Moses Cone Memorial Park is not a wild, natural place, but an elegant, landscaped estate with 25 miles of gentle carriage roads – perfect for easy hiking. There had been tourists and summer residents in mountain communities off the Blue Ridge Parkway for over a century before the road was built. Blowing Rock, in particular, was an established resort town, which tripled its population in the summer.
Moses Cone was one such summer resident who built a mansion outside Blowing Rock, now at MP 294. Having made his money in the textile business – he was known as the denim king – Cone and his wife Bertha bought over 3,500 acres adjacent to Blowing Rock and began building their dream house and estate, including two lakes stocked with trout and bass. They created a life of the landed gentry, a kind of modest Biltmore Estate. They built Flat Top Manor, a 20-room house in the Colonial Revival Style with large white columns, elegant leaded glass windows and dormers set high. Like George Vanderbilt, Cone hired Gifford Pinchot to help him landscape the property with fruit trees, sugar maple, and rhododendron.
The Cones’ dream house was finished in 1901 but Moses Cone did not enjoy it for long. He died in 1908 in his early fifties. Moses and Bertha had no children and when Bertha died thirty-nine years later, she bequeathed her entire estate to build the most modern hospital in the South as a memorial to her husband – the Cone Memorial Hospital in Greensboro. The land and house were subsequently donated to the Blue Ridge Parkway which turned it into the lovely park it is today.