Appalachian Cultural Resources Workshop Papers
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In a recent discussion of aesthetics, American geographer Yi Fu Tuan commented on the contemporary cultural landscape: American space dwarfed pioneer settlements, humbled oxcarts and horse-drawn caravans, and made walking on two feet seem impractical or foolhardily heroic. The motorcar has changed all that. Towns, once at the mercy of nature and distance, now fear being by-passed—considered unworthy of a stopover—by speeding motorists. To catch their eyes, local businessmen resort to excesses of size and color, and to creating a carnivalesque atmosphere. [1]

Perhaps this view of strip development is shared by historic preservationists who seek to preserve the aesthetic qualities and characteristic cultural resources of historic communities and historic rural landscapes. In addition to the impacts of strip development, our historic communities face other forms of changing land use. For example, new suburban residential development is encroaching on historic districts and scenic rural landscapes adjacent to our national parks. A recent newspaper article reported that residential developers were casting their eyes on land adjacent to the Blue Ridge Parkway near Roanoke. [2] Our proposal for the Appalachian Cultural Resources Workshop sprang from concerns about the need for local and regional historic preservation planning strategies to protect cultural resources and to share information about the resources of our southern highlands. The National Park Service, through the Preservation Assistance Divisions Cultural Resources Training Initiative and the Cultural Resources Planning Division of the Southeast Regional Office, provided major funding for the workshop.

The Appalachian Cultural Resources Workshop met at Owens Hall on the campus of the University of North Carolina-Asheville (UNCA) on April 1 and 2, 1992. Sixty-two people attended the event which was sponsored by the Southeast Regional Office of the National Park Service (NPS), the Southern Appalachian Man and the Biosphere Cooperative (SAMAB), and the Southern Highlands Research Collection of UNCA.


The primary goal for the workshop was to share information on historic context statements, planning strategies, historical overviews, vernacular architecture, and regional material culture research being conducted by Appalachian specialists from the public and private sector. Specific objectives were to provide a forum for discussions and to encourage the preparation of historic contexts needed for the development of state and local comprehensive historic preservation planning.

The workshop coordinator consulted with State Historic Preservation Offices (SHPOs) and Federal agency cultural resources specialists to develop a varied agenda which would reflect the character of the region. We all agreed that the workshop was a great opportunity to bring together a multidisciplinary group of professionals to discuss local, state, and federal historic preservation planning efforts.

The workshop featured twenty-two presentations related to five broad categories: Pioneer Settlement Landscapes, Appalachian Resorts/Communities, Industrial Contexts, Planning, and Cultural Conservation. The diversity of the presentation topics represented professional research interests as well as current cultural resources management issues. The participants included cultural geographers, historians, archeologists, folklorists, historic landscape architects, and architectural historians, who shared a special interest in the cultural resources and cultural landscapes of Appalachia. Though the region is nostalgically represented by quaint rural log cabins or mountain scenes, the papers presented discussions on investigations of a distinctly broader scope of resources. It is clear that cultural resources planners are beginning to understand all the discover issues associated with the preservation of significant and complicated historic and cultural landscapes. Such landscapes very often contain a variety of resources from several periods of development. We learned that several southern State Historic Preservation Offices have already recognized the need to preserve and protect these layers of cultural resources and have developed Historic Preservation Plans which include historic contexts for industry and African-American heritage.

Our workshop began with welcoming remarks from Gary Everhardt, Superintendent of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Harley E. Jolley, the well-known historian of the Blue Ridge Parkway, provided us with a delightfully informal view of Appalachian heritage, poetry, and humor which set the tone for the remainder of the workshop.


Folklorist Jean Spear and landscape architect Ian Firth made formal presentations based upon recent research conducted for the NPS Southeast Regional Office and for the Blue Ridge Parkway. Archeologists Michael Harmon and Rodney Snedeker from the U.S. Forest Service reported on efforts to identify and preserve nineteenth and twentieth century farmsteads in the National Forests of North Carolina. Delce Dyer, landscape architect, and Quentin Bass, archeologist, dealt with the issue of evaluating rural historic landscapes and preparing interpretive plans for areas within the Cherokee National Forest in East Tennessee. Michael Southern of the North Carolina SHPO, showed slides of the rural historic landscapes typical of the New River Valley. Western Carolina University archeologist Anne Rogers shared he her knowledge of prehistoric and historic fish weirs, a largely undocumented element of the rural landscape along the scenic river valleys in the mountain counties of western North Carolina.


National Park Service historian, Kent Cave, presented his case study of the development of Asheville within the context of the New South. Barbara Church, preservation specialist with the North Carolina Department of Transportation, reviewed her efforts to document historical landscape changes at mineral springs resorts in Virginia. Liz Straw from the Tennessee SHPO traced the historical development of the Cumberland Homesteads community near Crossville, Tennessee.


Jim Jones and Claudette Stager of the Tennessee SHPO reviewed recent documentation for historic contexts and evaluations prepared for National Register nominations related to the coal and iron industries. Jones proposed the development of regional contexts based upon the common experiences that confirm that the Appalachian region is unique in American history. He advocates a mutual effort by preservation planners to develop multi-state historic contexts for the coal industry, motor tourism, pre- and TVA hydroelectric development, and the history of urban Appalachian African-American experience. Jones asks if the National Register criteria excludes the not famous, the miners houses, the coke ovens, etc. He challenged historic preservation professionals to justify the study and preservation of the remains of coal and iron industry and related company towns, early motor courts, and urban African-American resources.


Hubert Hinote, director of the Southern Appalachian Man and the Biosphere Cooperative, graciously served as the workshop facilitator for the planning discussions. He was assisted by special invited guest, Luther Propst, director of the Successful Communities Program of The Conservation Foundation (Mr. Propst is currently with the Sonoran Institute). Their session reported on planning for a small East Tennessee community near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Luther Propst presented an overview of planning strategies to preserve the character or local identity of small communities. The Tennessee Valley Authority's (TVA) historic architect, Charles Tichy, discussed the agency's cultural resources program. Karen Easter, preservation planner from the Georgia SHPO, lead us through the local community planning process and discussed the benefits of the Georgia Planning Act of 1989. Dan Brown the historian from Cumberland Gap National Historic Park reported on the efforts to restore Cumberland Gap to its historic appearance.


Peggy Bulger the regional folk arts coordinator for the Southern Arts Federation, made a well-received presentation which advocated a network for sharing information among the multidisciplinary workshop participants. The role of the Museum of the Cherokee Indian in cultural conservation on the Qualla Reservation was presented by Ken Blankenship, the director of the museum. Molly Blankenship discussed the role of the Qualla Arts and Crafts Cooperative in preserving Cherokee heritage and promoting Cherokee basket-makers. Linda Caldwell reported on a three-county heritage tourism initiative in East Tennessee funded by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.


Hubert Hinote led the workshop participants into a discussion on the need to build a network to share information, to encourage individual efforts, to advocate for regional planning efforts, and to promote awareness and appreciation of the unique cultural and historical resources of Appalachia. Jean Spear suggested that the Appalachian Studies Conference would be another way to share information about historic preservation planning efforts in the Appalachian region. Other workshop participants agreed that a follow-up meeting should be considered and Kirk A. Cordell, Chief Cultural Resources Planning Division, Southeast Regional Office, said that he would work with Hubert Hinote to organize a cultural resources committee which would plan future meetings or workshops. We also reported that the papers presented at the workshop would be published and at that time, asked the participants to submit their manuscripts.


This publication contains seventeen of the presentations made at the workshop. We are grateful to each of the authors who made the extra effort to prepare manuscripts. As the result of their efforts, we believe that this publication accomplishes the primary goal of the workshop, sharing and disseminating information about the diversity of Appalachian cultural resources.


1 Yi Fu Tuan, Passing Strange and Wonderful (Washington, D.C. Island Press, 1993), p. 158.

2 Ron Taylor "Developers cast Their Eyes on Scenic Mountain Route," The Atlanta Constitution, Monday, 26 August 1993.

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Last Updated: 30-Sep-2008