INFLUENCES ON ARCHITECTURAL CHARACTER
LANDSCAPE AND ECOLOGICAL
The Southeast Mountain Province includes lands
above the “fall line” or the demarcation between
the rushing rivers of the Piedmont and the flat,
tidal rivers of the Coastal Province. There are
two mountain ranges, one plateau, and three
forest types. Early settlers inhabited moist
coves, called hollows, that had rich soils forested
with hemlock and white pine. Higher-elevation
forests include mixed oaks. The highest and
most northern forests are coniferous.
Valleys, rocky ridges, and cascading streams
punctuate these mountains. Because of
the higher elevation, there is dramatic seasonal
color change with spectacular autumns. The views
vary with one’s place in the landscape, from
enclosed in the valleys to open panoramas
The Southeast Mountain Province generally is
cool, wet, and high, with some elevations exceeding
6,000 feet. Summer temperatures are moderate,
but weather swings can be dramatic, with
30-degree fluctuations in a single day. The limited
flat land severely restricts building sites. Winter
storms moving in from the west are more likely
to include ice and snow, posing more challenges
to heating and maintaining buildings. Soils are
shallow with lots of rock and clay.
Grassy mountaintops called balds are an
interesting ecological feature. They may have
been created through clearing and overgrazing
or perhaps were cleared by lightning. In any
case, they remain clear of trees because
mountaintops are too fragile to revegetate.
Balds provide rich wildlife and plant habitat.
According to the writer Hiram Rogers, balds in
the Smoky Mountains cover less than 1 percent
of the landscape but harbor 29 percent of the
flora. They contain vistas that are vital to
manage and maintain.
Writes Bill Bryson in A Walk in the Woods:
“To climb for hours through cool, dark forest
and emerge at last onto the liberating open
space of a sunny bald, under a dome of blue sky,
with views to every horizon, is an experience
not to be forgotten.”
The culture of the Southeast Mountain
Province has informal and “common”
antecedents. The early settlers—
English, French, German, Scotch-Irish,
and African-American—were loggers,
subsistence farmers, and frontiersmen.
They built simple, vernacular farmhouses
and dependencies. Small towns
are more typical than larger cities.
Settlement Patterns: Early settlers, moving
down through the mountains from the north,
were frontiersmen and subsistence farmers from
German, English, and Scotch-Irish backgrounds.
They built log cabins and settled in the coves
sometimes known as hollows. The railroads
allowed settlements and industries to become
established upriver of the fall line that separates
the Coastal Mountains from the Coastal Plain.
Mountain gaps allowed Tennessee and Kentucky
to flourish as gateways to the West.
Indigenous Materials: This was a heavily forested
province (and heavily logged), where logs remained
a favored building material into the 20th century.
Logs were sometimes left unfinished. The chinking
could be removed for summer ventilation. Stone
was common, where it could be quarried or
collected in fields.
Rustic Design: The creation of such national
treasures as Great Smoky Mountains National
Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway spread
Rusticinfluenced design across the
spine of this province. Rustic design emphasizes
the use of natural materials such as
logs and boulders, as well as forms that fit into the
Figure of a Geographic Profile of the Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean:
The Southeast Coastal Profile includes the following:
Southeast Mountain Geographic Profile includes the following: