Finding Aid of the Blue Ridge Parkway Photograph Collection, 1931-1959, PHC.66


Finding Aid of the Blue Ridge Parkway Photograph Collection, 1931-1959, PHC.66


The photographs document the construction of the Blue Ridge Parkway between 1935 and 1959. Photographs from 1931-1933 include the construction of Skyline Drive, used as a model for the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Descriptive Summary

Blue Ridge Parkway Photograph Collection
Call Number
United States. National Park Service
1931 - 1959
Western Regional Archives, State Archives of North Carolina

Restrictions on Access & Use

Access Restrictions

Available for research.

Use Restrictions

Copyright is retained by the authors of these materials, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law (Title 17 US Code). Individual researchers are responsible for using these materials in conformance with copyright law as well as any donor restrictions accompanying the materials.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], PhC.66, Blue Ridge Parkway Photograph Collection, State Archives of North Carolina, Western Regional Archives, Asheville, NC.

Arrangement Note

The photographs are arranged chronologically and numerically, following the original order in the scrapbooks. The index cards are stored in separate boxes, but follow the same order as the photographs.

Each photograph is labeled with 2 numbers and a letter. It appears the first number refers to the year, with 1, being 1931, continuing through 9, for 1939. From 1940, the method changes to 40, 41, etc. through to 59. The second number appears to be a roll of film. The rolls run continuously for the Shenandoah National Park project, but begin with 1 for each year of The Blue Ridge Mountains Parkway project. The letter appears to refer to a specific exposure on each roll.

The National Park Service prepared a list of Project Numbers, dates and locations. A copy of this list is provided at: Researchers can use this list to narrow their search of the collection to appropriate dates.

Historical Note

The Blue Ridge Parkway was built to connect Shenandoah National Park with The Great Smokey Mountains National Park. Col. Joseph Hyde Pratt conceived the idea of such a mountain roadway early in the 20th Century. He believed people would soon be using automobiles more for recreation than any other purpose and thought a mountain roadway would be an ideal location for day trips. He envisioned it running from Virginia to Atlanta, Georgia, with most of the roadway running through North Carolina. The road would include a chain of hotels from Marion, Virginia to Tallulah Falls, Georgia. In 1912 Pratt reported to the North Carolina Good Roads Association that he and his men had surveyed the route and construction for this road began in July 1912. The section of road between Altapass and Pineola, North Carolina was completed, but the rest was abandoned as a result of US involvement in World War I. Although Pratt never finished his project, new groups of supporters pushed for the project in the 1930s. The construction of the Blue Ridge Parkway closely followed the route originally planned by Pratt.

By 1930, the idea of federally funded highways connecting national parks became a topic of conversation. Congressman Maurice H. Thatcher of Kentucky proposed a road leading from Washington, DC, through Virginia, into North Carolina, and continuing on to The Great Smokey Mountains National Park in Tennessee. The initial plan for the parkway bypassed North Carolina altogether. North Carolina then became involved in lobbying to have a portion of the roadway in their state. In the end, Tennessee was left out of the construction.

Despite all his efforts, Thatcher was not able to construct the parkway. In 1933, the idea caught the interest of another group. The National Recovery Act of 1933 ordered the Public Works Administration (PWA) to develop a program involving the construction, maintenance, and improvement of public highways and parkways. During that same year President Franklin D. Roosevelt visited Skyline Drive, a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) project in Virginia's Shenandoah National Park. Roosevelt agreed to plans for a smiliar road connecting Shenandoah and The Great Smokey Mountains National Parks.

Planning and landscape design for the Parkway began December 26, 1933 and on September 11, 1935, officials broke ground on a twelve-mile section at Cumberland Knob, just south of the Virginia/North Carolina border. On June 30, 1936, an act of Congress placed the Parkway under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service of the US Department of the Interior. Work on the Parkway progressed in strips, as the land required was bought from the owners.

Since the construction of the Blue Ridge Parkway fell under the provisions of the New Deal, it required contractors to hire people from the local unemployment rolls, which meant 90% of the workforce came from local communities. Contractors could hire from outside the area when a project required special skills, such as stone masonry.

Work on the road continued until construction was halted during World War II. After the war, limited funding slowed the progress. The Blue Ridge Parkway was finally dedicated on September 11, 1987, following the completion of the last section at Linn Cove Viaduct. Although the dedication occurred fifty-two years after the groundbreaking, portions of the highway had been used for many years. Today the Blue Ridge Parkway stretches for 469 miles, connecting Shenandoah and The Great Smokey Mountains National Parks, providing one of the most scenic drives in the country.

Contents of the Collection

1. Photographs,1931-1959

; 1-1-A to 2-14-F, 1931-1932
Box 1
; 4-1-A to 5-5-A, 1934-1935
; 5-1-A to 5-23-F, 1934-1935
Box 2
; 4-1-A to 6-88-F, 1936
; 6-89-A to 6-179-E, 1936
Box 3
; 6-180-A to 6-369-F, 1936
Box 4
; 6-370-A to 7-150-F, 1936-1937
Box 5
; 7-151-A to 7-359-F, 1937
Box 6
; 7-360-A to 8-27-F, 1937-1938
Box 7
; 9-1-A to 40-32-F, 1939-1940
; 40-33-A to 40-75-F, 1939-1940
Box 8
; 41-1-A to 41-105-J, 1941
; 42-1-A to 45-301, 1942-1945
Box 9
; 45-31-A to 48-19-M, 1945-1948
Box 10
; 48-20-A to 49-72-F, 1948-1949
Box 11
; 50-1-A to 51-36-D, 1950-1951
Box 12
; 52-1-A to 56-39-M, 1952-1956
Box 13
; 57-1-A to 59-43-H, 1957-1959
Box 14
; L-1-A to L-Q 30 (landscaping), no date

2. Labels,1931-1959

; 1-55-A to 6-199-A, 1931-1936
Box 15
; 6-199-C to 7-61-F, 1936-1937
Box 16
; 7-62-B to 9-49-F, 1937-1939
Box 17
; 9-50-A to 49-59-E, 1939-1949
Box 18
; 49-60-A to 59-43-H and landscaping, 1949-1959
Box 19

Subject Headings

  • Bulldozers.
  • Engineering.
  • Mountains.
  • Roads--Design and construction.
  • Alleghany County (N.C.)
  • Appalachian Mountains.
  • Ashe County (N.C.)
  • Avery County (N.C.)
  • Blue Ridge Parkway (N.C. and Va.)
  • Buncombe County (N.C.)
  • Great Smoky Mountains (N.C. and Tenn.)
  • Haywood County (N.C.)
  • Jackson County (N.C.)
  • McDowell County (N.C.)
  • Pisgah National Forest (N.C.)
  • Skyline Drive (Va.)
  • Transylvania County (N.C.)
  • Watauga County (N.C.)
  • Wilkes County (N.C.)
  • Yancey County (N.C.)
  • Photo Albums--1931-1959.
  • Photographs--1931-1959.
  • Acquisitions Information

    The photograph collection was donated to the State Archives by Andy Kardos, Blue Ridge Parkway, 700 Northwestern Bank Building, Asheville, North Carolina on February 21, 1983. They were accessioned in May, 1983. During March-April, 2012, these records were moved from the State Archives building in Raleigh to the Western Regional Archives, Asheville, N.C.

    Processing Information

  • Processed by Stephen E. Massengill, February 1997
  • Finding aid revised by Mary P. von der Heide, April 2005
  • Encoded by Mary P. von der Heide, April 2005