by Allison Haver
A weather station at the Mile High Swinging Bridge recorded hurricane-force winds throughout Saturday night with gusts as high as 92.5 mph, according to Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation.
For more than half a century, the large wooden sign, located at the intersection of U.S. 221 and N.C. 105, pointed visitors to "Carolina's Top Scenic Attraction," a tagline coined by the late Hugh Morton, who owned Grandfather Mountain from 1952 to 2006.
Architect Charles Hartman, who also designed the Mile High Swinging Bridge, designed the signpost, which was constructed in the late 1950s.
A pond surrounding the sign was built at the same time.
"The sign was an icon in North Carolina's travel industry," said Harris Prevost, vice president of Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation in a release. "It was pure Americana -- 1950s all the way. We are sorry to see this piece of history lost forever."
"On the other hand, the sign was old and fragile. Many of the wooden boards were rotting. It was a matter of time before it would have had to come down," Prevost said.
The sign, which was originally painted in vivid yellow and green, was repainted in 2006 in tan and brown to better coordinate with the color scheme of the Linville Golf Club and Eseeola Lodge. The historic sign was also scheduled to be replaced in 2015.
The land where the sign sat is owned by Linville Resorts, with Grandfather Mountain responsible for the sign upkeep and mowing.
Grandfather Mountain plans to keep and maintain a similar sign at the Tynecastle intersection of N.C. 184 and N.C. 105 for as long as possible.
That structure is in better condition because it is more protected from the wind and elements.
The Mountain will remove the fallen sign as soon as possible.
"We are touched by the outpouring of sympathy about our losing the sign," Prevost said. "For many, many people, the Linville sign is all they have known at that intersection. There is a lot of nostalgia associated with the sign."
There were several reports of fallen trees due to severe winds on Saturday night and Sunday morning in Watauga County according to Melissa Harmon, supervisor of Watauga County Communications Center.
A Fraser fir tree that stood in front of the gas pumps at the Blowing Rock Citgo station at the corner of Sunset Drive and Valley Boulevard was knocked down.
By midday Monday, the tree had been cut down and hauled away.