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"PEACE FOUND WITHIN" by KAREN WILES
The Blue Ridge Parkway is 469 miles long - 217 miles in Virginia, including the Skyline Drive, and 252 miles in North Carolina. It was conceived during the Great Depression -though the idea had some germination earlier - as a scenic tourist link between the two National Parks, previously mentioned. It was implemented out of a need to put people to work in 1935 during the Depression and the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) provided the labor.
The Blue Ridge Parkway history is full of colorful characters and hard working, determined, supporters. The road was not easily built, nor was the route easily determined.
The route through Virginia was fairly easily established, but a rather bitter rivalry developed between North Carolina and Tennessee for the rest of the route, as both states recognized the economic benefits that would arise in the near and far term. The man responsible for finally determining the route was Interior Secretary Harold Ickes, who chose a North Carolina route because there were already two National Forests (Pisgah and Nantahala) in NC that could be used as a corridor for the Parkway, because North Carolina was regarded as more scenic and because Tennessee had already benefited from New Deal projects like the TVA.
Now, if you were to think about planning a road today, you would probably call an engineer first. That's not what happened with the Parkway - they called a Landscape Architect. There were actually quite a few architects and engineers involved, but the lead architect for most of the project was the young Stanley Abbott, a Cornell University graduate. Abbott was influenced by the likes of Frederick Law Olmstead, designer of Central Park in New York and the surroundings of the Biltmore House in Asheville, NC. He wanted to create a park-like environment that would blend in with the natural surroundings and showcase not only panoramic views of the mountains, but also agricultural settings, streams and forests, and as it turned out, local folkways.
Planning and landscape design for the Parkway began Dec. 26, 1933 and construction began in Sept. 1935. The Civilian Conservation Corp began work on several sections of the Parkway simultaneously, with sections being given priority where employment needs were greatest. Contractors were mandated to hire local people whenever possible. Four CCC camps were established at various points along the route to perform the work. The CCC camps were managed in military style with workers being housed in barracks, marched in formation and taking turns with kitchen duties. Almost all of the work on the Parkway, including the rigorous chore of tunnel digging, was done by hand and with very little machinery.
Work continued steadily until the start of WW II by which time approximately 2/3 of the Parkway was complete. In 1942, the CCC was closed out and work on the remaining sections of the Parkway was sporadic. The work was not completely finished until 1987 when the Linn Cove Viaduct was completed.
Construction of hard structures along the route did utilize modern materials like concrete for bridges, tunnels, dams, and various buildings. Stonemasons later finished the work with facings of local stone to blend the structures into their surroundings and give the illusion that the work was done in a more primitive fashion. The Linn Cove Viaduct section of the Parkway has been called the "most complicated segmental bridge ever built". The Viaduct was designed by computer and probably could not have been done earlier in the project as it required technology to be developed for its' design. It is an elaborate double-S curve elevated bridge that skirts the side of Grandfather Mountain at MP 304. The purpose of elevating the roadway rather than blasting it into the side of the mountain was to limit the impact on ecologically sensitive Grandfather Mountain, which is designated by UNESCO as an International Biosphere Reserve.
September 14th, 2013
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