Skyline Drive Historic District
Whose Idea Was The Drive?
The first recorded mention of the construction of a Skyline Drive (not the phrase then mentioned) was by William C. Gregg, a member of the Southern Appalachian National Park Committee who suggested the idea of a ridge road to L. Ferdinand Zerkel, a member of the Board of Shenandoah Valley, Inc., during his five-day visit to Skyland. The idea ended up incorporated into the recommendations of the Committee.
Length: 105.5 miles from Front Royal to Rockfish Gap
Dates/Costs of Construction:
Contractors for the Drive:
Bituminous surfacing of the roadway was separately contracted and was awarded to either Corson and Gruman Company, Washington, D.C., Southern Asphalt Company, Richmond, Virginia, or Barrett Paving Company, Harrisonburg, Virginia.
Marys Rock Tunnel
The tunnel, 670 feet long, was bored through the solid granite of Marys Rock in 1932. Although justified as avoiding the necessity of creating an expensive cut on the existing slope and filling the down slope areas, thus creating a massive man-made, visual feature, it has been suggested that the tunnel was built as a challenge to Bureau of Public Roads and National Park Service landscape architects. The tunnel was partially lined with concrete in 1958 to alleviate the formation of icicles in winter and water seepage in summer-a partially successful effort.
Guard Walls and Guard Rails
The CCC built many of the stone walls along the Drive, particularly those in the South District and those at overlooks. Beginning in 1983 many of the original walls have been rebuilt by the Federal Highways Administration with cores of concrete, reusing the original stone as a veneer. When built the Skyline Drive had miles of chestnut log guardrails, particularly in areas of open fields and meadows. The guardrails rotted and all were removed in the 1950s, not to be replaced.
Civilian Conservation Corps
The CCC "boys" did not construct the roadbed of the Drive as has at times been suggested. But there would be no Skyline Drive without the efforts of the CCC. They graded the slopes on either side of the roadway, built the guardrails and guard walls, constructed overlooks, planted hundreds of thousands of trees and shrubs and acres of grass to landscape both sides of the roadbed, built the picnic areas and campgrounds, comfort stations, visitor contact and maintenance buildings, and made the signs that guided visitors on their way. Many served as the first park interpreters.
More about Skyline Drive...
"Skyline Drive: Railing at Walls"
"Skyline Drive: A Road to Nowhere?"
Did You Know?
In 1928, wanting to escape the heat and humidity of summers in Washington, D.C., Herbert and Lou Henry Hoover began looking for a "summer place" within a day's drive of the city. The Hoovers acquired land within the proposed Shenandoah National Park and built Rapidan Camp, their summer White House.