Since the early twentieth century, High Point, N.C., has been the state’s furniture city, garnering the highest profile and largest markets. But vibrant manufacturing bases also rose up in Western North Carolina’s Catawba Valley, with some of the country’s most elite furniture names hailing from Lenoir, Hickory, and Morganton as industry men were drawn south, motivated by a vast supply of hardwood lumber and cheap labor.
Railroads did not barrel into the Appalachians until the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. But when they did, communities lying in the path of the locomotives were dramatically transformed, and mountain people suddenly found themselves living in a new age of economic opportunity. Nearly overnight, mountain hamlets and enclaves became bustling little towns.
Tiny seeds can grow into mighty oaks, and one of the first seeds in the trend of tourism trails in Western North Carolina came in 1996 when the Asheville-based craft organization Handmade in America published its “Craft Heritage Trails” guidebook. Since that time, the development of tourism trails has grown at an impressive rate and offers visitors a closer look at everything from crafts to music to fly fishing, cheese to moonshine to quilts.
It’s not easy to find a good time machine. My grandparents’ house was one. No matter what the year was outside, when I walked through the front door it was the 1930s inside. A huge painting of the Last Supper hanging on the dining room wall in the center of the small house, the ticking of the hand-wound Big Ben accentuating the silence when conversation slowed, the never changing but comfortable furniture,
ALSO in the print edition:
Researchers are racing to record the locations of marker trees that once guided ancient Indian travelers throughout the southeast.
Through the years, tourist's dispatches have spread the gospel of the Smokies.