Retro Charlotte

Love Valley: Iredell’s “Wild West”

“Just a holdin' jail -- not more'n four hours -- mostly for drunks.” 1969
“Just a holdin' jail -- not more'n four hours -- mostly for drunks.” 1969 The Charlotte Observer

*Depending on your device the photo slideshow may appear below the story*

Founded in the 1950’s and still ambling along today, Love Valley was the vision of Charlotte developer Andy Barker. The town attracted hippies (and rock concerts) in the 1970s but that’s a tale for another blog. Hope you enjoy the colorful story below, along with photos from the early days!

+ + + + +

September 3, 1959 - Charlotte Observer

It’s Hog Pasture or Paradise Accordin’ To Who’s Lookin’

Love Valley Something “Different” in NC Hills

LOVE VALLEY - “As thoroughly unattractive and uninviting as a hog pasture in wet weather” ... or ... “a beautiful valley ... really typical and true western”?

These opposed views of the “something different” nestled in the hills of North Carolina some 18 miles north of Statesville exploded in the columns of The Observer Forum last week.

To its founder, 35-year-old Andy Barker, Love Valley is a way of life. It’s the Wild West as it should have been ... friendly, unhurried, easy-going and romantic.

To its critics it’s a drab, ramshackle, untidy place that reeks of horses and manure.

“I love it,” drawls Andy Baker, and other Valley folk echo his words.

Headquarters of Love Valley lies at the foot of towering heavily timbered hills. There’s a rodeo arena, which doubles as a square dance “floor” Friday nights during the May-through-September “season.”

Skirting the arena of one side is a dirt road on which the town’s stores front. The store buildings, made of old and new logs and rough-cut timbers, are connected by a boardwalk. There’s a newspaper office, jail, a curio shop and a Belk’s store, probably the smallest in the giant mercantile chain.

The whole place has an authentically weathered look.

Across another dirt road at the lower end of the rodeo arena there’s a cafe, a sort of liquor-less saloon and eatery where excellent food to please the most sensitive stomach may be had.

The headquarters area gets a heavy, rapid runoff of water from the overhanging hills so that its roads become deeply rutted after prolonged rains.

“But I’ll be darned if I’m gonna pave ‘em,” Barker said defensively. “That’d shore not look Western.”

Instead, Valley folks churn their cars through the mud until the sun shines and the work of grading can be resumed.

Love Valley is far more typical of the Old West than are the luxurious dude ranches that reap an annual harvest of tourist dollars in the New West. Western dude ranchers learned long ago that Easterners with the most cash put comfort ahead of realism, luxury ahead of rusticity.

The folks at Love Valley have reconciled comfort and realism, while voting overwhelmingly for the rustic look. This is reflected in the design of the some 20 year ‘round and weekend residences. These exude a rustic charm outwardly while affording the occupants cozy comfort and fully modern living.

A dozen families call the Valley home. Some operate the rustically-housed businesses there. Others work “outside.” Another eight families weekend in the Valley. Still another 50 families have purchased building sites for future development.

Buying land in Love Valley isn’t just a matter of making up your mind and plunking down the cash.

“Love Valley folks gotta like you before you can buy here,” said Andy Barker. “We figure that’s the best way to keep it real friendly,” he explained.

This enclave of the Old West in the New Southeast was established in 1954, when Barker, a Charlotte residential developer, purchased the land.

“I wanted a place where folks could come and really be themselves,” he said. “It had to be informal, unassuming, and a place where everybody could be just folks.

“I always loved horses, and legends of the West intrigued me. But you know what, I’ve never been West, except to the Houston Fat Stock Show a couple years back,” Andy admitted laughingly.

“Oh, we made some bloopers,” he added.

Showing a picture of a bareback bronc rider clinging to the bucking string of a wildly pitching bronco with both hands, he said, “See, this was taken at one of our early rodeos. Later we learned that rodeo rules allow only one hand to hold the loose ends of the bucking string.”

In the past five years Love Valley, Inc. has put $170,000 into the development of the Valley, and lot-buyers have invested another $80,000 in their homes.

“I want to make Love Valley a real playground,” Barker said, “a recreation center for a large dude ranch development.”

Right now Love Valley is preparing for a crowd of three to seven thousand Saturday night to watch the finals of the Southeastern Rodeo Association competition. A good many visitors will arrive in time for the Friday night square dance.

Like all Western rodeos, this one will be an authentic contest with entry fees and the sponsor’s “kitty” going to the best performers.

Favored this year for all ‘round championship on the Southeast circuit is a Statesville cowboy, Dave Lawrence. He has been runner-up for three years and this year comes into the final point-making rodeo a few points ahead of the pack.

Numbered among the Valley residents are Statesville radioman Jim Taylor, pistol-packin’ Preacher Harry Paschall, saddle-maker Ray Silvis, editor-photographer Fred W. Harris, and a horse population estimated at 40 to 50.

At last report, everybody there loves Love Valley.

“Why, I even love that nice lady who wrote all those bad things about the Valley,” Andy Barker insisted.

He added with a knowing wink, “Why, that was just about the best publicity we coulda got anywhere. Do you know that 16 carloads of folks drove up from Charlotte last weekend just to see how miserable things are here?”

He chuckled, “After seeing our layout, one man suggested, “That lady has lived in the city too long. The stench she mentioned must have been this good, fresh country air.”

Taylor, public relations man for Love Valley, laughed when Barker said this. He spoke up, “Well, Andy, you must admit our horses here are quite uninhibited, so she might have caught a whiff of barnyard odor at that.”