Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Today is the date the park movement got its start

November 23, 2009, 11:10 am

Today is the 110th anniversary of the birth of the Smokies as a park. On Nov. 22-23, 1899, the region's progressive leaders gathered at the Battery Park Hotel in Asheville to create the Appalachian National Park Association. A month later, the group sent a petition to Congress requesting a park, and it became the first such proposal from the East to reach a vote.

In 1911, thanks to the group's efforts, the Weeks Act established Cherokee National Forest. The larger idea came to fruition on June 13, 1934, when Congress established Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Biographers trace the idea born at the Battery Park even further back: to a fishing expedition that two Ohioans had made in “Sapphire country” (the area around Toxaway Mountain) around 1898. Responding to local inns' call of the wild, Dr. Chase B. Ambler, a recently arrived tuberculosis physician, invited his friend, the Hon. William R. Day, to a “listen to this” jaunt.

Ambler and Day both supported the growing health resort business in the Asheville area and were alarmed by logging. Ambler was an avid outdoorsman.

When he'd been a boy in Salem, Ohio — the foothills of the Alleghenies — he ran away from home to go west. His father had him tracked down in Wyoming and transported back in a crate, according to family legend.

In 1889, having obtained his medical degree at Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ambler came to Asheville to work for Dr. Karl Von Ruck at Winyah Sanitarium. Von Ruck was a pioneer developer of a vaccine for tuberculosis.

Ambler brought his wife, Harriet Vernon, here, and raised six children. He played major roles with the Board of Trade, Good Roads Association, Mission Hospital and Audubon Society. In 1903, just as Ambler was going national with his park movement, enlisting Northern allies, he built a vacation home for his family: Rattlesnake Lodge, on a site now off the Blue Ridge Parkway.