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July 29, 2014

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Originally published: 2013-09-12 08:30:55
Last modified: 2013-09-12 08:31:39

Former Hound Ears resort owner dies

Ed Claughton, the man who bought Hound Ears Resort from the Robbins brothers of Blowing Rock in 1987, died at 86 at his North Carolina home on Sept. 7.

Services for Claughton were held at the First Presbyterian Church of Boone on Tuesday.

Claughton, a businessman and developer from Miami, Fla., played a pivotal role in the development of Hound Ears and its transition from a privately owned resort and golf club to a member-owned resort.

Claughton and his sister, Suzie Schmidt, purchased Hound Ears from Harry and Spencer Robbins (a third Robbins brother, Grover, who co-owned the resort, died of cancer in 1970).

Claughton and Schmidt owned Hound Ears until 2002, when a collection of the resort’s members, led by Dwight Jundt, purchased it and formed the Equity Club.

Born on July 27, 1927, Claughton was raised in South Florida. His family owned the Claughton movie theater chain.

At the end of World War II, Claughton served in the U.S. Navy for two years, and from 1953 to 1965 served as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force Reserve.

As a real estate developer, Claughton engineered some of Miami’s most notable land deals. He was also well-known as the owner and operator of the Silver Sands Motel on Key Biscayne and regularly held court in the motel’s Eagle’s Nest Bar.
He also developed Brickell Key, an island resort outside of Miami.

During the course of his career, he rubbed shoulders with many dignitaries,  including President Ronald Reagan, Vice President Spiro Agnew and the astronauts of the Apollo 11 mission.

Hound Ears history

In the early 1900s, the community of Shulls Mill was one of the more thriving towns in Watauga County. It boasted a population of more than 1,000, several churches, a school, lumberyard and movie theater. The East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad line ran through Shulls Mill, stopping to pick up passengers and loads of lumber.

In the late 1920s, many of the mountains near Shulls Mill had been completely timbered, and the industry fell into decline. It shut down entirely after the flood of 1940 destroyed the ET&WNC tracks along the Watauga River.

Blowing Rock brothers Spencer, Grover and Harry Robbins were developers in the High Country who early on saw the value of tourism and seasonal residents. They started Tweetsie Railroad and Wild West Theme Park in the mid-1950s and helped establish The Blowing Rock as a tourist destination.

They were also avid golfers. When it became apparent to them that the golf courses in Blowing Rock and Boone were operating at full capacity, they decided to open their own and purchased land in the fall of 1962 in the Shulls Mill community near Foscoe.

With a golf course designed by the legendary George Cobb, Hound Ears Golf and Ski Resort officially opened in January  1964.

The Robbins family owned Hound Ears until the mid-1980s and reportedly sold the resort to Claughton and Schmidt because of the Robbinses’ newest project, Elk River Resort.

For more information and stories, see The Blowing Rocket.

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