Happy Birthday, Parkway

In case you haven’t heard (perhaps you’ve been hibernating), 2010 marks the 75th anniversary of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Numerous events throughout the year will help mark this occasion, including a symposium next week at Appalachian State University, at which UNC Libraries’ Natasha Smith, Elise Moore, and faculty advisor Anne Mitchell Whisnant will unveil the exciting Driving Through Time digital project! (More on that after it’s launched).

Luckily, we were able to steal Dr. Whisnant (author of the 2006 book Super-Scenic Motorway: A Blue Ridge Parkway History) away long enough to write an essay for our Worth 1,000 Words project. It’s now available, and is entitled Roads Taken and Not Taken: Images and the Story of the Blue Ridge Parkway ‘Missing Link.’

It’s no secret that determining the route for the last leg of the Parkway was a protracted, complicated, and divisive process, but one that ultimately resulted in the much-celebrated (and photographed) Linn Cove Viaduct (shown from the air at left). In her essay, Whisnant uses some of Morton’s own images to shed new light on this conflict. She also provides a crucial backdrop for some of Morton’s later environmental work, which will be examined in future Worth 1,000 Words essays.

We look forward to receiving your thoughts and comments!

7 thoughts on “Happy Birthday, Parkway

  1. Hugh was just thirty years old when he received ownership of Grandfather Mountain. At the time the Park Service had a right-of-way for one route around the Mountain for the Blue Ridge Parkway. It really didn’t seem right for the State to use Eminent Domain to condemn a second route for the same highway. And there was no doubt that a 1700 foot tunnel through Calloway Peak would have been horribly expensive and enormously ecologically damaging to the Mountain. It would have had to be lighted, requiring a power line to deliver the electricity. It was even said that crash equipment would have had to be available at both ends of the tunnel. At its proposed elevation it would have been much more frequently subject to the driving hazards of fog and cloud. And, most of all, it wasn’t necessary. Looking back on it, it was remarkable that one young man was able to prevail against the powerful Park Service bureaucracy, and I don’t think he could have done so if he hadn’t been right.
    Hugh made it a policy from the earliest days of any development he undertook to save the plant material which was being disturbed. We had our own nursery on the Mountain for shrubs which were later reused, but scores of volunteers came to the Mountain at his invitation to dig up up all the little plants which were being disturbed to move to Botanical Gardens in Asheville, Chapel Hill, and many other places. It amused him that the diggers were even enthusiastic over the onion-like ramps they found. Hugh was not right all the time, but he had amazing vision and accomplished a great many things in many fields. Not everyone liked him, but most people admired and appreciated his contributions to North Carolina.

  2. I have been watching this sight since Jim Morton told of the fate of Hugh Morton’s photos on a camera weekend at Grandfather Mountain. I make time to look at the site about once a week. There is such inspiration in the photos alone, but the stories and comments that go with each one are wonderful. I find myself wanting to be a better citizen and photographer beacause of his immortalized efforts throughout life. It is a true legacy!

  3. I happened across this photo and history and memories flooded back … we used to live in Reston, VA and loved to drive the northern part of the Blue Ridge Parkway at all times of the year. This reminder of the fall foliage was a very appreciated reminder to me since we moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico – quite a different landscape experience here!

    “Thanks for the memories.”

  4. I am back after three months! But I have no idea what the monkey business is about. The slide show “superlatives” was mostly the crazy things people brag about like the tallest steeple, largest Christmas tree.etc., etc. Maybe you and Jack haver already solved the riddle, and all I need to do is keep looking.

  5. I have been watching this sight since Jim Morton told of the fate of Hugh Morton’s photos on a camera weekend at Grandfather Mountain. I make time to look at the site about once a week. There is such inspiration in the photos alone, but the stories and comments that go with each one are wonderful. I find myself wanting to be a better citizen and photographer beacause of his immortalized efforts throughout life. It is a true legacy!

  6. On September 11, 1935 (77 years ago today) work began, near Cumberland Knob in North Carolina, on the Blue Ridge Parkway. 52 years later, on September 11, 1987, a dedication celebration was held for the magnificent Linn Cove Viaduct…thus opening all 469 miles of the Parkway to traffic.

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