Our century of forest conservation dates back to the construction of the Biltmore Estate and the reforestation of abused and farmed over land that once ailed the surrounding landscape. Forestry education began in 1889 when George W. Vanderbilt purchased the first land holding in Asheville for his Estate.
Vanderbilt hired a man by the name of Frederick Law Olmsted to oversee the design and construction of the gardens & grounds encompassed by the magnificent estate.
Upon Olmstead’s recommendation that the estate required a “Forest Manager”, Vanderbilt hired a young man by the name of Gifford Pinchot. Pinchot, who would later serve as the first Chief of the USDA Forest Service and Governor of Pennsylvania, developed and implemented a forest management plan for Vanderbilt’s forested holdings.
Subsequently, in 1895, German forester Dr. Carl A. Schenck accepted George Vanderbilt’s offer to come to North Carolina to succeed Gifford Pinchot as manager of his vast forest properties. For the next 14 years, Dr. Schenck focused all of his forestry skills on transforming the woodlands we know today as Pisgah National Forest into a restored image of what was once a flourishing forest.
Today the Cradle of Forestry in America is a 6,500 acre Historic Site within the Pisgah National Forest, set aside by Congress to commemorate the beginning of forestry conservation in the United States. The Forest Discovery Center honors forest conservation history with an 18 minute movie about Vanderbilt, Pinchot, Schenck and the beginning of forestry in America. Also located in the Center is an interactive exhibit hall, and The Giving Tree Gift Shop. Outdoor activities include two guided trails which lead you back in time to seven historical buildings, a 1915 Climax logging locomotive and an antique portable sawmill. Thursdays through Sundays you may find a toy maker, a weaver, a quilter, or a wood carver demonstrating traditional Appalachian crafts on the open porches of the historic cabins.
With special programs and events throughout the season, The Cradle of Forestry is a must do attraction in the Pisgah National Forest.