Picture of the side of the Altapass Inn.

The stately Altapass Inn as it appeared in 1916.

When the Clinchfield Railroad made its way through the Roses Creek Community in the early 1900’s, the Holston Land Corporation erected a grand hotel along the railroad in 1915. They gave it the name Altapass – “Alta” (meaning a high-elevation of 2,623 feet) and “pass” (noting the nearby McKinney Gap). The hotel could accommodate 150 guests offering luxurious amenities for those wanting to escape the heat of the low country in exchange for the cool summers in the mountains. These luxuries included a golf course and a bowling alley, as well as electric lights and modern plumbing. The hotel also had a resident physician for its guests, and would not allow anyone with throat or tuberculosis ailments to be admitted. The food served in the dining room was from the gardens of local residents, as well as other imported delicacies. For the week of July 25, 1916 the weekly informational brochure of the hotel, The Altapass Reporter, listed an elaborate dinner selection for guests from all over the United States which included Chicken a la St. Mande, Consomme Celestine, Queen Olives, Young Onions, French Sardines, Imported Spaghetti with Cheese Italian, Chocolate Fritters, Vanilla Sauce, Baked Western Capon, English Filling, Roast Prime Ribs of Beef au Jus, Steamed Carolina Rice, Royal Mashed Potatoes, Boiled New Potatoes, Salad a la Russe, New English Garden Peas, Asparagus Tips with Hollandaise, Vanilla Ice Cream, Layer Cake, Peach Pie, Cheese – American, Roquefort Saltines, and Cafe Noir.

The billiard room at the Altapass Inn included a modern bowling alley as well as pool and other games.

The billiard room at the Altapass Inn included a modern bowling alley as well as pool and other games.

A depot, general store, boarding house, hospital, bus and train service all made Altapass a bustling community. The Holston Land Corporation would also build two large orchards near McKinney Gap and Hefner Gap. Many local residents gained jobs either building the railroad or working in the jobs affiliated with the coming of the railroad. When the earliest state highway was planned to enter the Spruce Pine and Altapass area, many thought it would traverse McKinney Gap, as it was the lowest gap in this area. With all of these new amenities, many residents and local leaders felt that Altapass would become Mitchell County’s largest town. Unfortunately, the Altapass Inn burned to the ground in 1926. This would be a major blow to the community. The highway department would build the major highway across the Blue Ridge Escarpment not at McKinney Gap, but a little further south at Gillespie Gap. The last blow to the once bustling tourist community occurred when the Clinchfield Railroad discontinued passenger service in the 1950’s.

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