New American Chestnut Exhibit

March 16, 2008

The American chestnut exhibit is located just inside the front entrance of the recently constructed Destination Center which opened in late 2007. The Center is located at Mile Post 384 on the Blue Ridge Parkway, east of Asheville, NC and 1.5 miles south of US 70. Van Sickle & Rolleri of Medford, NJ designed the American chestnut and other interpretive exhibits located in the Center. Hadley Exhibits of Buffalo, NY, constructed the exhibits. Dr. Paul Sisco, Regional Science Coordinator, and Meghan Jordan, Communications Director, for The American Chestnut Foundation, assisted with production of the American chestnut exhibit.

The exhibit occupies a prominent space in the building and incorporates the open stairwell serving its main and lower floor. A towering photograph of an American chestnut tree reaches from the base of the stairs to the ceiling two stories above. Viewers get a sense of just how large American chestnuts once grew.

Three educational panels are part of the exhibit. The first panel is entitled, “Hope for the American Chestnut,” and explains the cross and backcross breeding program being used to produce a blight resistant, hybrid American chestnut tree. The second panel, “Protecting the Forest,” uses the story of the American chestnut as a reminder of how fragile forests are and the need for people to be vigilant stewards of the forests. The third panel, “The American Chestnut Tree,” explains how the American chestnut is distinctly tied to the natural and cultural history of the Blue Ridge.

The exhibit also includes a bench made of wormy American chestnut wood supports vases and bowls also made of American chestnut wood. The bench was designed and made by Mitch Sewell, a wood working student at Haywood Community College. The log from which he made the bench was salvaged from the Craggy Pinnacle Trail shelter near the Blue Ridge Parkway north of Asheville. The bowls were created by artist, Mike Schulde, of Earth’s Creations. Walnut Hill Crafts of Grassy Creek, NC provided the flower vases turned from salvaged American chestnut wood fence rails.

Chestnut bark shingles  on display came from the original roof of the Craggy Pinnacle Trail shelter. The picture superimposed over the shingles is of a building in Linville, NC built in the rustic architectural style made popular in the early 1900s by Henry Bacon, designer of the Lincoln Memorial.

The Destination Center offers additional educational, interpretive displays. Pictured is the Natural & Cultural Diversity Center display. Behind it is the Economic Strength Island display and beyond it, the Recreation & Renewal Island. The Destination Center is a splendid place to visit while traveling the Blue Ridge Parkway or when in the Asheville area and looking for an entertaining and educational experience. A 1.5 loop trail can be accessed from the Destination Center parking lot–an invitation to enjoy the natural surroundings and to look for surviving American chestnut trees growing near the trail.