Misc Virginia PWA Projects - Photo #13 - Skyline Drive

Skyline Drive Skyline Drive. “The Skyline Drive follows closely the course of the Appalachian Trail and extends the entire length of the Shenandoah National Park, along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains, nearly 100 miles. It will eventually be extended almost 500 miles farther south. It is a hard-surfaced highway with parking spaces and wide turn-outs at frequent intervals, from which may be enjoyed views of great beauty—­the Shenandoah Valley on the west and the Piedmont section of Virginia on the east. One of the engineering features is an 800-foot tunnel through St. Mary's Rock near Thornton Gap where the drive crosses the Lee Highway. The portion of the drive, constructed with the aid of P.W.A. funds of $2,117,228.30, was completed in August 1937. The entire project was completed in the fall of 1939 and cost approximately $6,000,000.”[1] The plans to add another 400 miles were evidently abandoned because of World War II; the present length is 169 miles.[2]

“The newly created Public Works Administration established by executive order on June 16, 1933, channeled special allotments to fund capital improvements in national parks, such as roads and buildings. The CCC, created in 1933, pulled its manpower from unemployed and generally unskilled young men ... Development of the new Shenandoah National Park was placed under James R. Lassiter, the engineer-in-charge of the park project, who later became the park's first superintendent in 1935. Skilled technicians directed the CCC work. The CCC camps provided the manpower to improve and beautify Skyline Drive by rounding and flattening the slopes of the drive and planting them with sod and native plants ... From 1933 to 1942, the CCC was employed in all aspects of developing the new National Park for visitor enjoyment, including improving the Appalachian Trail and constructing recreational facilities. President Roosevelt visited the CCC camps in the Shenandoah three months after the first two CCC camps were established at Skyline and Big Meadows ... During the President's brief stop at Camp Nina, the President was treated to a brief pageant entitled ’The burial of old man depression and fear and the return of happy days.’ An object labeled ‘fear’ was set afire and ’Old Man Depression’ was revealed in effigy before being set to fire. The President commented, ‘That's right, burn him up.’ The bugler played ‘Happy Days are Here Again’ as the president applauded.“[3]

Big Meadows Lodge, located at mile 51.2 on Skyline Drive, was built with stones cut from the Massanutten Mountain in 1939 by the CCC and mountain laborers.[4]  More than 4000 laborers worked to build Skyline Drive; it was opened between July and August 1939.[3] Skyline Drive was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on April 4, 1997.[3]

  1. Short, C.W., and R. Stanley Brown, Public Buildings, A Survey of Architecture of Projects Constructed by Federal and Other Governmental Bodies between the Years 1933 and 1939 with the Assistance of the Public Works Administration, United States Government Printing Office, Washington (1939), page 557.
  2. Skyline Drive, Wikipedia, accessed 11 June 2017.
  3. Skyline Drive, Virginia, National Register of Historic Places, accessed 11 June 2017.
  4. Lodging in the Park, visitskylinedrive.org, Shenandoah Valley Travel Association, accessed 11 June 2017.
Photos from C.W. Short, U.S. Federal Works Agency Public Buildings (1939).