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An adventure down memory lane: Blowing Rock cuts ribbon, celebrates ‘History Walk’

By David Rogers. BLOWING ROCK, N.C. — With a nod toward change being inevitable, even accelerated with advances in technology, former Lees McRae College president and Blowing Rock historian Dr. Barry Buxton articulated what history means on June 1.

Buxton told the estimated 150 people gathered for the Blowing Rock History Walk ribbon-cutting, “Blowing Rock has been discovered and along with that comes a lot of new people to our community. These new people know very little about the history of Blowing Rock. They love this place, but they don’t know much about the men and women who over a century helped shape this place, who have helped make it an anomaly in the High Country, who have made it so special.

Dr. Barry Buxton articulated the importance of history to each of us on June 1, at the American Legion Building, following the cremonial ribbon cutting for the new Blowing Rock History Walk. Photographic image by David Rogers

“One of the things we are trying to do (with the History Walk) is to honor those individuals. History is who we are, is why we are and is the way we are. History is important to every one of us. We may not think of it that way but we are the people we are because of history,” Buxton added.

In concluding his remarks, Buxton encouraged the longtime residents who grew up here, the relative newcomers, and even the visitors to town to always have an eye on the town’s history.

History is who we are, why we are, and the way we are…

“Let’s let history shape our decision-making,” Buxton concluded. “Let’s let history help inform what we decide to do with our community. We must work with our mayor, town council and other (stakeholders) to guide this community forward so that we retain the special qualities that we all know and love.”

Photographic image by David Rogers

While Blowing Rock Historical Society President Tom O’Brien and Village Foundation president Cathy Robbins took charge of the ribbon-cutting ceremonies at the History Walk starting point just west of Main Street, along the Laurel Lane sidewalk, the program at the American Legion building hosted reception featured comments by Buxton, O’Brien, and a lengthy list of “thank-yous” and acknowledgements from Village Foundation founder John Aldridge, including the Town of Blowing Rock, architect Jim Pitts, the stonemasons he referred to as “Rock Stars.” and the many donors who each sponsored one of the monuments/

Several years ago, Aldridge recalled, when O’Brien had first become president of the Historical Society, they met and Aldridge shared his vision for the project. “I told Tom that if he and his team could put together the people, places and narratives to feature, that we would do the design work and raise the money,” said Aldridge. “Tom said, ‘Ok, let’s do it.'”

John Aldridge, founder of the Village Foundation, had the original vision for the Blowing Rock History Walk to remember and honor the people, places, and events that shaped the town and helped make it a special place to live, work and play. Photographic image by David Rogers

The Blowing Rock History Walk is a series of 21 monuments, each one with a bronzed plaque inscribed with a historical narrative about people, places and events important to Blowing Rock history. That path goes down Laurel Lane, and around Broyhill Lake, each stopping point with a monument, plaque and even a bench where visitors can sit and reflect.

tom said, ‘ok, let’s do it.’

“With the History Walk now a reality,” said Aldridge, “People are already asking us, ‘What’s next?’ Well, we are talking with the town about doing something with the Glen Burney Trail to make it safer and even more enjoyable. That is Phase I. We are thinking about a Phase II that expands on the Annie Cannon Gardens. Phase 3, if we can do it, is Legion Hill.”

O’Brien concluded the festivities with an invitation for people to join the Historical Society if they have not already done so.

Tom O’Brien, president of the Blowing Rock Hisotrical Society, was instrumental in committing the organization to the History Walk project and coordinating the various stakeholders. He emceed both the ribbon cutting and the American Legion building reception on June 1. Photographic image by David Rogers

“This party was put on by the Blowing Rock Historical Society,” said O’Brien. “We have an events committee, including Suzanne McBee and Lori Trexler, who are the co-chairs. Nobody has better events than we have. These ladies are just spectacular. Our dues for membership are very small but we use those funds to do things for our community. Like this History Walk, in which we invested quite a bit.”

Mayor Charlie Sellers reflected on Blowing history and what the new Blowing Rock History Walk means to the town on June 1, at the ribbon-cutting. Photographic image by David Rogers

Asked about the development from his organization’s perspective, Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce CEO Charles Hardin said, “I think this is going to be a great asset for the town, especially because it honors and remembers many of those people who helped shape this special place, as Dr. Buxton said. It will also help both our residents and the many visitors not just something else to do, but to have a sense of connection to the town. You know, the North Carolina Governor, Roy Cooper, recently declared 2023 as the ‘Year of the Trail’ so our creation of this History Walk is very timely.”

Blowing Rock History Walk is free for all to enjoy. The best starting point is at the monument near the intersection of Main Street and Laurel Lane.

Village Foundation president and Tweetsie Railroad principal Cathy Robbins addressed the crowd estimated at 150 on June 1, gathered at the start of the Blowing Rock History Walk for its ribbon cutting ceremony. Photographic image by David Rogers

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