Blue Ridge Country May/June 2021 - 23

denim mill called Proximity Manufacturing Company on the outskirts of Greensboro. The Cone brothers continued to
expand their operation by acquiring other North Carolina mills including ones in
Asheville, Salisbury and Gibsonville.
They provided subsidized housing for
the mill workers along with large lots for
raising gardens and fruit trees. They also
encouraged education and offered mill
schools at the villages. Moses found local schools in Greensboro lacking, so to
make up for that deficit, he paid 50%
more salary to teachers willing to come
to the mill schools. Workers who wanted
to continue their own education could
do so through night classes.
By the time of Cone's death in 1908,
his mills were producing a third of all the
denim produced in the world and this
earned him the moniker of the " Denim
King. "
CREATING FLAT TOP MANOR
As he began acquiring land from farmers in the area where Cone Manor would
rise, Moses Cone prioritized planting
his apple orchard before beginning the
building of the summer home.
The February 2, 1898 issue of The
Greensboro Patriot announced his endeavor: " Mr. Moses H. Cone has purchased 3,000 acres of land near Blowing
Rock during the past year, and during the
winter has had 20,800 apple trees planted... Many varieties have been planted
indigenous to the climate, but mostly
the Albemarle Pippin, a large luscious
green apple in the fall, which turns to a

beautiful golden yellow in the winter. "
The article briefly mentions his plans
for his house saying, " Mr. Cone will
build a handsome summer residence on
these lands during the year. "
Construction on the house began in
1899 and reached completion in 1901.
Talk must have buzzed through this
mountain community of Cone's plan to
spend $25,000 on a summer home. In
comparison, most regular homes in the
area cost about $200 at that time.
The house was outfitted with modern amenities including indoor plumbing with hot and cold running water,
wood-fired heating system and carbide
gas lighting system. Electrical lines were
established in 1927.
Cone, and his wife, Bertha, did not

have children, but they enjoyed entertaining guests at Flat Top Manor, particularly for dinner parties. The estate produced much of the meat, vegetables and
fruits prepared by cooks and served up by
a butler and other service staff.
Noblitt says it would have been up to
Bertha to set the tone for the evening's
conversation. " As hostess, she tried to
keep the subject matter light, " he writes.
" Controversial topics and deep discussions had no place at the dinner table,
nor did loud or boisterous talk... Also, no
matter how delightful the meal, diners
never commented on the quality of the
food. That would have suggested sensuality and animal gratification, something
Victorians were loath to acknowledge. "
WIDOW TAKES THE HELM
In addition to marking the WNC landscape with their names and their wealth,
there are other similarities between Moses Cone and George Vanderbilt. Both
men died at the age of 51. Cone died
in 1908 from heart disease and Vanderbilt passed unexpectedly in 1914 while
recovering from surgery for appendicitis. He reportedly suffered a pulmonary
embolism, which happens when a blood
clot blocks a blood vessel in a lung.

LEFT: This view of the Cone apple orchards is
from the house, circa 1940.
BELOW LEFT: The Cone apple barn.
BELOW: Flat Top Road at Cone Park passes
beneath the Blue Ridge Parkway.

MAY/JUNE 2021

23



Blue Ridge Country May/June 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Blue Ridge Country May/June 2021

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