Spruce Pine was founded in 1907 when the Clinchfield Railroad made its way down the North Toe River from Erwin, Tennessee. The town was originally centered around a tavern operated by Isaac English, located on an old roadway that ran from Cranberry, North Carolina down to Marion, NC. Issac’s wife named the town for a nearby pine when a post office was established at the Inn. The original name of the area had been Kim Thickets. The Old English Inn still stands at its original location near the center of town. The railroad, combined with a rapidly expanding mining industry (the town is the namesake of the famous Spruce Pine Mining District) made Spruce Pine the largest town in the Toe River Valley, as it became the hub of commerce and culture for the area. Spruce Pine was the home of The Feldspar Company and Spruce Pine Mica, and other major mining interests had operations in and around the town.With the decline in use of railroads to ship goods, along with increasing automation in the mining industry, the town has recently seen its fortunes dwindle and has undertaken a major effort to reinvent itself. Tourism has become a major economic force in the region, and the town’s proximity to the Blue Ridge Parkway, combined with its location near the edge of the Blue Ridge Escarpment has helped make Spruce Pine a travel destination for many.
One of Spruce Pine’s most famous natives is children’s author Gloria Houston, who was born and raised nearby in the Green Valley community northeast of town. Her Appalachian children’s books, set in the region around Spruce Pine, are famous for the quality of their writing and the subjects that they cover. Houston and the Mitchell County Development Foundation have recently undertaken promoting Spruce Pine as being the “Home of the Perfect Christmas Tree,” taken from Houston’s work “The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree.”
University of North Carolina basketball coach Roy Williams spent the early years of his life as a resident of Spruce Pine (he was born in Marion, North Carolina August 1, 1950), but moved to Asheville as a young boy.
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