Moses Cones made his fortune in North Carolina’s textile industry, but he was much more interested in being outdoors than in one of his denim factories. Naturalists at heart, Cone and wife Bertha purchased some 3,600 acres of virgin land near Blowing Rock, North Carolina, about 88 miles north of Asheville. Construction started on the house in 1899, but building the Colonial Revival structure was something of an ordeal. Workman had to transport materials and furnishings 20 miles from the nearest railroad depot in Lenoir. The home was completed in 1901. Following the Cones’ deaths, the estate was donated to the National Park Service, which still maintains the estate and welcomes visitors to tour the house and use the grounds.
Renovations have been ongoing for several years to restore the once-grand Flat Top Manor to its former glory. But visitors can still tour portions of the home and enjoy a guided tour by a park ranger. Looking out from the front porch of the 20-room home is especially spectacular. The view of Bass Lake and the mountain vistas in the distance are Instagram-worthy. The Park Craft Center is also located on the first floor of the home. You’ll find handicrafts from regional artists including pottery, textiles and artwork. Artists conduct demonstrations of quilting, embroidery, glassblowing and pottery throwing on the front porch during the summer months. Call (828) 295-3782 for a schedule of demonstrations.
While the home was impressive, the Cones loved spending time outdoors at their estate. They planted 32,000 apple trees and imported sugar maple trees from New England. The couple further bolstered their property’s natural riches by planting acres of hemlock hedges and white pines. To make the outdoor environs even more beautiful, rhodendron and mountain laurel bushes were incorporated into the landscape.
To take advantage of this natural wonderland, the Cones created 25 miles of gently sloping carriage roads that meander through the property. Those roads are still in use today as multi-purpose hiking trails for people of all fitness levels. One of the most popular hikes is to Flat Top Tower, a fire tower that offers a scenic, 360-degree view of the surrounding mountains. Flat Top Road is a more moderate hike, taking you past the Cone Cemetery, Bass Lake and through the remains of the apple orchard. A more accessible trail loops around Bass Lake. People use the carriage roads for a variety of purposes, so don’t be surprised if you encounter horseback riders, bicyclists or even cross-country skiers in winter.
The Moses H. Cone Memorial Park is located at milepost 294 on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Exploring Mose H Cone Park may take more than one day, but no camping is allowed at the site. Julian Price Park is adjacent to Cone Park and offers 129 tent sites, 68 trailer sites and even more trails to hike.