A little while ago I took a few days with Mom and went up the Blue Ridge Parkway. Oh and by the way, I was the one driving this time! I got my Learner’s Permit on April 3rd when I was visiting Florida and have been enjoying driving a car ever since. This was a nice, relaxing drive. It wasn’t as chaotic as city streets. The speed limit was a cool 45 mph all along the parkway.
Not only is it very beautiful but it’s also full of history, so let’s get into it. We started at around the middle of the Blue Ridge Parkway and headed for the 0 mile marker.
Let me just say that the Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the most amazing places in the U.S. and if you have the time you must go. The road is surrounded by forest almost all the way and there are tons of pullouts all along the drive which allow you to take a breather, stretch your legs and take in the beautiful scenery. At most of the pullouts there is a piece about the history of what you are looking out on. They are short and interesting.
Along the road, there are either nice farms, old structures, visitor centers or some breathtaking cliff overlooks. You can stop at any of them and learn the history of that area and the people who lived there. We’re staying close to the Mabry Mill that I suggest seeing. It’s kind of like a living museum.
I found the history of the Blue Ridge Parkway fascinating. In 1931 President Herbert Hoover started what was known as the Skyline Drive just north of what was to be the Blue Ridge Parkway. There are still some hard feelings between the Shenandoah National Park (the Skyline Drive’s park name.), and the previous owners of the land. Apparently they were forced to leave their land so that the Skyline Drive could be built, and as you may figure they weren’t too happy about that.
Nevertheless in 1933 the construction of the Skyline Drive was completed by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps). So, the new president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, went to visit and had the idea of extending it further down south, creating a new National Park, and calling it the Blue Ridge Parkway. It connected the Skyline Drive with the Smoky Mountains National Park.
Later that year, Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes accepted this idea. But, it didn’t just end there. Some members of congress proposed a different route that went through Tennessee instead of Virginia.
The debate raged on for almost two years. Finally, a friend of Roosevelt’s named Jonathan W. Daniels helped to sway the congress in FDR’s favor and the Virginian route was accepted. So, on Sep 11, 1935 (yeah, the debate took that long), with a budget of sixteen million dollars, the Blue Ridge Parkway construction started.
The people working on it were mostly privately owned contractors. But, companies like the CCC, the WPA (Works Progress Administration), and the ERA (Emergency Relief Administration) worked on it too. By 1939 only about 170 miles were open to the public and another 160 were mid-construction. The rest hadn’t been started.
With World War II raging on, the Parkway took a backseat. By 1950 about half of the Blue Ridge Parkway was open. So in the mid 1950s the NPS launched a new initiative they called “Mission 66.” The plan was to mark their 50th anniversary by finishing the Blue Ridge Parkway.
The mission ended up being very successful. The Blue Ridge Parkway was almost finished, but there was only 7.7 miles left to build. However, that chunk of land was owned by a man named Hugh Morton.
He argued against building the Parkway, because he was concerned about the mountain’s ecology, stating that it was very fragile. After years of negotiating the two parties came up with the Linn Cove Viaduct Bridge. This structure was a ten million dollar, complex, award-winning bridge that went around the mountain protecting the ecosystem while keeping the beauty of them, too. This bridge was so incredible that it’s still a huge pride point for the architects and engineers that build it.
And so, finally in 1983 the Blue Ridge Parkway was complete.
Well that the end of this article. I hope you liked it. I might be making more one’s like this in the future so look out for those. But for now, goodbye and have a wonderful day.
Cole signing out.