Recently we were gifted a treasure trove of over 500 historic photos of the old Konnarock Training School by Sheila (Blevins) Brown and the Blevins family. Their family managed to keep this invaluable resource safe since the school closed in 1959, nearly 60 years ago. The three albums appear to have been compiled over the lifespan of the school, from 1924-1959, with photographs ranging from the construction of the facility to field trips up Whitetop Mountain to yearbook-style portraits. We here at Blue Ridge Discovery Center are very honored to have been entrusted with this resource.
Our first step has been to digitize the photographs, and we will be delivering copies to the Grayson County, Smyth County, and Washington County Historical Societies. In the long run, these photos will form the core of the historic interpretive displays about the property, but in the short term, we have created a page to view the photos on our website, which is listed below.
The full wealth of information in this archive has yet to be discovered. It will take the eyes of family members and the community to draw out the entire story. Please share this archive with friends and family so they can let us know more about these photos. Anyone with more information can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The timing of this gift could not be better. With the imminent restoration of the building, these historic photos are directly informing our design decisions. But beyond that, these photos are giving us an incredible insight into the landscape at that time. By observing the background carefully you will see landmarks, trees that where saplings then and a massive stump now, old roads and paths, outbuildings, pastures, and more. There are photos of a steam powered excavator, a basketball game in the 20’s, the old Roosevelt Farm, early girl scout activities, and Whitetop’s bad weather (ha!).
One of the greatest joys of scanning these at 600dpi and looking at them full-screen is realizing that when a photographer goes to take a photo, kids will be kids regardless of the era! Their fidgeting, their expressions, picking on one another, the poses, and their boundless smiles are timeless and tell all!