Flat Top Manor, Established 1901
The Moses H. Cone Memorial Park, Blowing Rock, NC
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As one of the most prevalent historic attractions on the Blue Ridge Parkway, The Moses H. Cone Memorial Park is "historic splendor at its finest". For this beautiful country estate we owe our gratitude to Moses H. Cone, a prosperous textile entrepreneur, conservationist, and philanthropist of the Gilded Age. Its centerpiece is Flat Top Manor, a gleaming white 23-room, 13,000 square foot mansion.
Moses and Ceasar Cone were sons of a German Jewish immigrant who built a thriving family owned wholesale grocery business in Baltimore, Maryland. The brothers traveled the South to supply stores with inventory then little by little expanded into the textile business. Acting as sales agents for southern mills, the brothers established the Cone Export and Commission Company in 1890. Five years latter, they built their first cotton mill in Greensboro, North Carolina. It was named Proximity for its nearness to warehouses, railways, and an abundance of labor. Proximity soon became known for its "heavy duty - deep tone blue denim". Later renamed as Cone Mills, the company became the world's leading producer of denim with more than 30 manufacturing plants, thus the popular reference to Moses as "The Denim King". Cone Mills continued to expand its product lines which included a variety of other fabrics including corduroy and flannel.
A nature lover and early environmentalist, Moses desired an estate and a life-style that would give him refuge from the rigors of his business empire and, at the same time, showcase his newfound wealth. In the early 1890's, Moses and his wife, Bertha, began acquiring more than 3,600 acres of land at Blowing Rock, North Carolina, an upcoming resort area which Cone sought to promote and develop through his own private contributions. The Cone's future estate included Flat Top Mountain, neighboring Rich Mountain, 500 acres of rolling farmland, patches of virgin hardwoods and evergreens, and breathtaking views including a view of the spectacular, rocky rise of nearby Grandfather Mountain from their front porch.
In 1899 Moses and Bertha began work on the manor house that would crown their carefully landscaped estate. Moses, eager to show the benefits of growing apples scientifically, nurtured over 32,000 apple trees in four orchards and planted extensive white pine forests and hemlock hedges. The Cones imported whitetail deer from Pennsylvania which were protected within two "parks" on the estate. The Cones also built two lakes and stocked them with trout and bass. In addition, they created more than 25 miles of carefully designed and manicured carriage roads for access to their orchards and pastures and to give local residents opportunities for horseback and carriage riding. Some 30 farmers and their families lived on the estate as informal tenants, carrying out the many chores required in maintaining such an expansive country place.
Moses and Bertha, who had no children, rejoiced in their estate and their mountain home named Flat Top Manor in honor of nearby Flat Top Mountain. The mansion is a "wonderful example of Colonial Revival construction boasting large white columns, elegant leaded glass windows and mysterious dormers high atop the house". Building the mansion with gaslights, telephone and a central heating system was no easy task. Building materials and fine furnishings were hauled by wagon from the railhead in Lenoir, located 20 miles away. In its heyday, visitors included government leaders, business associates, local dignitaries, and visiting relatives. Among these visitors were Moses' art collecting sisters, Etta and Dr. Claribel Cone, whose premier collection of works by friends Henry Matisse, Pablo Picasso and other European artists, is now housed in the Cone wing of the Baltimore Museum of Art.
As key contributors to the growth of the town of Blowing Rock, the Cones donated land and funds for local schools including funds for the beginning of what is now Appalachian State University. Moses also served on the school's original board. Moses' contributions to education, the textile business, farming and conservation earned him the esteem and gratitude of his neighbors.
Moses died at the age of 51 in 1908. Bertha resided at and actively managed the estate for another 39 years until her death. The graves of both overlook a meadow below the summit of Flat Top Mountain.
With Bertha's death in 1947, the estate passed to the Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital in Greensboro. Two years later, the hospital board donated the property to the National Park Service, with the understanding that it would be known as The Moses H. Cone Memorial Park and managed as a part of the Blue Ridge Parkway, a unit of the National Park System.
The manor is now home to the Parkway Craft Center, a craft shop of the Southern Highland Craft Guild, exhibiting works by artisans from nine Appalachian states. Mediums represented range from baskets and woodcarvings to quilts and ironwork. The bookstore carries trail maps, brochures, nature books and guidebooks.
Visiting the Moses H. Cone Memorial Park
- Horseback riding - Allowed on all carriage trails. Visitors must provide their own horses. Horse rentals are no longer available on the Parkway.
- Fishing - Trout Lake and Bass Lake are designated as Wild Trout Water, a designation for streams and lakes that sustain wild trout are not hatchery supported. A variety of regulations apply depending on the site. No Boating Allowed.
- Cross-country skiing
- Visit the town of Blowing Rock, 2 miles away
- The Park is open year-round. The Manor House is open spring through fall.
- Manor House Craft Shop
- Book Store
- Blue Ridge Parkway between mile posts 292 and 295
The Carriage Trails of Moses H. Cone Memorial Park
Trail distance and configuration:
- 25 miles of carriage trails for hiking and horses. Bikes are not allowed.
- Bass Lake, 3,560' to Flat Top Mountain, 4,558'
Degree of Difficulty:
Surface and blaze:
- No blazes but most are signed at trailheads and junctions.
- Trail floors are primarily crushed gravel.
- Benches can be found along some routes.
More Online Resources
To learn more about Moses H. Cone Memorial Park, we suggest the following resources:
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