Monday, August 4, 2014

Grayson Highlands - Mountain Paradise

There is no doubt in my mind.  Grayson Highlands is a beautiful place and well worth a visit.  We only spent 2.5 hours there including a picnic lunch.  I would spend twice that so that you could work in a hike in the meadows and ridges.  However, our visit there was wonderful and the first chapter of a 7 hour day spent exploring the area to the south and south west of Marion.

Grayson Highlands State Park was created in 1965 with significant local support.  It consists of 4,822 acres of mountain land within Jefferson National Forest and bordering Mount Rogers National Recreation Area.  The park offers some awesome hiking to nearby Mount Rodgers and Whitetop Mountain, waterfalls and overlooks; access to the Appalachian Trail and the Virginia Highlands Horse Trail; camping, wildlife viewing and picnicking.

On the drive up to the Visitor Center, we stopped at Sugarlands Overlook which offers some fantastic views worth photographing.  The overlook is named for the large number of Sugar Maple trees located there.  The sap of the trees can be boiled down to produce Maple Syrup.

Click on my photos below to see them in high resolution on Flickr.  You can view the photos in high resolution by clicking here!

High Rock on Buck Mountain from Sugarlands Overlook

Sugarlands Overlook

Tucker Road from Sugarlands Overlook

Mountain View from Sugarlands Overlook

We then continued up to the Visitor Center located near the summit of Haw Orchard Mountain at over 5,000 feet.  The center offers interesting exhibits, gift shop, information and rest rooms.  Across from the center is a trail to Massey Gap where several other trails intersect.  We enjoyed a nice picnic lunch, shot some more photos at a nearby overlook and headed back on the road.

Picnic area overlook

Haw Orchard Lane from picnic area overlook 

Haw Orchard Baptist Church & Cemetery from picnic area overlook

You can view the entire set in high resolution by clicking here!

Friday, August 1, 2014

A Good Marion Morning

We spent July 4th exploring Marion in the morning and Hungry Mother State Park in the afternoon.  Marion is only four miles from the park.  It offers several grocery stores, restaurants and gas stations for resupplying campers and tourists.  While Marion is a small town of only 5,968 residents, the town has done an admirable job preserving its history by renovating many of its historic buildings and creating the Marion Historic District.  The historic district is composed of 361 buildings.

One of the buildings included in the National Register of Historic Places is the Norfolk & Western Railway Depot.  The depot was built in 1904 to handle passenger traffic.  Passenger traffic peaked after World War II and started to decline in the 1950's until passenger service at Marion ended in 1971.  The depot, renovated in 1994,  now houses local businesses.

Click on my photos below to see them in high resolution on Flickr.  You can view the photos in high resolution by clicking here!

Restored front of the railway depot.

One of the original baggage carts at the depot c 1904

The Colonial Revival-style original Marion US Post Office building was built in 1935.  Louis A. Simon was the Architect and Neil A. Melick was the supervising engineer.  The old post office is now a Macado's Restaurant.

The building below was built in 1930.  Previously, it was the Donnelly Furniture Company.  It now houses the Blue Ridge Title & Settlement Agency. 

Blue Ridge Title & Settlement Agency c 1930

The Lincoln Theatre was built in 1929 by Charles C. Lincoln, Sr., his son Charles C. Lincoln, Jr. and John D. Lincoln.  When it opened on July 1st, 1,000 people packed the theater to watch a silent movie called "Close Harmony" starring Buddy Rogers and Nancy Carroll.  

Artists who appeared in person at the theater include Roy Rogers (and Trigger), Dale Evans, Lash LaRue, Randolf Scott, Sunset Carson, Hopalong Cassidy, Tom Mix, The Lone Ranger and Gabbey Hayes.  Country music stars Minnie Pearl, Earnest Tubb, Del Wood, Roy Acuff, June Carter Cash, The Stanley Brothers, Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, Stringbean, Little Jimmie Dickens, and Grandpa Jones also appeared at the Lincoln.

The Lincoln closed in 1973.  It opened briefly in the 1970's, but closed in 1977 due to poor ticket sales.  The theater was later preserved, then renovated.  It reopened on May 16th, 2004 with a performance by Riders In The Sky.    

The Beaux-Arts-style Smyth County Courthouse was designed by architect Frank P. Milburn and built in 1905 by Stephenson and Getoz of Knoxville at a cost of $50,000.  Originally, the courthouse included an auditorium for public performances and meetings called "Court Square Theater."  It was replaced with office space during remodeling in the 1950's.

In 1903, a statue of a Confederate soldier at parade rest was erected on the lawn of the courthouse.  The Civil War Battle of Marion was fought in 1864 over the industrial facilities, lead works and salt mines in Marion and Saltville.  John C. Breckinridge commanded a Confederate force of 1,200 to 1,500 cavalry and infantry against General George Stoneman's Union forces.  Breckinridge's force successfully defended Marion through the first day of the battle.  Lack of ammunition and casualties caused the Confederates to withdraw the following day.  The Union force then destroyed the Confederate industrial infrastructure, salt mines and lead works at Saltville and Marion.

Confederate Memorial c 1903

Flags flying in front of Smyth County Courthouse on July 4th, 2014

The building below is one of the oldest brick commercial buildings still existing in Marion.  It was built in 1891.

The Classical-Revival style Hotel Lincoln was built in 1927 as the Francis Marion Hotel.  The hotel was built by Charles Clarke Lincoln, Sr. and Dr. William M. Sclater.  The boutique hotel reopened in 2006 after two years of renovation and restoration by the new owners Joe and Susie Ellis.  The hotel is also home to the Black Rooster Restaurant & Lounge.

Veterans memorabilia on display in a store window on Main St.

The Dip Dog Stand on Route 11 was opened by Lester Brown in 1957.  Since then, the restaurant has been popular with devotees of their famous "Dip Dog" corn dogs.  The stand was purchased in 1966 by Grant Hall, Sr.  Grant operated the stand with his family until the stand was purchased by his son and his wife in 1979.  The Hall family continues to operate the stand to the delight of many a happy customer.

The Colonial-Revival style Municipal Building was built with WPA funding in 1936.

Marion Municipal Building - c 1936

You can view the entire set in high resolution by clicking here!