1970, the Mehder family donated the furniture in the house to their son’s fraternity at Western Carolina University. Clyde Mehder was shocked to pull up to the house and see a dozen fraternity brothers handing the upstairs furniture out the windows directly to the yard.

“Hero on Fool’s Rock”, a book about Charlie Wright’s Whiteside Mountain rescue of Gus Batty, written by Bill Merit, was published in 1975 the year Bill moved into our house. The house was built by Barak Wright decades before the act of heroism.

In 1978, Griffin Bell Jr. and his family spent the night in the upstairs rooms. During a visit to look at real estate, they were house guests of Henrietta Merit, the broker involved. At the time, Griffin’s father was Attorney General of the US.

March 12, 1993, the home survives the storm of the century with only wood heat. Thirty six inches of snow and 50 mph wind brought down five trees in the yard but there was no damage to the home. The power was out for eight days and the night time temperature was well below 0ºF, yet the water never froze.

In 1996, Steve and Beth Ham held an open house on July 14 and several previous owners were represented. Mary Louise McLauren had been a frequent visitor to Mrs. Thompson and rented the home during the summer of ’41. Louise Royal is the daughter of the Wood’s family. She was accompanied by her husband Lew. Clyde and Charlotte Mehder dropped by. Karen and Terry Potts had a special connection. Karin is Jim Scott’s daughter and grew up in the home. Bill Merit walked over from his place on Martha’s Lane and kept the group entertained.

In 2005, Eddie Lyons from Westminster, SC, and his sister Mary Lou from Six Mile, SC, pulled in the driveway. They are members of the Lyons family and had fond childhood memories of summers at Lyonwood. Beth Ham graciously gave them a quick tour of the home.

On August 8, 2007, an email was received from a web surfer who discovered this web site. Here it is:

“Hello Steve, my name is Jeff Mueller the grandson of Hilbert Mueller who owned the house in the sixties. What a joy it was to find your web page on this incredible house. I have so many fond memories of childhood vacations there. We just put our eight mm films on dvd so our family watched them together this past Sunday, and there was so much footage of the house and driveway it’s obvious now how much my dad loved it. Thanks for sharing its history.” -Jeff Mueller

2007, Angie Jenkins publishes her “Highlands North Carolina….The Early Years”, pictorial history of Highlands. The house has its own page under the name Smith-Cralle House wherein the Froneberger school is described.

ISBN: 9780971013025   Pub: Faraway Publishing   Pub. date: 2007

On July 28, 2011, along with the North Highlands Historic District, the home is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

October, 2021- Highlands historian Ran Shaffner provided a bit of further information about the early history of the Smith/Cralle house:  On 13 September 1889 Katherine E. and Samuel T. Kelsey sold a narrow rectangular parcel, stretching between Hickory and Chestnut streets and comprising lots #s 309 and 310, to Miss Sophia C. Smith of Charleston, South Carolina (Macon Deeds, Y/430). According to tradition Barak Wright then built a diminutive two-story cottage for Miss Smith, with a projecting, apparently centered gable-front bay on its south front, that comprises the southwest corner of the house that was expanded to the present, generally rectangular footprint. Miss Smith (1841-1892) was a native of Charleston and a vice-principal and teacher at the Memminger School in that city. Her pleasure in this cottage was short, and summer 1892 was her last season here. She died on 7 November 1892 in Charleston and was buried there in Magnolia Cemetery. In 1900 the late Miss Smith’s heirs sold the cottage to William L. M. Cralle (Macon Deeds, JJ/253). At her death in 1917, Mr. Cralle’s widow Louise (Williams) Cralle (1835-1917), bequeathed the house in equal shares to her sister Corinne (Williams) Froneberger (1845-1924), the widow of Rufus Froneberger (1831-1910), and her granddaughter Louise P. Gwyn (Macon Wills, 3/234). Mrs. Froneberger, well-remembered for the private school she operated here from 1911 until her death.


The Four Seasons: