A “giant” of NC tourism

Hugh Morton’s energetic promotion of travel and tourism in the Southern Appalachians is well known. This High Country Press article provides Spencer Robbins’ first-hand perspective on Morton’s tourism work, which included helping found both the Southern Highlands Attractions Association and the High Country Host. (Please note: the Goodman article reflects personal perceptions of events, and contains at least one inaccuracy when it states that Morton considered a run for governor in the mid-1980s; it was in 1971 that Morton announced his candidacy for the 1972 election, but he dropped out before the primary.)

Morton’s boosterism is definitely reflected in the images he produced. In addition to the hundreds (thousands?) of shots in the collection taken of, on, or around Grandfather Mountain, there are numerous photos of other attractions including outdoor dramas, lighthouses and other coastal landmarks, the Barter Theatre in Virginia, Georgia’s Rock City, The Blowing Rock, Tweetsie Railroad, and the wonderful Land of Oz on Beech Mountain. (Some of these will be featured in a later blog posts, so stay tuned!)

But here’s one we just can’t figure out. This splotchy negative appears to show a re-creation of the giant’s house from the Jack and the Beanstalk story, shown with a real-life boy to provide perspective. The calendar on the wall reads, “Jack & Co. We Grow ‘Em Big! Dealer in Beanstalks at Magic Mt. Blvd. Pho.: Fe Fi Fo Fum.” The date on the calendar (oddly) is “Augustus 1063,” a month which apparently had 33 days. I know the J & B tale is old, but that old?

Part of my fascination with this image is that it seems vaguely familiar, as if I might have visited this place as a kid. Help me out—do you know why, where, when, or of whom this picture was taken?

Jack and the Beanstalk

11 thoughts on “A “giant” of NC tourism

  1. Actually, the Goodman article from “High Country Press” contains several other inaccuracies, in addition to the one about the date of Morton’s aborted run for governor.

    With regard to Morton’s fight against the proposed route for the Blue Ridge Parkway at Grandfather Mountain, it is not correct to state that the Park Service planned “to push the Blue Ridge Parkway across the top of Grandfather Mountain.” Even if the Parkway had followed the Park Service’s preferred route at Grandfather, it would not have ascended above 5000 feet, which is far below either the mountain’s peak (5964′) or the location of the “Mile High Swinging Bridge” (5305′). Never did the Park Service propose to put the Parkway at, near, or across the “top” of Grandfather Mountain. The Park Service’s favored route, though a few hundred feet higher than Morton’s, was always along the mountain’s side.

    Furthermore, what is rarely stated when the story of the Parkway is told this way is the fact that Morton had in 1952 himself built a road to the “top” of Grandfather — at least to the peak where he built the Swinging Bridge in 1952. Any discussion of projects that may have had the potential to damage the mountain needs to take account of this fact.

    Secondly, there is no objective evidence that the Park Service’s preferred route would have “destroyed much of what makes Grandfather a rich ecosystem, as well as damaging the integrity of the surrounding region.” 1950s-era studies, in fact, suggested that the Park Service’s route, which included a long tunnel, might have been less visually damaging to the mountain than other, lower routes. When the Parkway debate was going on in the 1950s and 1960s, virtually no one was talking about damage to any “ecosystem” at Grandfather. This language came later, with the flowering of the environmental movement.

    Finally, there is no historical evidence that I am aware of that supports the idea that Hugh’s “daring and innovative ideas of native plant preservation . . .eventually lead to the construction of the Linn Cove Viaduct.” The viaduct idea was the brainchild of federal highway planners trying to cope with the unstable Linn Cove boulder field, through which the Parkway would have passed no matter whether it had been built along the Park Service’s favored route or along Morton’s. Ecology, it appears, played a relatively minor role in the viaduct’s design.

  2. Thanks, Anne, for providing additional information/analysis about the history of the Viaduct project. Despite the inaccuracies, the Goodman article contains some good background on Morton’s tourism work and valuable personal perspective from someone who worked closely with him. Like other internet sources (or any kind of source), it must be evaluated for reliability and bias by readers (who can now do so in a more informed fashion, thanks to your comments).

    We’ll be pointing to other Web pages in future posts, too, to broaden the perspective on the Morton collection beyond what we can provide on the blog. No doubt there will be other inaccuracies out there.

  3. Those pics remind me of Tweetsie RR. I have a pic of me as a little girl in what looks like that chair, although I don’t remember the giant. Plus I was only 2 at the time, so my memories are sketchy at best. However, my mom has told me about the “giant’s house” at Tweetsie many times and we do have the pictures.

  4. Katrina is exactly right. The photo is from the Giant’s castle on top of “Roundhouse Mountain.” When you rode the chairlift to the top, you would exit and walk around the castle to get down to where the additional rides were (this was before the Country Fair area that they have today) and one of the stops was to see the sleeping giant. If you watched closely, you could see his chest rise and fall and hear him snoring. I’m sure you’re finding all kinds of interesting photos. Keep up the interesting postings.

  5. Anne Whisnant, despite Elizabeth Hull’s gracious response to you, your comments, wherever they may be made, about a man with the degree of integrity as possessed by Mr. Morton, are unwelcome to say the least. It is most interesting to me that you make them after his death. Whatever your agenda, it is absolutely distasteful.

  6. To Michelle: I assure you I have no “agenda” whatsoever. I am a professional historian whose objective and duty is to be as true as I can be to the data I found in the historical record contained in libraries and archives such as UNC’s. The statements I have made are all supported by extensive documentary evidence. As for making comments after Morton’s death, you will be interested to know that my book about the Blue Ridge Parkway was actually complete and out of my hands nearly a year before Morton died. It was simply an accident of history (and of the long timetable of producing scholarly books) that it appeared after his death. Additionally, it is my view that Morton was most certainly a public figure, whose actions had bearing on public policy in North Carolina. Whether Morton is living or dead, his actions in the public realm are fair game for analysis, discussion, and commentary — just as are the actions and legacy of any other public figure (witness historians’ ongoing discussions about dead presidents). Just because someone has died does not mean that everything that is ever said about them thereafter must be completely admiring.

  7. Certainly, your agenda is to create controversy in the interest of selling your new book. If you wish to try to use your position as a “historian” and the stance of “discussing the facts” as an excuse to that end, you possess the freedom to do so. However, I stand by my previous comments as to just how distasteful, and much less benign than you imply, it all really is.

  8. There is an excellent essay by Hugh Morton titled “Ever Friendly, Ever Vigilant” in the 1984 book, “North Carolina: Reflections of 400 Years.” The essay, on pages 118-119, is about North Carolina travel and tourism and it’s importance to our state.

  9. Yes it is the “Sleeping Giant” that use to be in the Castle on top of the mountain at Tweetsie Railroad…it is now where the “Miner’s Mountain” attraction is today..as soon as you got off the top of the chairlift was the old Castle…you then went up and around a flight of stairs and at the top of the castle is where the “Sleeping Giant” lay…you could not get as close as that kid in the picture..there were bars (like old prison bars) preventing you from getting that close..it was a fond memory as a kid cause that was the very first thing I use to do when I got to tweetsie was go up there and see the giant…then I would do everything else..ride the train..etc

  10. Yes, I remember that Giant! at Tweetsie’s mountain castle where the ski lift landed, as noted by several other replies. I recall being scared of him, as well as being scared of several other exhibits in side corners of the castle. One I recall was a large, black spider. Does anyone remember that? Better yet, does anyone have a photo of it they can share? Tweetsie had some other rides and exhibits no longer there, like cars you could drive around the base of the castle mountain and a stationary rocket you could sit inside atop a long stairway.

  11. I was trying to remember the name of this attraction for as a child we would travel from Eastern KY to Land of Oz, Tweetsie and see the Giant. Thanks for the great picture!

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