Banner Elk School


The Historic Banner Elk Elementary School is a unique and iconic cultural resource within the heart of downtown Banner Elk. Built in 1939 as a WPA project during the Great Depression, the stone building served as an elementary school for seventy-one years prior to being converted into a business incubator site by the Avery County Board of Commissioners. The Town of Banner Elk wishes to preserve the historic site for future generations, expand much needed parking for the downtown business community, promote and sustain its tourism economy by providing a convenient and beautiful central area for festivals, fairs, and other cultural events, and enhance the appearance and character of downtown Banner Elk through complimentary uses of this space. Located on 5.390 acres in downtown Banner Elk, the property is located next to Tate-Evans Municipal Park and the Town of Banner Elk Greenway trail. The location of this site will allow the Town of Banner Elk to provide additional parking for its downtown merchants and is connected by municipal sidewalks to downtown businesses and other points of interest within the Town of Banner Elk. No other site is available within the Town of Banner Elk which would provide this amount of additional parking and opportunities with this level of convenience to the downtown community.

The Town of Banner Elk recognizes the benefits of government working to assist businesses within the community and providing the necessary infrastructure for the business community to succeed.  The Town of Banner Elk feels that its lodging establishments, restaurants, and other businesses are closely tied to its scenic and idyllic character as a tourism destination.

National Register of Historic Places - Banner Elk Hotel
Banner Elk School
NRHP ID100001628
Date Added09/18/2017
Property5.39 acres
ArchitectDonald R. Beeson
Significance1940 – 1967

The Town of Banner Elk further feels that through promoting the preservation of historic sites such as the Historic Banner Elk Elementary School, increasing the number of opportunities for tourism and destination related events, and encouraging a healthy and vibrant downtown are important and vital needs of the Town of Banner Elk in planning for its future success. For these reasons, the Town of Banner Elk found that the purchase of the Historic Banner Elk Elementary School was a necessary and expedient acquisition for the Town. It will provide uses for Banner Elk citizens and the community at large as well as allow for planning for the future growth of the Towns businesses and tourism related industries.

The Town purchased the property from the Avery County for $1,000,000.00 with owner financing at a rate of zero percent interest over a 12 year term. The Town received positive response from the community for this purchase and it is the hope of the Town that the debt can be offset by donations from those interested in the property’s preservation and future use.

Perhaps no one did more for the development of Banner’s Elk at the beginning of the twentieth century than Presbyterian minister Edgar Tufts. He established a girls’ high school in Banner’s Elk in 1900, and in 1907 the school became the Lees-McRae Institute, the forerunner of Lees-McRae College. In 1908 Tufts established Grace Hospital, which housed the first permanent doctor in Banner’s Elk, and the first surgery facility in the area.3 In 1911 Avery County was formed from parts of Watauga, Mitchell, and Caldwell counties. In that same year Banner’s Elk was incorporated as the town of Banner Elk.

Notable People

  • Tufts, Edgar

Geography & Location

Banner Elk School
185 Azalea Circle
Banner Elk, NC 28604

Banner Elk School Gallery

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