Skyline Drive is a 105.5-mile highway which runs the entire length of Virginia's Shenandoah National Park. Shenandoah National Park is located in the Blue Ridge Mountains and was formally created by Congress on December 26, 1935. Construction of Skyline Drive began on July 18, 1931, with segments opening traffic incrementally over the following years. The final segment of Skyline Drive opened to traffic on August 29, 1939. Today Skyline Drive functions as a northern extension of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Pictured as the blog cover is the Marys Rock Tunnel which was completed during 1932.
Part 1; the history of Skyline Drive
Movement towards creating a National Park in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia was first proposed during 1901 by Virginia Congressman Henry Flood. Ultimately legislation to create a National Park in Virginia failed to pass despite support from President Theodore Roosevelt.
During May 1925 President Calvin Coolidge authorized the National Park Service to acquire 250,000-521,000 acres of land in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia to create a National Park. The legislation to acquire said land carried a stipulation that no Federal funds could be used and was reliant upon the State of Virginia to raise funding. Through the following years the planned size of Shenandoah National Park was reduced to 160,000 acres to avoid high value parcels of land. The reduced planned size of Shenandoah National Park ultimately would give it the narrow shape it carries today.
What was to become Skyline Drive was first suggested by William C. Gregg of the Southern Appalachian National Park Committee. Surveys for Skyline Drive were taken during January 1931 and construction would break ground on July 18, 1931. The initial segment of Skyline Drive to be constructed was to be the segment from Rapidan Camp to the Skyland Resort. The initial construction of Skyline Drive would quickly expand to include segments which would connect it from US Route 33 at Swift Run Gap to US Route 211 at Thornton Gap. The initial planned scale of Skyline Drive can below in a 1931 National Park Service document.
During 1932 Congress appropriated $1,000,000 to fund construction of Skyline Drive. The Department of Interior also made an announcement that Skyline Drive would span Swift Run Gap to Front Royal upon being completed. 1932 construction would include the completion of the 670-foot-long Marys Rock Tunnel near Thornton Gap. A \completed segment of Skyline Drive can be near the Skyland Resort on October 23, 1932.
Marys Rock Tunnel can during construction below in a National Park Service photo.
The completed Marys Rock Tunnel can be seen from the south portal in a National Park Service photo.
The planned National Park in the Blue Ridge Mountains can be seen on the 1934 Rand McNally Map of Virginia as part of George Washington National Forest. George Washington National Forest had been applied over what had been previously known as Shenandoah National Forest during 1932.
Skyline Drive would open between Swift Run Gap and Thornton Gap on September 15, 1934. Shenandoah National Park was created by Congress on December 26, 1935, during the middle of construction of Skyline Drive. The segment of Skyline Drive from Thornton Gap to Front Royal would open to traffic on October 1, 1936. Skyline Drive would be fully completed upon the opening of the highway to traffic from Swift Run Gap south to Jarmen Gap on August 29, 1939. The construction of Skyline Drive cost approximately $358,636 to complete. Skyline Drive from Jarmen Gap was connected via a segment of the Blue Ridge Parkway to US Route 250 at Rockfish Gap which had opened on August 11, 1939.
The parking area immediately south of Marys Rock Tunnel can be seen during 1935 in a National Park Service photo.
Below the first paying car from the Front Royal Entrance to Skyline Drive can be seen in a National Park Service photo.
Note: much of the history of this blog and vintage photos were sourced from the National Park Service article titled "Skyline Drive."
The completed Skyline Drive between Front Royal south to Jarmen Gap can be seen on the 1940 Rand McNally Map of Virginia.