A Dream Takes Shape
With funds secured and building materials promised, the founding families set out to to turn their vision into a reality. As part of the contributions given by the families, Edward Carter contributed four acres of land in 1855 upon which the first building was to be built on. Reverend William Keith helped settle a dispute about the exact placement of this first building by driving a stake into the ground and proclaiming it the site of the planned structure. Soon after the site of the school was chosen, the Asheville contracting firm of Shackleford and Clayton was awarded the construction contract for the first building.
As Madison County was still an isolated area at the time on construction, the materials needed for the first building came from local sources and areas. Timber needed for the building was sawed a water-powered saw mill located at the Forks of Ivy and owned by T.S. Deaver. Due to a lack of roads, the sawed timber had to be transported from the mill site to Mars Hill by wagon via a long, difficult route through the mountains. The bricks needed for construction were handmade by enslaved African-Americans as well as community volunteers at a mill along Gabriel’s Creek, near where Chambers Gym stands today. Construction of the first building was completed in the the spring of 1856 and the school opened its doors for the first time the following fall for the 1856-1857 session.