Chimney Rock Acquired by the State, 2007

Chimney Rock in the 1940s. Image from the State ArchivesOn May 21, 2007, the state of North Carolina purchased Chimney Rock Park in western Rutherford County from the Morse family, which had owned and operated the tourist attraction for more than a century.

Two months later, the General Assembly merged the thousand-acre park with neighboring Hickory Nut Gorge State Park and renamed the entire 5,942-acre tract Chimney Rock State Park. The new state park was named after the 315-foot granite spire that overlooks Lake Lure and offers spectacular views of the 14-mile gorge carved by the Rocky Broad River.

In 1902, Dr. Lucius B. Morse, a Missouri physician diagnosed with tuberculosis and looking for a healthier climate, bought 64 acres on Chimney Rock Mountain, including the “Chimney” and cliffs, from Jerome B. “Rome” Freeman. Freeman already had built a stairway to the mountaintop and opened it to the public in 1885.

Over the years, the Morse family constructed a 258-foot elevator shaft inside the mountain, opened a gift shop and snack bar at the top, and developed a nature center and hiking trails, all while expanding the park’s size.

Today, the park is managed by the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation.

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