Vintage Postcards of Lake Lure and Chimney Rock
By the 1870’s, tourists had already discovered the awesome natural beauty of the Hickorynut Gorge and the mountain that came to be known as Chimney Rock. The stagecoach route between eastern towns and the small village of Asheville used a route that ran along the Broad River and through the steep cliffs of the ancient gorge. Road houses were built in the gorge so that travelers could overnight during the long, arduous trip. A tourist industry was born in the Carolina mountains, long before the first railroad was opened over the Eastern Continental Divide, and America began to appreciate the cool summers and clean air of these lofty peaks.
In 1902, the chimney tower and the cliffs around it were purchased by Lucious Morse, and a road was built to the base of the chimney. Stairs were improved to allow better access to the summit. A climb to the top of the tower became an item on every traveler’s “Bucket List”. Morse and his descendants would own and manage the mountain for the next 105 years. In 2007, the family sold the entire operation to the state of North Carolina, and Chimney Rock State Park was created.
By the 1920’s, there was a boom in visitors to Chimney Rock, and the Morse family, who owned the mountain, saw the potential of creating a large lake where the Rocky Broad River drained in to an expansive area of bottomland farms. The North Carolina Mountains had no natural lakes, and the idea of a European type lake resort appealed to the entrepreneurial instincts of the Morse family, shown below. The family expanded their empire to include all of the land where the lake would be filled. A large dam was built at the Hickorynut Gap, and Lake Lure was born in 1926. It was actually named by Morse’s wife, who believed that potential land buyers would be “lured” by the name. A large hotel was constructed, along with shops and restaurants, and the rest, as they say, is history.
From those early days, photographers and artists made cards featuring the scenic wonder of the gorge, and the practice continues today. Below are but a few of the postcards that were printed in those early days, capturing the beauty that could be found along the Blue Ridge southeast of Asheville. Although most of these cards are in color, they were actually hand colored using black and white photographs. You’ll notice a painterly quality in most of them.
Posters for the Southern Railway, below, appeared in the 1890’s.
This is one of the earliest postcards distributed by the Morse family. It shows women in a precarious place known as the “Opera Box”.
This is the earliest card showing an automobile. The wall at the entrance had not yet been built. By the way, you can click on any photo to display the larger version, if one exists.
In 1949 a 26 story elevator shaft was blasted through solid granite, and a 200 foot tunnel was carved into the mountain to access the elevator. Suddenly, Chimney Rock became accessible to everyone, and the number of visitors soared.
A gift shop and snack bar was built at the top of the elevator, and connected to the chimney tower with a walk bridge.