Local Teen Inspires Pisgah Monument Restoration
Written By Leeann Donnelly
Photo (left to right): Jack Leary, Rory Mullen, Owen Koppe, Moultrie Dangerfield, Levi Smith
An enterprising young man recently pioneered a project to preserve a piece of history that wasn’t necessarily forgotten, but just hidden.
This young man is Levi Smith. The West Asheville resident and Eagle Scout candidate completed work with fellow scouts to preserve a historic monument honoring Biltmore’s founder, George Vanderbilt, for establishing Pisgah National Forest. Vines and brush growing in that very forest had overtaken the monument to the point the plaque’s inscription was almost completely camouflaged.
Smith, a member of Troop 58 in West Asheville, discovered the monument near the Stony Fork Picnic Area on Pisgah Highway near the town of Candler on a hike up to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Also nearby is the entrance into the Forest, which at one time was also the entrance of Vanderbilt’s auto road to Mount Pisgah and Buckspring Lodge, his mountaintop retreat.
Upon reading the inscription on the monument’s bronze plaque, Smith decided such a piece of history needed to be spruced up so that hikers and passers-by would be able to learn about the surrounding forest. Pisgah National Forest, it describes, was dedicated to the memory of Vanderbilt who died in 1914. Vanderbilt’s widow, Edith Vanderbilt, sold more than 83,000 acres of Biltmore land to the federal government that same year, thus carrying out her late husband’s desire to establish it as a forest preserve.
Smith sent a proposal to William Cecil Jr., president and CEO of Biltmore (and the great-grandson of George Vanderbilt), asking for support and assistance with the project, which upon completion will serve as his Eagle Scout Service project. It’s the final step before Smith will receive the coveted rank of Eagle.
Biltmore made a donation to Smith for his project. In addition, Biltmore Landscape and Forest Historian Bill Alexander met with Smith and his mother, Robin Smith, to discuss the renovation and the area’s history. Smith also met with officials with the U. S. Forest Service who approved his project.
Kara Warren, Biltmore Preventive Conservation Specialist, was on hand when Smith and his fellow troop members started the work. She demonstrated how to properly clean and protect the bronze plaque to best preserve it for future generations.
The project also included landscaping around the monument, re-grading the Stony Fork Picnic Area parking lot, outlining it in timbers and re-graveling the area in order to ensure that it is a safe and attractive stopping point for those accessing the Parkway. Members of the Upper Hominy Fire Department also assisted in the project.
Biltmore’s archives contain a photograph taken on Oct. 28, 1920, when Pisgah National Forest was officially dedicated to Vanderbilt at a ceremony at the monument site. Edith Vanderbilt and her daughter, Cornelia, are in the photo, taken at the monument along with Governor of North Carolina Locke Craig and secretary of the Appalachian Park Association George S. Powell.
The inscription reads:
Pisgah National Forest
This portion 83,398 acres was formerly PISGAH FOREST
Established by George W. Vanderbilt in 1891
and the earliest example of forestry on a
large scale on private lands in America
Acquired by the United States on
21 May 1914