GORHAM’S BLUFF – PISGAH, ALABAMA
Looking for a very romantic getaway for Valentine’s Day week or weekend?
Top of my list would be Gorham’s Bluff in Pisgah, Alabama. The drive seems to take forever, but anticipation is a good factor in romantic getaways! You will not be disappointed when you arrive.
This is a beautiful hideaway.
Maybe you have been thinking of a romantic dinner you would love to make your loved one. What better place to make it than the two-bedroom cottage located at the bluff?
PRIVATE COTTAGES ARE AVAILABLE WITH ALL THAT YOU NEED TO BE COMFORTABLE
This is about as cozy as you can get. Light a fire, pour your loved one a glass of wine (bring your own – Gorham’s Bluff is located in a dry county), and start cooking in the great little kitchen of one of their sweet cozy little cottages.
Be sure to shop ahead and bring your groceries with you because when they say “get-away;” they mean get-away. You will not wish to leave the area until you start home. Pick up some pretty flowers for your honey when you buy those groceries and arrange them on the table when you serve your elegant dinner. Guaranteed for making good memories!
I would highly recommend spending at least two nights.
Be very lazy and sleep late. Make a leisurely breakfast and drink your coffee overlooking that famous bluff in the back yard.
THE SCENERY WILL TAKE YOUR BREATH AWAY
Bring a few romantic novels in your suitcase as well as a few romantic comedy movies to watch on the DVD player inside the cottage, but don’t spend too much time inside; the area is great for hiking and long leisurely romantic strolls.
At night star gazing is the best way to pass the time. Be sure to take an old blanket so you can make a pallet on the grounds and look up into the sky. Way out of the city like this the stars are so bright and beautiful that you will feel like you can reach up and touch them. Dress warm though – after all it is February….and you are sitting on top of a bluff where the wind is stronger.
Sunrise and sunset have never been framed in a more beautiful setting. Be sure to catch at least one of each while you are there. If you don’t want to cook the whole time – the chef at The Lodge nearby is excellent and you can make dinner reservations by calling the Lodge. I’ve heard his Valentine’s meals are creative and very romantic. Take your own choice of your favorite wine to the desk at the Lodge and he will chill and have ready for you when you dine.
So go ahead and make plans for this excellent little escape – you will not regret it.
If you can’t make it for Valentine’s Day, there are still 364 other days of the year to enjoy Gorham’s Bluff. Drive up for the day and take a tour, plan one of their special events or just make dinner reservations. You do not have to be a guest of the cottages or the Lodge to dine.
It is not too far away and it is not too crowded, and it is still (except for scheduled public events) rather hidden from the public’s attention. The history of the area is also quite interesting. Here is a little bit to tuck inside your hat and share with your loved one as you scroll the lovely grounds:
INTERESTING HISTORICAL FACTS
In 1892 W.B. Gorham was deeded eighty acres of land by the US Government. At that time Mr. Gorham was more fondly known by the locals as “Uncle Billy.” Uncle Billy was a Confederate veteran who built his family a remote lean-to shack in a very isolated and lonely place on the bluff. It was so lonely that his wife and children later decided to move back down to the valley where there were a few more people. Uncle Billy, however; continued to live in isolation. He spent his time growing strawberries, playing his fiddle and feeding himself well with the money he received from his soldier ‘s pension.
About one hundred years after Uncle Billy owned the land, it was purchased by a family named McGriff. The McGriffs loved gathering their extended family together and having picnics at one of the huge rocks on the bluff. They called this pretty little area Picnic Rock. In 1992 the McGriff’s decided they would like to share the area with others if they could think of a way to do so without distracting from the natural beauty of the land. They came up with an idea for a fully integrated holistic community. A Florida neighborhood called “Seaside” was inspirational to the McGriffs as they formed their first ideas for sharing their land. A real estate agent from Seaside, Chris Kent, introduced the McGriff’s to an architect from New Orleans named Lloyd Vogt. Mr. Vogt sat down and shared his ideas with the McGriff’s. In their conversations he spelled out the qualities he thought defined the best of neighborhoods. These qualities incorporated a seamless interlacing of history, culture and architecture. Keeping these defining thoughts in mind, the group sketched out a town plan.
This is how the dream began to form for the future of a place now known as Gorham’s Bluff.
KNOWN FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS
One of the first areas to be completed was the outdoor Amphitheater The lovely open-air theater sits on the edge of the bluff. Existing trees and rock outcroppings were incorporated into the design of the natural and artistic structure. Today audiences can enjoy a performance while at the same time enjoying the amazing view. The outdoor amphitheater now fills up regularly with great performing artists from all over the country. If you are interested in performing yourself you can rent the venue – just call (256) 451-8439 and speak with the Innkeeper at The Lodge. Just keep in mind that the amphitheater closes by 11 p.m.
HOMES REPRESENT THE NATURAL SURROUNDINGS
Construction started on the first home of the development during the summer of 1993. Mr. Vogt gave each home the signature look of the town. They all contained front porches, tower rooms, scenic views, and natural surroundings. You may purchase one of these homes if you want; just contact Gorham’s Bluff Realty.
CONFERENCES, REUNIONS AND WEDDINGS
In 1994 construction began on The Lodge. This lovely building opened to the public in 1995. There have been a steady stream of happy guests lodging in the pristine serenity of this place since that first day. It is a wonderful place for conferences, reunions and weddings. There are public events scheduled often that you would love to enjoy for a weekend.
Three years after the building of the Lodge another interesting structure was added. It was the former 1938 Pisgah High School schoolhouse where the McGriff’s had attended high school. The building was to be torn down in order to build a new more modern one, and the McGriffs decided to move the old building to Gorham’s Bluff. It now stands in the heart of the land with a new roof on top and new bricks on the outside and has become a community arts and activities center.
There is a lovely mixture of the old and the new, and it all works quite well.
Adjacent to the old school/new community arts and activities center is The Gorham’s Bluff Meeting House, which was completed in 2001 and designed by Lloyd Vogt. The Meeting House has cathedral ceilings and floor to ceiling windows. The building has excellent acoustics. It is a perfect place for meetings, performances, and workshops. There is also a bi-weekly nondenominational church meeting held here.
As the little town began to grow people bought lots and built houses. The true mission of the property and community began to take shape and grow. From early on the mission of the community has been to promote arts and cultural activities in the area. A non-profit institute was formed to promote local artist and to give the people living in this region art that they might not have otherwise experienced. The Meeting House became the stage for theater, concerts, dance and other artistic performances.
SUPPORT FOR LOCAL ARTS AND CULTURE
One of the first performances, held at the Amphitheater, was the production of a play called “Foxfire.” This Hume Cronyn play was directed by Joe Warfield, a New York University professor, in the summer of 1994. Next was the Gerhart Chamber Music Festival. The Institute began bringing in top-notch classical musicians and established their signature annual event called Concert under the Stars. This event serves a gourmet meal for 200 guests and doles out amazing performances by world class musicians. The people of the area love this annual midsummer bluff side evening.
BALLET ON THE BLUFF
Soon The Alabama Ballet became interested in Gorham’s Bluff and established a week long summer dance residency on the premises. At the time they had the idea to bring some of their talent to the community there was no place for them to rehearse and perform. They improvised with an open tent/stage set near the bluff. The tent was located near a great outdoor space for setting up tables and serving gourmet meals to the audiences during their performances. This was a very successful idea. The tent coupled with the intimacy of the bluff side panoramic view created a one of a kind experience for both the dancers and their audiences.
STORY TELLING FESTIVALS
Soon the Institute incorporated a Storytelling Festival into its growing schedule of events. The power of the story and the spoken word of the narrative were brought forth by some renowned and amazing storytellers. This success soon led to the formation of ARTSACCESS, the Institute’s arts-education outreach. Storytellers started visiting public schools and held assemblies and workshops with visiting dancers and musicians. Local libraries also began to participate. This has greatly improved the exposure to various art forms in the education of school children in the area.
A TIME OF GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT
In 2001 the community held a charrette (an intense, focused architectural planning session.) They decided to consult with Mr. Steve Mouzon of Mouzon And Associates, Architects; a traditional Town Planner in Huntsville, AL. Mr. Mouzon took on the role of Gorham’s Bluff’s Town Architect, and the town hosted 75 like-minded “souls” who were all believers of the Traditional Neighborhood movement. These people moved in for awhile and were compensated only with four meals a day and a place to sleep. The group consisted of a full list of impressive architects, planners, developers, writers, educators, etc. In this 48 hour charrette the various artist sketched and talked and illustrated the ideas presented by the community. Mouzon put it all together in one package and took the presentation to the Congress of New Urbanism’s 9th Annual Conference in New York. That conference provided a round table of feedback for the community to consider.
Four significant revisions were identified and recommended:
1) A new concept for Main Street that would redirect the street so that the school’s “signature” cupola is the focal point as you approach downtown from either direction with the larger homes giving way to cozier two-story homes on smaller lots to make Main Street a more viable option for young professionals and families.
2) A plan to move the elder residences closer to the center of the town, underlining the town’s desire to be a fully inter-generational community. The services and amenities that were generally included in independent and assisted living centers (restaurants, hair salons, libraries, clothing and retail) would be expanded to serve the entire town, with the elder residences closest to all of them.
3) It was decided to scrap; the idea to dam up the branch on the east side of town and turn that area into a place called “Shepard Park.” The park preserves the meandering creek, leaves the forest and creates a play area for kids. Some Birmingham architects, Jeff Dungan and Louis Nequette, were hired to design the Shepard Park Tree House, and it was built in 2002. This is one of the favorite places for people to gather with their children.
4) It was decided to design an open air performance center at the crest of downtown Gorham’s Bluff. The plan was changed to include a quad of artists and student residences as well as a black box theatre.
YEAR-ROUND PROGRAMS FOR THE ARTS AND WORKSHOPS
From 2003 – 2007 the Institute moved to year round programs of small events utilizing the Amphitheater and the Meeting House. They also began to offer community arts workshops. They continued to bring art educational opportunities for local schools, but encouraged the schools to come to the bluff instead of the bluff going to the schools.
So now the bluff has evolved into a thriving community of artist and educators who have built on the land and are living in the community. They are always eager to share their art and teach something new.
If this sounds interesting to you, check the schedule of events on theIR blog at http://WWW.gorhamsbluff.com to see which event you need to sign up for.
GREAT RETREAT FOR WRITERS
The art I would chose to indulge in here is the art of the written word. This would be a wonderful place for any aspiring author to retreat away into the quiet and natural beauty. One could write for hours at a time, with refreshing breaks in between each session. You could stroll the grounds, take in some great concerts in the evenings, hike or swim, or maybe even participate in a storytelling workshop or two.
A RESTAURANT IS AVAILABLE
There is an elegant southern style restaurant at The Lodge, you would not have to drive off the property to be well fed. Evenings are quite a treat with candlelight and a four course meal.
This spectacular retreat perches on a stately ridge hundreds of feet above the mighty Tennessee River. It has one of the most delightful views I’ve ever seen, totally surrounded by natural beauty. You can gaze at the luscious landscape and take in the dazzling river below the ridge from your own comfortable chair off of your lodge room’s private porch or from the windows inside your luxurious guest quarters. There is a lovely large Gazebo behind the Lodge.
This scenic bluff along a mountain ridge with a river running through it has more history than Uncle Billy and the McGriffs. It is also known as the long ago land of the Cherokee Indians, who were also drawn to the magic of the bluff. Every time we visit this place I remember that my great grandmother was a Cherokee, and I always wonder if any of the Cherokee ancestors from my own family might have roamed these grounds years before I was ever born.
You can visit Gorham’s Bluff any time you wish. Just call The Lodge ahead of time to make your reservations for a room at The Lodge or to rent one of the guest houses on the property for your family or group of friends.
I will warn you though; if you go, you just might want to stay forever.
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