By David Rogers. July 2, 2018. BLOWING ROCK, NC — When the going gets tough, the tough get going in Blowing Rock.
All photographic images by David Rogers for Blowing Rock News
That was a key message on Monday at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for Mayview Plaza, the downtown beautification project spearheaded by the Village Foundation of Blowing Rock. The project resulted from the coordinated efforts and contributions of several organizations and many individuals.
There is often a significant time delay between that moment a community improvement project’s visionaries receive cost estimates and when construction actually gets underway. That was true in the case of Mayview Plaza at the downtown intersection of Blowing Rock’s Main St. and Laurel Lane.
A strengthening economy pushed the cost of materials and labor significantly higher by the time construction began on the project, Village Foundation organizer John Aldridge told the estimated crowd of more than 80 local business folks and an impressive gathering the Town’s movers and shakers, as well as a smattering of passers-by. While they were considering “value construction” alternatives — “That is where a lot of the original features of the project get cut,” Aldridge said — one unnamed donor stepped up and said, “This is Blowing Rock. We have to do this right.”
Aldridge reported to the celebrants that the donor’s enthusiasm for what became Mayview Plaza was contagious and others stepped up to help cover the increased costs, including significant donations of time and materials by several of the contractors.
Mayview Plaza designers used the same pavers “…that they use in harsher climates like Green Bay (Wisconsin) and Minneapolis (Minnesota)…” and real stonework instead of rock lookalikes for the walls lining the street, Aldridge noted.
It dresses up a central business district with not just streetscape improvements, but an historical perspective. In addition to an historical marker detailing the history of the neighborhood and the former iconic Mayview Manor that helped put Blowing Rock firmly on the tourist and seasonal resident map, four other markers highlight major economic drivers in the region: Tweetsie Railroad, The Blowing Rock attraction, Appalachian Ski Mountain, and the Blowing Rock Charity Horse Show. Representatives from each of those operations were on hand for Monday’s ceremonies.
Also on hand for the occasion were George and Linda Gilleland, who donated the land to the Town so that it could be dedicated and preserved for the project.
“This is just fabulous,” Blowing Rock Historical Society president Rita White told the gathering. “It’s not only beautiful construction, but it brings together in this one place a poignant glimpse of so much Blowing Rock history for our many residents and even more visitors to enjoy.”
Mayor Charlie Sellers served as emcee of the ceremony and offered some opening remarks, including his family’s recollection of a conversation between his grandfather, Grover Robbins, and uncle, Grover Robbins, Jr., when the latter bought the train engine that would eventually become the central feature of Tweetsie Railroad.
“I don’t know who is going to pay to ride a train that goes around in a circle,” the senior Robbins reportedly said.
To which the junior Robbins replied, “The same people who pay to see where a dumb lovestruck Indian jumped off a rock” (the family-owned The Blowing Rock attraction currently owned, managed and recently renovated by Sellers).
The ceremony also included remarks by the current president of the Village Foundation, Jim Clabough, who noted among other things the ways that residents and business owners can join and support the Village Foundation.
Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce CEO Charles Hardin presided over the actual ribbon cutting, which saw Aldridge wielding the large scissors alongside Mayor Sellers and North Carolina State Senator Deanna Ballard.
In recounting the path toward completion of the Mayview Plaza project that includes the historical markers, rock wall and facings, and significant landscape improvements down the median all the way to Wallingford St., Aldridge observed, “The Town has been great to work with,” with a nod to Scott Fogleman, who was Town Manager at the time the project was envisioned. He also credited Jim Pitts, the general manager of Blue Ridge Mountain Club, for the daily supervising of the project’s construction that is now all but completed — just in time for a busy 4th of July weekend.