Spruce Pine, North Carolina

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Spruce Pine is a town in Mitchell County, North Carolina, United States. The population was 2,030 at the 2000 census.



Spruce Pine was founded in 1907 when the Clinchfield Railroad made its way up 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. 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."

Another famous native is Medical Intuitive and author, Winter Robinson (Teresa "Terry" Barksdale). Her books include: "A Hidden Order, Uncover Your Life's Purpose;" "Intuitions, Seeing with the Heart;" and "Remembering, A Gentle Reminder of Who You Are."

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.

On August 4, 2007, the downtown area of Spruce Pine was threatened when an arsonist set fire to several buildings downtown. The fires, which brought firemen from 4 counties around Spruce Pine, severely damaged the building housing Cheapskates Music on Lower Street, and caused some tense moments when it seemed that the fires might spread out of control and consume the downtown area. Federal arson officials are still investigating the fires, and an arrest has been made in connection with the incident.

The town was featured on the May 15, 2009 television episode of CNN Money Summit with Anderson Cooper. Cooper interviewed a panel of several town residents who discussed losing their jobs in the difficult economy. Cooper reported that the unemployment rate in the city was 14%.

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