Creating the Land of the Sky
Tourism and Society in Western North Carolina
Publication Year: 2010
A sophisticated inquiry into tourism's social and economic power across the South.
In the early 19th century, planter families from South Carolina, Georgia, and eastern North Carolina left their low-country estates during the summer to relocate their households to vacation homes in the mountains of western North Carolina. Those unable to afford the expense of a second home relaxed at the hotels that emerged to meet their needs. This early tourist activity set the stage for tourism to become the region's New South industry. After 1865, the development of railroads and the bugeoning consumer culture led to the expansion of tourism across the whole region.
Richard Starnes argues that western North Carolina benefited from the romanticized image of Appalachia in the post-Civil War American consciousness. This image transformed the southern highlands into an exotic travel destination, a place where both climate and culture offered visitors a myriad of diversions. This depiction was futher bolstered by partnerships between state and federal agencies, local boosters, and outside developers to create the atrtactions necessary to lure tourists to the region.
As tourism grew, so did the tension between leaders in the industry and local residents. The commodification of regional culture, low-wage tourism jobs, inflated land prices, and negative personal experiences bred no small degree of animosity among mountain residents toward visitors. Starnes's study provides a better understanding of the significant role that tourism played in shaping communities across the South.
Published by: The University of Alabama Press
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History is a collaborative enterprise, and I would like to thank those who helped me as I worked to complete this book. My intellectual debts are many and must begin with the men who guided me through graduate school. Max Williams taught me so much, both inside and outside the classroom...
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Catastrophe struck western North Carolina in the summer of 1997. After weeks of heavy rain, tons of rock, mud, and debris plunged down cliffs along the Pigeon River gorge in the early afternoon of July 2, completely blocking Interstate 40 in both directions. Luckily, no one was injured or killed. Nevertheless, this was an economic disaster...
1. Sanitariums, Railroads, and the New South
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On July 21, 1886, the Charleston News and Courier announced that “[t]hedream of the dwellers by the seaside and of their friends by the snowline has at last been realized.” For the first time travelers enjoyed unfettered rail access from the South Carolina low country to the mountains of western North Carolina. In a pamphlet issued to commemorate the...
2. Building Image and Infrastructure: Tourism, Development, and Regional Identity, 1875–1930
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In 1913 Horace Kephart—a noted librarian, bibliographer, and outdoor writer—published a study of the North Carolina mountains based on his experience as a visitor and resident. In Our Southern Highlanders, one of the most widely read examinations of southern mountain society, Kephart traced the reasons behind his sojourn in western North Carolina...
3. Metropolis of the Land of the Sky: Tourism and Urban Development in Asheville, North Carolina, 1880–1931
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For Asheville, North Carolina, the spring of 1924 was a time of celebration. In the years since the Civil War the city had been transformed from a regional market center to a bustling, affluent municipality. This burgeoning prosperity sprang from the city’s growing tourism industry...
4. “The Fellowship of Kindred Minds Is like to That Above”: Religious Tourism in God’s Country
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In 1894 George E. Cook, a Pennsylvanian and a visitor to western North Carolina, wrote, “I have been to the ‘Land of the Sky’ [and] it is the most magnificent country in the world.” He could “understand why Geo. Vanderbilt is building his palace there,” as “the air, water, the foliage, the primitive people, [and] the magnificent mountains” made the...
5. National Parks, Ski Resorts, and Second Homes: Mountain Tourism Development after 1930
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Asheville’s financial collapse mirrored the economic crisis that swept the country following the 1929 stock market crash. Fiscal overextension and ineptness plagued local governments across North Carolina and other southern states. Since Asheville was the region’s economic center, the city’s woes had pronounced effects on rural mountain counties...
6. Life, Labor, and Culture in the Land of the Sky
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At the Mountaineer Inn in Asheville a three-story-high figure of a mountain man towers above Tunnel Road (figure 12). A corncob pipe dangles from the corner of his mouth. His shotgun suggests an insular provinciality and a propensity toward violence. Bearded and barefoot, the mountaineer exemplifies the more negative traits commonly ascribed to southern highlanders,...
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During the last two centuries, tourism in the North Carolina mountains has transformed from a small seasonal migration of southern planters into the region’s largest economic activity. However, tourism was and remains more than a way to make money. It has pronounced social and cultural implications that, when combined with its economic importance...
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The chronological scope of this project opened a rich pool of primary sources. Though the notes acknowledge a wide range, a number of valuable manuscript collections, newspapers, and other materials merit mention here. At the North Carolina Office of Archives and History, the agency records of the North Carolina Department of Conservation and Development documented the growing role of tourism in state ...
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Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2010