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Super-Scenic Motorway: A Blue Ridge Parkway History Hardcover – October 2, 2006

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Editorial Reviews


Elegantly reveals the Parkway's history. . . . Decidedly revisionist . . . presents a more complex history of the road. . . . Whisnant's engagingly written and carefully researched account brings to light a more accurate picture of how the Blue Ridge Parkway came to be while taking nothing away from the . . . site.--Appalachian Journal

[Whisnant's] knowledge of how one of the country's most celebrated roadways came to be trumps anything previously published, many times over.--Carolina Alumni Review

[Whisnant's] research has illuminated a drama surrounding the road that speaks of battles won and lost, economic interests and government intervention. It is a story of power and class and progress that resulted in a national treasure for some and a royal pain for others.--UNC-Chapel Hill University Gazette

The book strips away decades of such myth-making fostered by tourism officials and the park service and details the social, economic, and political battles that shaped a two-lane road that is the most visited place managed by the park service.--Raleigh News & Observer

Whisnant does an excellent job. . . . After reading the book, your view of Asheville might never be quite the

[Super Scenic Motorway: A Blue Ridge Parkway History] is a valuable book for those of us who would understand how political and commercial pressures affected what many of us believe to be the wonders of the built world. . . . It's a well-researched, richly detailed and thoughtful examination of a monumental public works project that, for all its turmoil, turned out beautifully."-Jack Betts, Charlotte Observer

Whisnant brings the true parkway to light in a skillful demonstration of the historian's craft at the highest level of excellence--thoroughly researched, especially well documented and presented. . . . Highly recommended.--Choice

"Whisnant tells the history, culture, and politics of building the Parkway in a readable manner.--Blue Ridge Outdoors

A definitive history. . . . We get the more colorful and interesting real story.--Atlanta Journal-Constitution

[A] lucid analysis. . . . [Whisnant's] work provides vital lessons on historic and environmental preservation.--The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography

Brilliantly researched and stylishly written. . . . Readers can rest assured this enormous book packs a wallop.--Appalachian Heritage

The deliberate, scholarly work promises, in the author's words, to 'take us from a place many think they understand to one few would recognize, along a Blue Ridge Parkway almost no one knows.' Strap in and hold tight." --Mountain Xpress

A fascinating account. . . . Insightful and elegantly written. . . . By far the most thorough and well-researched history of the Parkway to date.--Georgia Historical Quarterly

[Super-Scenic Motorway] strips away decades of . . . myth-making fostered by tourism officials and the park service, and details the social, economic and political battles that shaped a two-lane road that's the most visited place managed by the park service.--Associated Press

This book honestly describes the often not-so-pretty and not-so-harmonious history of a scenic parkway that seems so very pretty and harmonious today, and should engage anyone interested in the Blue Ridge Parkway and the history of the diverse region through which it passes.--Journal of Appalachian Studies

Exhaustively researched…fascinating--Rocky Mount Telegram

This well-documented and well-researched study, often presented in strident style, provides a new perspective on the parkway's creation. . . . Super-Scenic Motorway's invaluable documentation will help readers better understand the parkway's complex development.--North Carolina Historical Review

Historian Anne Mitchell Whisnant's Super-Scenic Motorway: A Blue Ridge Parkway History is a must-read for anyone who frequents the mountains.--Durham Herald-Sun

An impressive documentation of the creation of the Blue Ridge Parkway and the resultant transfer of considerable acreage from one type of human exploitation (farming, lumber, etc.) to another type (scenic-tourism).--Southern Cultures

By sifting through various myths and facts, Whisnant reveals the truth behind the Parkway's seemingly undisturbed serene beauty.--Sanford Herald


Exploding one myth after another, Anne Mitchell Whisnant takes readers deep into the hidden history of Appalachia's beloved scenic road. Brilliantly researched and stylishly written, Whisnant's work demonstrates that many of the Parkway's most famous landmarks--Peaks of Otter, Little Switzerland, Grandfather Mountain--are as much man-made as natural, having evolved out of human struggles over power, class, and the elusive meaning of 'public good.' This is must reading for anyone interested in the southern Appalachians, tourism, national parks, and our ongoing struggle to create a place for ourselves in nature.--Timothy Silver, author of Mount Mitchell and the Black Mountains: An Environmental History of the Highest Peaks in Eastern America

|Super-Scenic Motorway is a thoroughly researched, clear-eyed analysis of the genesis and development of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Righteously revisionist, it provides a most needed corrective to the prevalent romantic vision of both the Appalachian region and the National Park Service.--Dwight T. Pitcaithley, chief historian, National Park Service (Ret.)


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press; 1 edition (October 2, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807830372
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807830376
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.4 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,271,040 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Carl E. Johnson Jr. on November 13, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Super-Scenic Motorway" tells a fascinating history of the Blue Ridge Parkway -- just one small piece of the entire history, but an important and, as the author points out, a neglected one. At the heart of the book, Ms. Whisnant tells four stories to illustrate the impact of the political process, largely (but not exclusively) at the administrative level, on land acquisitions for the Parkway route. As noted in the Epilogue, other examples could have served the purpose, but the four, the Peaks of Otter in Virginia, and Little Switzerland, Grandfather Mountain, and the Cherokee lands in North Carolina, are well chosen, exhaustively researched and documented, and "to her credit" [a phrase I just had to throw in -- you'll have to read the book to find out why], fairly told. Along the way we are also given insights into the evolution of the National Park Service and its approaches to historical interpretation. I should add that the book begins with an explanation of the parks, roads and Western N.C. tourism setting within which the Parkway came about, followed by a cursory look at the roughshod way that state government, particularly in North Carolina, and the NPS treated small landowners and small businesses when acquiring land and building the Parkway. On the other hand, if you're looking for design, engineering and construction details or information about the contributions of the CCC and other New Deal agencies, i.e., the actual work on the ground, you'll find precious little of that here.

All that having been said, bear in mind that Ms. Whisnant is a professional academic historian, not a writer of popular histories (e.g., a Stephen Ambrose).
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Gregory S. King-owen on December 24, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Anne M. Whisnant has written not only an analytical work with penetrating insights into the difficulties of creating recreational spaces for the public good but has managed to do it with beautiful and engaging prose. The first work on the Parkway not to get bogged down into trivial details about the construction process (as a response to Harley Jolley's work), Super-Scenic Motorway uses several vignettes to highlight how the Parkway came to be, what it was supposed to represent in the eyes of many different groups, and the difficult choices inherent in pursuing a public good. These vignettes illustrate how the Parkway was vigorously pursued by Ashevillians as a panacea for the ills of the Great Depression as well as by other groups who saw its potential for economic benefit. What is clear from Whisnant's work is just how much the Parkway was a creation of mankind -- clearly, Parkway planners had to "improve" upon the natural setting to make it live up to their ideals.

Though Parkway boosters praised the combination of conservation and economic benefit, not all people welcomed the super-scenic motorway. Displaced mountain residents, those who worked with restrictive land covenants, and those who were denied the promise of a paved road by limited access all found reason to complain about the beaucratic nightmare that was the process of building the Parkway. Whisnant is careful to show that the definition of the public good creates winners and losers and she does not privilege the Parkway's boosters over the losers, nor does she romanticize the losers as victims. The account of both sides is nuanced and insightful.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Fred Bauer on November 8, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The author didn't miss much. I doubt there will ever be a more complete treatment of the subject. As usual, you find out that the general public perception is wrong. The heroes were actually villains and the villains were actually heroes. The book was mostly about the political battle and explains things in an objective way from all sides.

Having lived near the parkway for many years, I came away with a new understanding and appreciation.
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