By Ken Mink and regional web sites
BOONE, N. C. –“How much do I love thee? Let me count the ways.”
Famed poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote those words more than 150 years ago.
Had she lived in the High Country of Western North Carolina she would have been hard-pressed to keep her list short enough to fit into a full-blown book.
For the reasons to love the High Country are many, many, many.
In the High Country you can find a large assortment of attractions and festivals, filling every month with something interesting to see or do.
This mountainous area has been hosting visitors for over a century, and today includes such popular attractions as Grandfather Mountain, Tweetsie Railroad, the original Mast General Store, Mystery Hill and many others. In addition, you’ll find unique farms, wineries and orchards to tour and sample.
The bustling communities in the High Country are surrounded by the spectacular Blue Ridge Mountains.
Named after famous American pioneer Daniel Boone, the town of Boone stays true to its adventurous roots. Cross the thrilling Mile High Swinging Bridges at Grandfather Mountain, delve into the past at the Tweetsie Railroad or ride along 200 miles of twisting mountain bike trails through the lush Pisgah National Forest – that’s just a sample of the amazing things you can do in High Country.
But Boone also offers more than outdoor pursuits. From shopping and theatre to major college sports events at Appalachian State University, you’ll find something unforgettable to experience no matter what type of travel you prefer.
Plus, there’s an array of comfortable and affordable hotels in Boone that will put you in the perfect position for exploring everything that the Blue Ridge Mountains area has to offer. Not the least of which is the historic Green Park Inn. at Blowing Rock.
The valleys, hills and mountains of North Carolina’s High Country have forever been inhabited by the Cherokee and Catawaba Native American Tribes. Legend tells us that two Native American lovers – one from each tribe – were walking near the rocks when the man received a notice to report to his village to go into battle. When his lover urged him to stay with her, he became so distraught that he threw himself off the blowing rock into the gorge. The woman prayed to the Great Spirit to return her lover, and the Spirit complied by sending a gust of wind which blew the man back up the cliff and landed him safely on the blowing rock itself. Thus, the Blowing Rock, which to this day is invested with currents that frequently “blow” vertically.
Settled by Scottish and Irish immigrants (farmers, hunters and trappers) in the mid-eighteenth century, and despite the ravages of the fierce fighting, and push and pull of the Civil War, the area ultimately developed a reputation for its spectacular views and cool, breezy mountain climate, and quickly became a prized tourist destination.
The Green Park Inn was opened in 1891 by a group of three businessmen from Lenoir, N,C, including Civil War Veteran Major George Washington Findlay Harper on extensive acreage then known as “Green Park” back then, and for many years, the hotel contained the only United States Post Office for the entire area. (A piece of this original post office remains with the hotel, in our “history room”, to this day.) The original hotel consists of over 53,000 square feet, three levels, a restaurant, and bar. In the late 1950s what is now referred to as “the golf wing” was built, adding somewhat larger rooms and balconies, overlooking the Blowing Rock Country Club golf course, to the hotel’s inventory. Throughout the decades and generations this Grand Dame of the High Country has hosted such historic and memorable figures as Annie Oakley, J.D. Rockefeller, Eleanor Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, and Margaret Mitchell (who penned part of “Gone With the Wind” while a guest of the hotel) and somewhat less notable, though no less important guests as the Smiths, and the Jones and so many more sojourners in search of a night’s respite, or a superb and intriguing vacation destination.
Given the hotel’s physical location, straddling the Eastern Continental Divide (at the gateway to the Blue Ridge National Parkway) and its rich history and significance to the North Carolina High Country, the Green Park Inn was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. The last of the “Grand Manor Hotels” in all of western North Carolina she remains the state’s second oldest operating resort hotel.
In May, 2010, the Green Park Inn was purchased by New York hotel “aficionados” Eugene and Steven Irace.Throughout the summer and early fall of 2010 the hotel underwent extensive infrastructure and systems repair and modernization, as well as having been entirely refurnished. Much if not most of the hotel’s new furnishings were made in America. For example, most of the room furnishings are Thomasville, and manufactured just down the mountain in Lenoir, N,C, or in High Point, N.C.
The hotel includes 88 guest rooms, approximately two thirds of which have been, refurbished. All guest rooms contain entirely new room furnishings, most have renovated or updated bathrooms, and many have new carpeting. All of the hotel’s public areas have also been refurbished and contain entirely new furnishing, and new floor finishing in most public areas. Work continues behind the scenes to refurbish and reopen even more guest rooms. The hotel’s large outdoor space, below the golf wing, has been entirely re-landscaped with much more open space, and grassed area. This work was completed in conjunction with major drainage repairs and upgrades. The Carolina Room, a 300 person conference and event space, the Blue Ridge Room, the hotel’s smaller 50-60 person capacity meeting room, and a hotel first ever fitness room have all recently been opened.
Following a “gut renovation” of the hotel’s kitchen facilities that included installation of more than 200 feet of underground plumbing, new 400amp electrical service, one ton of structural steel supports, and entirely new kitchen equipment, the hotel’s Laurel Room Restaurant was reopened to the public in July, 2011. In the spring of 2013, the restaurant facility was completely remodeled, and has been re-christened the Chestnut Grille, a casual mountain dining restaurant.
For info on Green Park Inn: 9239 Valley Blvd Blowing Rock, NC 28605. The hotel’s GPS address is different than their physical address. The GPS address is 5995 Lenoir Turnpike, Blowing Rock, NC 28605. N,C. DOT travel information: http://www.ncdot.gov/projects/blowingrock321/ For Reservations or Information 828.414.9230, e-mail us: reservations(at)greenparkinn.com
Boone as mentioned is named for famous American pioneer and explorer Daniel Boone, and every summer since 1952 has hosted an outdoor amphitheater drama, Horn in the West, portraying the White settlement of the area during the American Revolutionary War and featuring the contributions of its namesake.
In 2012, Boone was listed among the 10 best places to retire in the U.S. by U.S. News.
Daniel Boone, who on several occasions camped at a site generally agreed to be within the present city limits. Daniel’s nephews, Jesse and Jonathan (sons of brother Israel Boone), were founders of the town’s first church, Three Forks Baptist, still in existence today. Boone was served by the narrow gauge East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad (nicknamed “Tweetsie“) until the flood of 1940. The flood washed away much of the tracks and it was decided not to replace them.
Boone is a center for bluegrass musicians and Appalachian storytellers. Notable artists associated with Boone include the late, Grammy Award-winning bluegrass guitar player Doc Watson and the late guitarist Michael Houser, founding member of and lead guitarist for the band Widespread Panic, both Boone natives, as well as Old Crow Medicine Show, The Blue Rags, and Eric Church.