Blue Ridge Country May/June 2021 - 24

RENOVATIONS AT FLAT TOP MANOR

B

y the end of 2021, visitors to Flat Top Manor, the former
summer home of Moses and Bertha Cone, will be able
to see the exterior of the mansion restored to its original
glory. Carolyn Ward, CEO of the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation,
says she has deep gratitude for all the donors who have joined in
funding the project, which nears $2.4 million dollars in cost.

Their untimely deaths forced their
wives into positions of maintaining the
large estates. Bertha Cone and Edith
Vanderbilt lived into their 80s. Bertha
died at age 89 in 1947 and Edith in 1958
at the age of 85.
" I always have to mention to people
that Bertha ran that estate for 40 some
years, " says Carolyn Ward, CEO of the
Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation. " What
a great story of a woman entrepreneur.
She left her mark on that estate, that's
for sure. She's often not given as much
attention as she perhaps should. "
Bertha Cone was definitely hands-on
as she supervised all aspects of running
the estate. In 1913, she created the Flat
Top Manor Dairy, which served as the
first Grade A facility in Watauga County.
The dairy supplied milk to local hotels

24

BLUERIDGECOUNTRY.COM

" One of the first projects the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation
ever funded was replacing the balusters, so we've been raising
money for the entire memorial park really since our inception. It's
a full circle project for us to see it restored, " says Ward.
Crews began work in December 2020 to tackle long-needed
repairs on the weathered structure. First steps included removing

and others around the Blowing Rock area
into the 1940s.
She also improved harvesting measures of the estate's apple crop and she
kept a keen eye on expenses. As Noblitt
writes, " She kept abreast of market prices
and advised her foremen when to sell
and at what price. In October, 1913, for
instance she directed [them] to 'Keep
your prices.' Her number two apples, she
said, were as good as most growers' number one grade, and should bring five dollars a barrel. "
The apple crop was a main source of
income, but the estate also sold sheep,
cattle and wool. By 1915, there were approximately 250 sheep at the estate along
with 82 cows, 13 horses and mules, and
also chickens and turkeys.
Bertha was a petite woman standing

approximately five feet two inches tall,
but she was known to be authoritative and
even a bit intimidating. Workers knew she
expected them to live up to a high moral
code and that she would strongly disapprove if they sipped moonshine.
But it wasn't all business. Bertha continued to enjoy entertaining guests for
dinner, taking part in horseback and
carriage rides around the estate and engaging in community involvement. She
served as a trustee for the Appalachian
Training School (now Appalachian State
University) and she was a committee
member for the Watauga County school
system. She ran a school at the estate for
the children of the workers and paid for
their textbooks and supplies.
Bertha also invested time in challenging plans to route the Blue Ridge Park-


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Blue Ridge Country May/June 2021

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