Enjoy the Colorful Photographic Impressions made by Vann Helms
On Wednesday and Thursday, February 25th and 26th, five inches of wonderful snow fell in Otter Creek Valley.
Skiing in the deep South has always taken a back seat to other, less snow challenged locales, but occasionally, the snow gods send a gift to those barren slopes, allowing them to run with the big boys every once in a while. Friday, February 27th, was one of those days at North Carolina’s premier ski mountain, known as just “Sugar” to those of us who return there again and again, hoping against hope that the next trip will be the magical one. Normally, we encounter deafening jet engine matching snowmaking machines, spewing precious inches of white gold from their nozzles, gold that turns too often to ice, making movement even more difficult.
Friday was different. Almost a foot of new snow had fallen during a particularly snowy week, and it was all the grooming machines could do to keep up with the onslaught. The snow jets had ceased their relentless attack weeks ago, and what I found on this particular day was perfection.
The temperature that had recently seen below zero numbers had climbed into the mid 30’s, and the wind that can swirl down these narrow mountain valleys was nowhere to be found. A bright Sun moved overhead, being always at our backs in the afternoon. Visibility was ideal.
The summit of Sugar Mountain, ahead, towering over a mile high, is the highest ski mountain east of the Rockies. With two double chairs carrying skiers to the very top, the experience that awaited was almost to cool to think about.
Late afternoon, as the Sun dropped away, so did the temperatures, falling into the upper teens. Staying warm became an issue, but skiing into the night under bright lights was the reward for hanging around. Perfect is the best word to describe this rare day.
In 1911, when The First Baptist Church of Shelby dedicated its new Gothic Revival edifice, the exterior sanctuary walls were filled with magnificent stained glass windows manufactured by the Lewis Comfort Tiffany Company of New York. Hundreds of square feet of luminous opalescent glass were filled with images of a benevolent Jesus Christ, and symbols lifted straight from the Holy Bible.
No less than eight leaded creations were built into the yellow brick walls of this historic building. Above is one of three giant works gracing the north and south exposures. When you enter the large space, the image below is what you will see from the other side.
This scene of Christ as a shepard with his flock is viewable only when you are within ten feet of the north wall, but that doesn’t mean the beauty is lost. From this distance, the detail of Tiffany’s leaded treasure is all the more evident.
This magnificent scene on the south wall once was illuminated by sunlight, but years ago, an addition to the building blocked the exterior light. Today, it is backlit by artificial fixtures. It is no less breathtaking.
I was told that another large window was totally covered when the altar was re-positioned years ago. Today, the Tiffany masterpiece is hidden behind the relocated pipe organ.
In 1911, Shelby Baptist paid the George Hardy Payne Company of Patterson, New Jersey, $ 1,300 for all of the Tiffany stained glass windows. Today, these irreplaceable works of art are priceless, and it’s well worth your time to make the pilgrimage to see them in person.
An hour east of Lake Lure and Chimney Rock, and half way to the city of Charlotte, is Shelby, North Carolina. This historic Piedmont Plateau city had its heyday in the 1920’s, when Cleveland County, of which Shelby is the county seat, was the largest producer of cotton in North Carolina. The large cotton mills that were built in the county created great wealth for owners, and they used that wealth to build grand mansions near the center of town.
After a winter storm left ice and sleet on Shelby this week, it seemed a good time to capture the beauty of some of these preserved treasures. All of these homes can be found along West Marion Street, and are part of a neighborhood that has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Located in the center of Shelby is the historic Cleveland County Courthouse, built in 1907 in the Neo-Classical Revival style. Today, it houses the Cleveland County Historical Museum, and the Earl Scruggs Center, dedicated to the revered Bluegrass banjo master who was born and raised in Shelby, and passed away just last year. Along with guitar virtuoso, Lester Flatt, the duo was the main contingent of the famous “Foggy Mountain Boys”, and was best known for their performance of the theme from the popular television series, The Beverly Hillbillies.
“Swimming pools, movie stars!”
As a major winter storm approached, and with a deep blue sky above, I drove north to Linville to see snow and ice, and to gather spruce boughs for the house.
The mountains along the Blue Ridge Escarpment surrounding Lake Lure are always more beautiful in the dead of winter when the humidity is near zero, and the temperature is near freezing. That’s Chimney Rock Mountain on the far left, then Rumbling Bald and Mt. Shumont, and finally Young’s Mountain along the eastern shore. The view is from Arrowood Road in the foothills of Rutherford County.
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