Moses Cone Memorial Park – revisited

Sometimes a great guide makes all the difference.

Cone upstairs foyer

I went back to Moses Cone Memorial Park on the Blue Ridge Parkway today (MP 294). The excuse was  an article that I’m writing for Smoky Mountain Living, a regional magazine, aptly named.

I’ve been to Cone Park several times for my guidebook Hiking North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Heritage but this needed to have a different slant. So I signed up for a tour that takes you to the second floor of Flat Top Manor.

The guide, Sandy Adair, is an interpretive ranger in the park and she was terrific. If I had gone up there myself, it would have been just a bunch of white empty rooms. There’s no furniture because Bertha Cone gave all her possessions away to family, friends and workers on the estate. That was a sweet thing for her to do. But the result is that you really need a guide or an interpreter to explain the story of Moses and Bertha Cone.

Phil Noblitt’s book, A Mansion in the Mountains, is the only book on Cones. But Sandy added a lot more about Moses’ two spinster sisters, Claribel and Etta, who collected art. They were friends with Gertrude Stein and they collected Picassos and Mattisse before these artists were famous.

They left their whole collection to the Baltimore Museum of Art. On the other hand, the Cone Mills have closed down and disappeared.

This time, I only walked the two most popular and short trails: the trail to the Cone grave site and the loop around Bass Lake. Halfway around the lake, the skies opened up. I finished the loop and got soaked. This is one of those times where I’m going to spend more time cleaning up than I did hiking.

But before I sign off, I must show off this outstanding view that I got from the Blue Ridge Parkway in the morning. It’s almost worth making a large print of it.



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