Handmade in America / Discover Columbus

HandMade in America grows economies through craft and creative place making, transforming both individuals and communities through education, entrepreneurship and economic development. HandMade in America has a 19-year tradition for pioneering innovative ways to empower the people and towns of Western North Carolina through programs that educate and facilitate the needs of creative entrepreneurs and communities.


The HandMade in America approach to Small Town revitalization has been used successfully since 1996. The program assembles teams of experienced professionals who spend several days researching, visiting, and interviewing key stakeholders in the community. At the request of the Town of Columbus, HandMade assembled a Resource Team to assess and review the assets already readily available in the community, and opportunities to capitalize on those assets to improve the economic vitality of the town. The recommendations generally follow the original guidelines of addressing the four areas of the Main Street Four Point Approach® to revitalization: organization, design, promotion, and economic restructuring. The Columbus Assessment was a collaboration between HandMade in America and the N.C Department of Commerce Division of Community Assistance Western Regional Office, Advantage West, the Town of Columbus, and the Polk County Community Foundation. HandMade worked with local community representatives to assemble a Steering Committee that could reflect the aspirations and needs of the community.

The Resource Team spent three days in discussions with citizen groups, community leaders, staff, and organizations identified by the community as having insight into local assets, issues, and opportunities.

They took driving and walking tours, conducted interviews, took photos, visited specific sites under consideration, reviewed local ordinances, and developed schematic design solutions and sketches.

At the end of their visit, the team held a meeting and each team member offered observations, recommendations, and project ideas. After getting feedback, team members prepared this written report and implementation strategy, which was presented for further discussion and feedback from the Steering Committee before it was finalized and published.


Serving as a governmental center for Polk County, the 1859 courthouse serves as the central focus of the square. Stearns Park and the historic and adaptively reused school complement the historic and inviting setting. Moving west from the historic town center, the town quickly transitions to new development that straddles both sides of Interstate–26 corridor that divides Columbus. This area serves as the commercial center with service for both local citizens and interstate travelers. The western area beyond the interstate transitions yet again to the office and institutional area, home to St. Luke’s Hospital, the Polk County Public Library, Isothermal Community College: Polk County Campus, and other office and service businesses.

The one-block downtown features local businesses, an antique shop, and several restaurants. Nestled in the mountains, the surrounding area is filled with scenic drives and natural beauty. Columbus also houses the United States’ only flag museum, the House of Flags, in addition to the First Peak Visitor Center, weekly tailgate markets, and downtown festivals that celebrate Veterans Day and Independence Day.

95 Walker Street Columbus, NC 28722 - P.O. Box 146 Columbus, NC 28722 Phone: 828-894-8236 Fax: 828-894-2797