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

on ridgetops.


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

mountain landscape.


Figure of a Geographic Profile of the Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean:

The Southeast Coastal Profile includes the following:

Atlantic Ocean

Coastal Plain

Lower Piedmont


Southeast Mountain Geographic Profile includes the following:

Upper Piedmont


Mountain Plateau





Chapter 4.4 Table of Contents

Reader’s Guide