Moses H. Cone Memorial ParkThings To Do In The Smoky Mountains
Photo credit William A Bake on Blue Ridge Parkway website
Historic Flat Top Manor at BRP Milepost 294
Moses H. Cone Memorial Park, nestled in Blowing Rock, North Carolina, is a testament to the legacy of textile magnate Moses H. Cone and his wife, Bertha. This summer retreat, established at the turn of the 20th century, represents not only their personal interests but also their deep appreciation for nature and scientific farming. The park was donated to the National Park Service in 1949 and is now listed on the Register of Historic Places.
The park features the historic Flat Top Manor and its surrounding estate, which are highlights for visitors. The Manor, following a major restoration completed in 2021, houses the Southern Highland Craft Guild shop and offers ranger-led programs covering its history. The park itself does not provide sleeping or eating options, but nearby towns and Julian Price Park offer accommodations and camping.
One of the most striking aspects of Moses Cone Memorial Park is its network of 25 miles of carriage trails, laid out by Moses Cone himself. These trails were designed to showcase the natural beauty of the area and include formal rhododendron plantings, featuring Catawba or purple rhododendron and rosebay rhododendron, which bloom in June and July, respectively. Visitors can enjoy hiking, horseback riding, jogging, and, in winter, cross-country skiing on these trails.
Moses Cone’s interest in scientific farming led to the establishment of extensive orchards on the estate. By 1900, there were four main apple orchards comprising thousands of trees, producing a variety of apples, as well as other fruits like pears, peaches, and plums. The orchards were a blend of commercial and family plots, reflecting a turning point in American orchard composition. The orchards required a significant labor force for planting, grafting, and maintenance, and were a major part of the estate’s operations. Today, only a few remnants of these historic orchards remain, providing a connection to the estate’s past and its role in the development of commercial orchards in the United States.
The history of Moses H. Cone Memorial Park is a story of entrepreneurship, appreciation of nature, and a commitment to scientific inquiry and environmental conservation. It continues to be a cherished destination on the Blue Ridge Parkway, offering visitors a glimpse into the past and a tranquil natural setting.