An iconic and historic part of the High Country fell victim to the high winds over the weekend.
The Grandfather Mountain sign, located at the intersection of 105 and 221 in Linville, was blown down and destroyed by continued high winds on Sunday.
Long time residents and former Appalachian State students responded via social media that they recalled the sign being in place since the early 1970’s, at least.
Sustained winds across the High Country between 21 & 40 mph, along with gusts between 38 & 67 mph, were also responsible for several trees falling across roads and power lines in the area. Reports of shingles and siding blowing off some homes were also reported into the Watauga Roads social media outlets.
According to the Grandfather Mountain facebook page on Sunday – “Our weather equipment atop the Mile High Swinging Bridge recorded strong winds last night into this morning, with the highest gust at 92.5 mph. Unfortunately, our historic entrance sign in Linville didn’t make it through the storm”.
In an update late Monday afternoon Grandfather Mountain provided more details about the iconic sign:
The large wooden sign, located at the intersection of U.S. 221 and N.C. 105, was constructed in the late 1950s and was designed by architect Charles Hartman, who also designed the Mile High Swinging Bridge. The pond surrounding the sign was built at the same time.
The dated structure fell early Sunday, March 30, as high winds struck the High Country. A weather station at the Mile High Swinging Bridge recorded hurricane-force winds throughout the night with gusts as high as 92.5 mph.
“The sign was an icon in North Carolina’s travel industry,” said Harris Prevost, vice president of Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation. “It was pure Americana — 1950s all the way. We are sorry to see this piece of history lost forever.
“On the other hand, the sign was old and fragile. Many of the wooden boards were rotting. It was a matter of time before it would have had to come down.”
For more than half a century, the sign pointed visitors to “Carolina’s Top Scenic Attraction,” a tagline coined by the late Hugh Morton, who owned Grandfather Mountain from 1952 to 2006.
Originally painted in vivid yellow and green, the sign was repainted in 2006 in tan and brown to better coordinate with the color scheme of the Linville Golf Club and Eseeola Lodge.
The land where the sign sat is owned by Linville Resorts, with Grandfather Mountain responsible for the sign upkeep and mowing.
The entities had discussed replacing the sign for several years, said Catherine Morton, secretary of the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation Board of Directors.
Morton said Linville Resorts planned to replace the structure with a different design directing motorists to various Linville destinations, including the golf club, lodge and Grandfather Mountain. The sign was tentatively scheduled to be replaced in 2015, she said.
A Facebook group formed Sunday called “Rebuild Iconic Grandfather Mountain Sign,” suggesting that the structure be rebuilt exactly as it was.
While Morton said she liked the concept of the 1950s sign, she said she knew reconstruction of an exact replica was not likely a consideration.
“I think retro is fun — and we want people to think that coming to Grandfather Mountain is going to be fun — but it’s not our property, and it’s not our sign to design or build,” she said.
Grandfather Mountain plans to keep and maintain a similar sign at the Tynecastle intersection of N.C. 184 and N.C. 105 for as long as possible. That structure is in better condition because it is more protected from the wind and elements.
The Mountain will remove the fallen sign as soon as possible.
“We are touched by the outpouring of sympathy about our losing the sign,” Prevost said. “For many, many people, the Linville sign is all they have known at that intersection. There is a lot of nostalgia associated with the sign.”
Architect Charles Hartman stands at the iconic Linville sign he designed for Grandfather Mountain. Hartman also designed the Mile High Swinging Bridge. Photo by Hugh Morton | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation.
The Grandfather Mountain sign outlived many of the surrounding structures in Linville. Photo by Hugh Morton | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation.
Grandfather Mountain staff members said the sign was still standing when they traveled to the Mountain on Sunday, but it had fallen by mid-morning. Photo by Kellen Short | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation.
Photo: John Page
Photo: Diana Calloway