100 years on top

This year, Chimney Rock Park is celebrating its centennial anniversary. Here are some of the changes and landmarks that have advanced the park over the past century:

• 1870s: Jerome B. Freeman purchases the rock and surrounding land from a speculating company. The price: $25.

• 1885: Freeman and some partners create a trail up the mountainside, allowing the public access to the top of Chimney Rock.

• 1900: Dr. Lucius B. Morse comes to Western North Carolina, hoping to recover from tuberculosis, and first visits Hickory Nut Gorge. Morse pays 25 cents to ride a donkey to the top of Chimney Rock Mountain.

• 1902: Morse and his brothers, Hiram and Asahel, purchase Chimney Rock and surrounding 64 acres for $5,000.

• 1914: Work begins on bridge across Rocky Broad River.

• 1916: Bridge dedication, July 4. 12 days later, flood waters from Hurricane Hilda swell the Rocky Broad River and destroy the bridge. A new bridge is built.

Flagpole visible from highway is erected on top of chimney.

• Circa 1920: The Pavilion, a three-story dining room that seats 200, is built overlooking the park. (It has since been torn down.)

• 1920: Cliff Dwellers Inn is built at the base of the chimney. It is later torn down, making room for the elevator entrance.

• 1926: Another of Morse’s visions, Lake Lure, is formed.

• 1927: Town of Lake Lure is incorporated.

• 1929: The stock market crashes, forcing Morse to choose between Lake Lure and Chimney Rock Park. He chooses to keep the park.

• 1934-35: The stone entrance, offices and restrooms are built.

• 1946: Dr. Lucius B. Morse dies in July of tuberculosis. He is buried in the cemetery next to Chimney Rock Baptist Church.

• 1947: Plans begin for elevator.

• 1949: The elevator, rising 26 stories inside the rock, opens. Lucius Morse’s brother and co-owner of the park, Hiram, cuts the dedication ribbon. The road to the top is paved. The Sky Lounge is built at the top of the elevator shaft.

• 1955: The first Easter Sunrise Service, a tradition that continues today, is held.

• 1956: The first Hillclimb sports-car race is held. The annual races are run for the next 50 years.

• 1963: The Jeep Trail shuttles visitors to Hickory Nut Falls. The attraction continues until the energy crisis of the 1970s.

• 1981: The Sky Lounge burns. It is rebuilt in 1982.

• 1981: The Meadows, a five-acre area used for special events, including weddings, is opened.

• 1987: The Nature Center is formed.

• 1991: Scenes from The Last of the Mohicans are filmed high up on the park’s cliffs.

• 1992: Todd B. Morse, great-great nephew of Dr. Lucius Morse, becomes Park president and general manager. A new nature center opens at the Meadows.

• 2000: The Four-Seasons Trail opens, running from the Meadows to the top of the mountain.

• 2002: Chimney Rock Park celebrates its centennial. Events include the Music on the Mountain concert series and the burial of a time capsule.


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