Spotlight: Construction of the Blue Ridge Parkway

This week’s post highlights photographs from RG 30, Records of the Bureau of Public Roads (BPR). These images come from series 30-RW and depict the construction of the Blue Ridge Parkway from the clearing of land to paving. The series begins with images from 1931 depicting the construction of Skyline Drive, a scenic road that connects to the parkway. There is extensive coverage of bridge construction, ditches, and other drainage features of the road. There are views of the Panorama Hotel Tea Room, Monticello, and the Knights of the Golden Horseshoe marker. A large portion of the negatives were taken by a W. D. Stanton who often photographed from various vantage points to get the best view of his subject.

The Blue Ridge Parkway, spanning 469 miles, is the longest road planned as a single unit in the United States. The plans for the first proposed section of Skyline Drive were approved on June 9, 1931 by the National Park Service and the BPR. Construction of the parkway began in 1935 and was eventually funded by the federal Public Works Administration as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. Although the location is unknown for the majority of the negatives, road signs and project signs provide location hints.

Are you the descendant of someone who helped construct the parkway? Let us know in the comments!

Note: The images used in this blog post will be available to download from the catalog in the coming weeks. This series is currently being processed by staff.

11 thoughts on “Spotlight: Construction of the Blue Ridge Parkway

  1. Scott Johnson here. My grandfather helped with the original construction. My uncle worked for the park service. My dad worked on stone work from one end of the parkway to the other and helped complete the final section including the high wall, via duct, over looks and the visitors center at the end of the via duct. Luckily I was able to work with him two summers to complete the last section around grandfathers mountain.

    1. Alleghany County has a few notable ties to the Parkway: Work was begun on the Parkway at Cumberland Knob, Alleghany County, N.C. September 11, 1935.
      Midpoint of the Parkway is in Alleghany County near Mahogany Rock Overlook, elevation 3436′, mile marker 235 of 469 total miles.
      First section of Parkway to be completed and open was 7.641 mile stretch from U.S. Highway 21 to Air Bellows Gap in Alleghany County, N.C.
      Alleghany native, U.S. Representative Bob Doughton sponsored original bill.
      Doughton Park in Alleghany & Wilkes Counties is the largest recreational area in the entire park.

  2. Very good Beth! Wonderful pictures!

    The ongoing and finalized road plans and project tracings for the Blue Ridge Parkway (as well as numerous other road projects like the Natchez Trace and the Foothills Parkways, among others) were originally turned over to the Federal Highway Administration around 1966, and placed under Record Group 406, Records of the Federal Highway Administration.

    Late in 2015, the drawings and tracings were turned over the NARA’s cartography unit and are being processed for researchers to view as well. When one visits the National Archives in College Park to see these wonderful pictures once they have been processed, feel free to also visit cartography to view the equally stunning tracing and drawing maps!

  3. I do hope that when you scan the photos that they are available at a HIGH RESOLUTION preferably in a TIFF format so they are USEFUL for more than just looking at!

    1. Hi John Michael,

      The images were scanned as high resolution JPEGS and will be available for download from our catalog as well as in our research room.

  4. My grandfather, Ira C Hale worked on the parkway in the 1930’s. He was a civil engineer.

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