The Blue Ridge Parkway is a popular tourist destination in western North Carolina and Virginia. This scenic road links Shenandoah National Park and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and it is the most visited attraction in the National Park System most years. Its history can be traced through North Carolina newspapers on Chronicling America.
Construction on the Blue Ridge Parkway began in 1935 as part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s efforts to end the Great Depression.
In 1936, the project was officially named the Blue Ridge Parkway and placed under the authority of the National Parks Service.
Construction was funded by the federal government. Robert L. Doughton, chairman of the House ways and means committee, fought for this funding—the road passed through his district, and was only 3 miles away from his home.
Work on the Blue Ridge Parkway continued until 1943 when the US entered World War II. At that time, 170 miles of the road had been completed, and work had started on another 330 miles.
Some sections of the road remained open while others were under construction, but even those sections were not as developed as they are today.
The Blue Ridge Parkway was not officially completed until 1987. The last section to be completed was the Lynn Cove Viaduct, which was a bridge that was carefully constructed to protect the habitat around Grandfather Mountain. Now, the Parkway spans a total of 469 miles as the result of 52 years of construction.
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