Neither Mile-High Nor Swinging

William Umstead dedicates the mile-high swinging bridge. Image from the N.C. Museum of History

William Umstead dedicates the mile-high swinging bridge.
Image from the N.C. Museum of History

On September 2, 1952, gubernatorial candidate William B. Umstead dedicated Grandfather Mountain’s Mile-High Swinging Bridge near Linville, and became the first person to cross it. Earlier that year entrepreneur Hugh Morton had inherited Grandfather Mountain, whose craggy features and high vistas had made it a popular tourist attraction since the 1890s. Morton envisioned building a bridge between Grandfather’s Convention Table Rock and Linville Peak to improve visitors’ access to the best scenic overlooks.

Designed by Greensboro architect Charles Hartmann, Jr., and fabricated by Truitt Manufacturing Company in Greensboro, the 228-foot suspension bridge was reassembled in three weeks at Grandfather Mountain by Craven Steel Erecting Company. The total cost was $15,000. In 1999, the mostly wooden bridge was rebuilt using galvanized steel at a cost of $300,000.

Former state tourism director Charles J. Parker coined the name “Mile-High Swinging Bridge” at the 1952 dedication. While the bridge’s elevation is slightly more than a mile above sea level, it actually hangs only 80 feet above the ground. And while suspension bridges can swing, especially in high winds, thick cables anchor Grandfather Mountain’s bridge to the ground, limiting its movement.

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