Is Flat Rock a cultural landscape?

Yes. More than just opinion, the historic and cultural importance of the Village of Flat Rock is recognized by its placement on the National Register of Historic Places, the official list of the nation’s historic places worthy of preservation. This is a confirmation of the importance of the village as a whole, not just certain buildings or properties. The winding roadbeds, some dating back centuries, bring together properties small and large, creating an overall sense of place and history.

And places matter to us, both as individuals and as a community. More than just physical locations, places become infused with meaning through our connections to them, connections that involve events, family, friends, our sense of self and our own sense of belonging.

That sense of belonging pervades the Village of Flat Rock. One can belong here through generations of family ties or through one’s own discovery of this very special place. While at first it might be hard to identify exactly what makes this place unique, one soon realizes that it is not just the historic homes or the walks up Big Glassy to catch a glimpse of mountain peaks on a clear day or the winding tree-lined roads following old Native American and colonial pathways—it is all of these things and so much more. As stewards of this place at this time, how do we work to keep its sense of place, allowing for necessary change while preserving that which makes Flat Rock exceptional?

One way to bring meaning to that sense of place occurred in 1973—recognition of Flat Rock’s history as told through its buildings, roadways, and cultural landscape when much of the Village of Flat Rock was placed in the National Register of Historic Places. One of the earliest districts so listed in North Carolina, Flat Rock benefited from the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. In 2015, after years of careful research and documentation funded by Historic Flat Rock, Inc., the Flat Rock Historic District was updated to reflect a more detailed account of the historic district area.

Historic places are not just structures. They also include cultural landscapes. A cultural landscape is defined as “a geographic area, including both cultural and natural resources. . . associated with a historic event, activity, or person or exhibiting other cultural or aesthetic values.” Cultural landscapes include scenic highways and rural communities, and are made up of features that individually or collectively contribute to the landscape’s physical appearance as it has evolved over time. In addition to vegetation and topography, cultural landscapes include elements such as pathways and roads.

Given Flat Rock’s historic significance, we must use care whenever changes are suggested, asking ourselves if these changes are necessary and in keeping with the character of the village. Such care must extend to and include detailed consideration and planning of our roadways, bridges, greenways, and pathways to preserve not just the nature of the village but also our sense of place and belonging.

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