Bluff Mountain Tunnel

The goal of this Blue Ridge Parkway project is to illuminate the purpose of the parkway in America as a new kind of public space. This purpose was three-fold. First, the parkway was supposed to relieve urban stress. Stress was caused by the industrialization and commercialization of America. Secondly, the parkway was a place where Americans could re-define themselves as Americans. Beautiful views were created making them available to motorists. Specific views of the natural riches that constituted America could be seen on this "processional" known as the Blue Ridge Parkway. Lastly, the parkway was a place to go to "better" oneself morally.

However, these goals inherent in the Blue Ridge Parkway were not necessarily articulated to the motorist/participant. Important historical, artistic, literary, and social precedents to the parkway movement must be understood. This site will elucidate and make connections between these precedents and the actual purposes of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Thomas Jefferson and his Philosophy on the Farmer

In Notes on the State of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson expounds on the his thoughts about the virtues of the farmer:

"Those who labor in the earth are the chosen people of God, if ever He had a chosen people of God, if ever He had a chosen people, whose breasts He has made His peculiar deposit for substantial and genuine virtue. It is the focus in which he keeps alive that sacred fire, which otherwise might escape from the face of the earth. Corruption of morals in the mass of cultivators is a phenomenon of which no age nor nation has furnished an example."

Thomas Cole and the Hudson River School

Thomas Cole was one of the Hudson River School artists. In Cole's "Essay on American Scenery", he outlines the inextricable connection between the beautiful and the good. When people gaze at the "Pure creations of the Almighty", they experience a "calm religious tone." Cole means that people reap real benefits from simply experiencing the landscapes. These benefits include but are not limited to in religious, psychological, and philosophical improvements in their lives.

How can the Hudson River School of artists be linked with the Blue Ridge Parkway?Cole establishes that the American landscape has more than merely a rejuvenative effect on people. Instead, the landscape actually improves the moral quality of people who come into contact with it. The Blue Ridge Parkway was a new kind of public space in America that connected to the ideas put forth by the Hudson River School.

Click to view Kathleen Hogan's site:
"The picturesque, the sublime, and the magnificent": Tocqueville & the Hudson River School

Alexis de Toqueville and his "Views" on America

Toqueville came from France in 1831 and 1832 to research America. Amazingly, many of Toqueville analyses of America hold up even today in the twentieth century. Toqueville didn't think that Americans would appropriate the natural landscape into their cultural consciousness as an important thing. Although Toqueville never thought that the natural landscape would never be valued by Americans, there was an abundance of incredibly beautiful forests, mountains, seascapes, open land and numerous other breathtaking landscapes. This set America apart from the rest of the world . The "New World" was nature's master creation. America was looked on as the "Garden of the World."

The Idea Becomes a Roadway

Typical roadway view

The Blue Ridge Parkway was initiated under the National Recovery Act. The construction of it was designated to be a collaboration between the Park Service and the Bureau of Public Roads. The Blue Ridge Parkway project was initially started by President Hoover. In 1932, Hoover set aside relief funds to build Skyline Drive.

Not long after construction on Skyline Drive started, Franklin Delano Roosevelt visited the the Civilian Conservation Corps camp for the building of the adjoining Skyline Drive. Shortly after FDR's visit, he readily agreed to approve the funds for the building of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Excursion: The Blue Ridge Parkway as a New Deal ProjectThe Blue Ridge Parkway as a New Deal Project

The Blue Ridge Parkway was meant to be a processional through beautiful and consoling scenery. The spiral curve depicted in the Virginia northern section exemplifies this scenic beauty( Blue Ridge Parkway, Engineering Features, Slide no.2).

Blue Ridge Spiral Curve
Twenty-minute view

The idea for the Blue Ridge Parkway was born in the early 1930s. This was a time in American history when social change was at the forefront of political events. The Blue Ridge Parkway resulted from a combination of many factors; the primary one being that jobs were needed for trained engineers, architects, and landscape architects who were left unemployed by the Great Depression, say nothing of the mountain families of the area who were living in poverty.

CCC Camp in VirginiaClick to View a Virginia
CCC Camp and Blue Ridge Parkway Stonemasons

Also, two national parks, the Shenandoah National Park and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park had recently opened. These parks were attracting tourists to the mid-atlantic region and the automobile was becoming increasingly available opened up a new generation of motoring vacations.
A Family on a Motoring Vacation

Click to view a family on a "motoring" vacation.