Altapass Inn


The Altapass Inn stationery is striking with the hotel name boldly displayed in vibrant red, and tempered with a subtle green shadow.  The logo draws attention without overwhelming.  The eye flows naturally down to the grandeur of the hotel printed in green, a popular choice for stationery in the early 20th century, as the color is soothing and harmonious.  

According to author Steve King in the 1988 book Clinchfield Country, housed in the Archives of Appalachia, this grand and impressive hotel was located at the highest point on the Clinchfield Railroad route at 2629 feet above sea level.  The Holston Corporation, a land development company, established the Altapass Inn in 1915 in the Roses Creek Community.  The name Altapass was derived from from alta, meaning high, and pass, referring to McKinney Gap, a saddle in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  

The Carolina, Clinchfield, and Ohio Railway Records, housed in the Archives of Appalachia, contains numerous records of the building, operation, and the eventual lease or sale of the Altapass Inn once the Clinchfield Route ceased operating a passenger route. The records include correspondence, minutes and legal documents between the Holston Corporation, the CC&O, Holston Orchards and various vendors, as well as proposals, engineering maps and drawings, blueprints, plat maps, plans for a dam, golf course, watersheds and water supply. 

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The luxurious Altapass Inn, with two impressive turrets, sprawling verandas and comfortable seating, electric lights, electric bells in all rooms, and modern plumbing, offered the utmost in comfort in the cool Blue Ridge Mountains.  Furnishings were of oak and mahogany, with beds of enamel and brass.  With the capacity to accomodate 150 guests, amenities included fine dining, a resident orchestra, dancing, a club house, golf courses, two bowling alleys, tennis courts, three pools, and acres of well-maintained lawns for taking a stroll or lounging under a shade tree.  Rates were $3.50 to $5.00 per day.

A description of the Inn is given in a document from 1920 in the Carolina, Clinchfield and Ohio Railway Records:

House has reputation of being one, if not the best conducted and most comfortable house in this section. Has been patronized by a very select high class patronage, good rates always, and practically have never had a complaint of Comforts-Service-Equipment, etc., for the past 8 years. 


This letterhead stationery, from the Carolina, Clinchfield and Ohio Records, is from the private office of the Inn manager, John S. Bowen, and displays an energetic drawing that is filled with activity and encompasses the luxurious surroundings of the Altapass Inn.  Beautiful and majestic trees tower over the landscape, providing shade to the sprawling veranda,  where people are relaxing and enjoying the view.  In the lower right-hand corner, a lady is shown riding a horse side saddle, while, on her right, a couple is taking a leisurely walk on a sidewalk whilst enjoying the grounds.  A covered portico leads from the Inn to the annex on the right, which also had rooms for guests.  On the left, two of the five cottages are visible, with two people entering the smaller one on the left.  There were three cottages for guests, and two for employees of the Inn.  Due to the number of windows and proximity to the Inn, this is probably the cottage for employees as described in CC&O documents.  The two employee cottages could sleep six and eight people. A small garage for hacks and storage is on the right of the larger cottage.  There is a lady on the lawn observing some type of garden, and another man on the sidewalk in front of the larger cottage.  The overall impression is one of unobtrusive pleasure and industrious endeavors blending harmoniously.

A description of the layout of the hotel from a CC&O document is given as follows:

  • Basement: Engine Room, Electric Light Plant, Heating & c., Coal Bins, Laundry, Some Public Lavatorys. [sic]
  • 1st Floor: Lobby, Dining Room, Kitchen, Pantry & C.  Two 2 room suites, bath between each.
  • Rooms on the 2nd and 3rd Floors and Annex, and a variety of cottages.


The photograph gives a view of the hotel from the road.  The railroad tracks are visible, with the depot roof barely visible on the left edge of the photograph.


South & Western Passenger Train to Altapass.

A deed between the Holston Corporation and John S. Bowen of Altapass, Mitchell County, North Carolina, detailing the sale of Lot No. 59 between Center Street and Laurel Street for $100, is dated November 19, 1914.

This tract is referenced on the above proposal map.

The letter below dated November 2, 1920, to Mr. L. H. Phetteplace, General Manager of the Carolina, Clinchfield and Ohio Railway, describes the invaluable advertising for all three enterprises of the Altapass Inn, Holston Orchards at Altapass, and the CC&O Railway at the first apple show to be held in Asheville, North Carolina.  Mr. Bowen states, "24,000 people visited the tent.  We were in the morning and evening papers daily - and are to appear in Several Special editions with illustrations...We are to be shown by Pathe News to over twenty million people in the next week or so - and with no bill for advertising."

The Orchard participated in the Western North Carolina Apple Show held October 31, 1920 in Asheville, North Carolina.  According to an article in the Sunday Citizen, an Asheville Newspaper dated October 31, 1920, this was the first apple show to promote the apple industry.  John S. Bowen, of Holston Orchards, was awarded second place in the commercial display, first place in the box display, and first place in the 100-apple spread.  Prizes were $50, $5, and $5.

This Orchard is still in existence and may be viewed on the Blue Ridge Parkway at milepost 328.3.

The document below is a cost analysis of operations dated June 30, 1920.

Altapass Inn