Mile High Milestone

Dedication of Mile High Swinging Bridge, Sept. 2, 1952

Grandfather Mountain’s Mile High Swinging Bridge was dedicated 56 years ago on September 2, 1952 by then-Governor William B. Umstead (pictured above at the ceremony at center, with his daughter, WBT Radio announcer Grady Cole on the left, and Hugh Morton on the right).

The bridge was one of several projects Morton took on during the early years of his oversight of Grandfather, designed to turn it into (according to the slogan he coined) “Carolina’s TOP scenic attraction.”

An Oct. 1, 1978 article about Morton from the Greensboro Daily News recounts the following:

The swinging bridge was one of two options when Morton decided to get visitors from the gift shop-museum parking lot to the rocky overlook. “We had to have some way to get them across, and we could either have a stationary bridge or a swinging bridge,” he said. “We decided the swinging bridge would be more fun, and would make a good conversation piece.” Some 30 percent of women visitors, and a smaller percentage of males, however, think it best not to cross the bridge.

Crossing the bridge is one thing (speaking as a “woman visitor” who has done it, in 95-mph winds, even!); building it is entirely another, as you can see in the picture below. This is NOT a job I would have taken on.

Construction of Mile High Swinging Bridge, 1952

The Mile High Swinging Bridge proved not just a promotional boon for Morton, but a photographic one as well. He took many beautiful images of the bridge over the years—enveloped in mist, framed by vivid fall leaves or blooming rhododendrons, encased in rime ice. I find the (cropped) image below particularly “striking.”

Mile High Swinging Bridge in lightning storm, circa 1950s

7 thoughts on “Mile High Milestone

  1. There must be a thousand Hugh Morton photographs of the “Mile-High Swinging Bridge.” And each one, like the other 499,999 images in the Morton collection, has it’s own story. One of my favorite Hugh Morton “Swinging Bridge” pictures is the one on the front cover of the May, 1990 issue of “North Carolina” magazine. Beautiful pink rhododendrons in the foreground with a Carolina blue mountain sky in the background frame the famous bridge lined with visitors.

    And my favorite “Swinging Bridge” story is the one lovingly told by Charles Kuralt at the 40th anniversary celebration in 1992. That story is on the Grandfather Mountain web site at:

    http://grandfather.com/swinging_bridge/tribute_to_mile_high.php

  2. I just noticed there is a picture of the “Swinging Bridge” dedication in Hugh’s 1988 book on page 120. The book picture of Gov. William Umstead, his daughter Merle Bradley, and Grady Cole, is credited to June Glenn. Jr. (a contemporary of Hugh’s who worked for “The Asheville Citizen-Times” newspaper) and it is a little different from the one in this post. Also, the book caption says you can see Hugh’s wife Julia just to Cole’s left.

    http://www.carolinaliving.com/visiting/history_mountains.asp

  3. me and my friends went to visit this place when we were young! now, i am 49 and i look back and say to myself, “what was i thinking crossing that MILE HIGH SWINGING BRIDGE??????!!!!!!!”

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