Moses H. Cone Memorial Park is located on milepost 294 on the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway near the towns of Boone and Blowing Rock. At the heart of the park is the Moses Cone Manor, officially called Flat Top Manor, which is a restored 23-room house that belonged to Moses and Bertha Cone, a couple that found success in the textile and denim industries of the 19th century.
While the Cone’s businesses, hospital and factories were located in Greensboro, N.C., they also fancied themselves as farmers and lovers of the land. Their summer home, the Flat Top Manor and the more than 3,000 acres of mountains, valleys, gorges and trails that surround it, was purchased in the late 1880s. At one time, more than 30 families lived and worked at the property creating what was essentially a living, breathing village located in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Moses Cone died at the age of 51 in 1908 while his wife, Bertha, stayed on the land for 39 more years until her death in 1947.
Much to the benefit of the public at large, the Cones willed the manor house and the surrounding land to the National Park Service in 1949.
The Cones were a part of the Industrial Revolution and were exemplary of the productive nature of the immigrant class. The story begins with patriarch Herman Cone, a German immigrant who relocated to the U.S. and created a grocery business in New York City that provided wholesale goods to other stores.
As sons Moses and Caesar Cone grew to age, under the tutelage and industrious example set by their father Herman, they branched off into the then-thriving textile industry of the 1880s, acting as sales agents for the many mills that existed in the South, focusing on North Carolina.
Textile mills were essential to the economy of North Carolina in those days and up to more modern times, beginning with the first-ever mill that was started in the state in 1815. By the beginning of the 20th century, the Tar Heel State became a hub for textile mills in general as many mills moved south to relocate there from New England and other parts of the country. Whole small towns were built around textile mills and many families were supported by the jobs they created. Unfortunately, the industry waned as foreign competition and new technologies changed the industry as the 20th century came to an end.
At one point, the Cone Brothers decided to leave New York City to build their own mills in North Carolina, and that is when Moses discovered the town of Blowing Rock and the incredible splendor of the mountains that surrounded it.
Moses and Bertha Cone never had children of their own. That might have been a factor in why they turned over their built-from-scratch Manor House and farmland over to the public once both had passed away.
A visit to the Moses Cone Park and the house now, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, will put you in a wonderful place, with many trails to hike and tours available of the house whose front porch has an awesome view of the countryside.
Inside you will find an arts and crafts store and National Park Service officers who are there to answer all of your questions.
There is the trail that encircles Bass Lake and Trout Lake to explore, a trail that leads to the Fire Tower overlook, the secluded and gorgeous Rich Mountain Carriage Trail, the Watkins and Black Bottom Trails and other roadways that make up 25 miles of wide, well-maintained and easy to walk pathways.
Along the trails you find the remnants of the more than 30,000 apple trees that the Cones planted on their land as well as blooming rhododendrons, mountain laurels and other fauna.
During the summer of 2019, the National Park Service and the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation will be renovating the Moses Cone Park and Flat Top Manor House, giving the all-wood outside and inside a much-needed make-over, shoring up roadway walls and widening and resurfacing many of the carriage trails.
The public, however, will be welcome to visit the park throughout the summer and fall months.