On this day in WNC history: After years of debate, revisions, construction, and even a bomb threat during the ceremony, the Blue Ridge Parkway was officially completed when the Linn Cove Viaduct was dedicated in 1987. This viaduct, sitting on the slope of Grandfather Mountain in Avery County has become one of the most iconic parkway sections since this time.
With the push for the Great Smoky Mountains and Shenandoah national parks in the 1930s, the NPS also desired a great scenic parkway connecting these two eastern parks. Construction of the 469-mile route began in 1935 and, interestingly, a viaduct was the first proposed solution to traversing the ecologically sensitive and geologically unstable side of the famous Grandfather Mountain. The mountain was owned by the McRae family and was later inherited by a grandson—Hugh Morton—in 1952. Morton, a tourism promoter with an eye toward pragmatic or scenic conservation (who previously constructed a road and swinging bridge on top of Grandfather and held auto races there) fought the NPS purchase of the parkway route throughout the 1950s-60s, prompting them to propose an alternate “high route” that would have necessitated a lengthy tunnel through Pilot Ridge.
Finally, by 1979, Morton, the NPS, and the state agreed to a “middle route” compromise and began the construction of a serpentine concrete viaduct. The most complicated concrete bridge built at that time was built from the top down without an access road cut below, and each of the 153 concrete segments were cast in place. Crews finished the viaduct in the summer of 1983, while it took four more years to complete the few remaining miles north of this marvel. Some 4,000 spectators, including schoolchildren on trips, witnessed the dedication ceremony in 1987 and a parade of cars representing each decade of the parkway’s construction wound around the mountainside.
Asheville Citizen, Sep 12, 1987
Charlotte Observer, Sep 11, 1987
Proposed BRP route c1960s showing tunnel, courtesy Blue Ridge Parkway and Open Parks Network
(Part 1) Final compromise route showing proposed “high route,” 1975, courtesy Blue Ridge Parkway and Open Parks Network
(Part 2) Final compromise route showing proposed “high route,” 1975, courtesy Blue Ridge Parkway and Open Parks Network