Wow, Blue Ridge Road sure seems to be a tough nut to crack when it comes to getting to know our streets. Don't get me wrong; the road itself is fairly straightforward. It heads north-south, beginning (or ending, depending on your POV) at Western Boulevard and making its way up past the state fairgrounds, Carter-Finley Stadium/PNC Arena, the N.C. Museum of Art and Rex Hospital, before heading sharply to the right/east while Duraleigh Road continues north. Blue Ridge Road finally ends seemingly at Glenwood Avenue.
It's the "why" Blue Ridge that baffles me. Why the allusion to the mountain range -- if that is, indeed, what it's referring too? While Raleigh has its fair share of hills, it ain't exactly mountainous.
(True story: I once worked with a girl who grew up in Carteret County and came to Raleigh to go to school at Meredith College. She legitimately thought Raleigh was in the mountains.)
So why Blue Ridge? Nowhere in my vast research was I able to come up with an answer. At first I thought it referred to some old trading route that would eventually makes its way to the N.C. mountains -- but as we've pointed out, present-day Blue Ridge Road goes north and northeast before petering out. If the road WERE to keep on, keepin' on, it would probably end up in Dare or Pasquotank Counties -- if not the Hampton Roads region of Virginia. Hardly mountain-like. In fact, the N.C. Museum of Art's website has a snippet about the history of its location on Blue Ridge -- but it doesn't discuss the road's history:
The Blue Ridge Road site, just south of Rex Hospital on the western edge of Raleigh, has a colorful history. Beginning with Native American inhabitants, it later was a Civil War training site, and later the site of Polk Youth Prison for juvenile offenders. The youth prison was relocated, and only a smokestack remains as a reminder of the site’s heritage."
But I've come up empty everywhere else. Help me, please. Anyone have insight on why it's called Blue Ridge Road?
Photos courtesy of capitalareapreservation.com (Dorton Arena) and marczawel.com (art museum)