Blue Ridge Parkway
Virginia and North Carolina
Construction of the Skyline Drive through Shenandoah National Park was the chief inspiration for the Blue Ridge Parkway. Begun during the Depression as a public works project, the scenic mountain highway attracted tremendous attention. When President Franklin Roosevelt visited the project in 1933, Virginia Sen. Harry F. Byrd recommended the roadway be extended southwest to the new Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Roosevelt eagerly endorsed the proposal, and the governors of Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee appointed a planning team to bring the project to fruition. On Nov. 24, 1933, Interior Secretary Harold Ickes approved the construction of the new "Park-to-Park Highway" as a public works project.
Ickes authorized $4 million of public works funds to begin construction and hired Stanley L. Abbott, a young landscape architect with New York's Westchester County parkway system, to oversee planning for the project. Abbott's role in the parkway's development was critical. He promoted the concept of the parkway as a chain of parks and recreational areas, each a destination in itself. He also suggested preserving views beyond the parkway boundaries through the use of scenic easements and presented the motorist with carefully crafted, ever-changing pictures of Appalachian scenery and culture. Abbott is remembered as the "father of the Blue Ridge Parkway."
The route of the new road had to be determined before construction could begin. The original concept provided for a road leading southwest from Shenandoah National Park down the Blue Ridge into North Carolina, then crossing the Unaka Mountains into Tennessee for the final approach to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. When field parties reported on several alternative routes, North Carolina and Tennessee proponents began to argue. North Carolinians, most notably the Asheville Chamber of Commerce, wanted the southern section to stay in their state all the way to the Smokies, while Tennesseeans demanded their promised share of the road. Both states recognized the tremendous tourism potential of the road and lobbied hard to have the road located through their state. After more surveys and intensive lobbying, Secretary Ickes approved the Virginia-North Carolina route.
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