Author: Robert Sorrell
Roan Mountain, a 6,286-foot-high peak, straddles the Tennessee and North Carolina state line in the Appalachian Mountains. Home to world-famous rhododendron gardens, the Appalachian Trail, the site of Gen. John T. Wilder’s historic Cloudland Hotel, and record-breaking lofty balds, thousands of visitors, including explorer John Muir and Vice Pres. Richard Nixon, have ascended Roan Mountain over the last two centuries. Biologists, botanists, and tourists have enjoyed its unique natural setting. At the mountain’s base and on its slopes, rural communities have endearing histories. Decades ago, the East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad passed through the village at the foot of “the Roan.” The railroad brought wealthy passengers to the mountain-top Cloudland Hotel. It also allowed local industrialists the opportunity to export the area’s natural resources. The people of Roan Mountain are proud of their history and have displayed it annually for more than a half-century during the Rhododendron Festival.
Author Robert Sorrell is an award-winning journalist and freelance writer. Based in Johnson City, Tennessee, and a former Elizabethton Star reporter, he has contributed to numerous regional and national publications. Because of his interest in regional history, local residents have shared vintage photographs depicting Roan Mountain’s past.