Spruce Pine, North Carolina

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Spruce Pine, North Carolina
Locust (Lower) Street, Spruce Pine NC
Locust (Lower) Street, Spruce Pine NC
Location in North Carolina
Location in North Carolina
Coordinates: 35°54′49″N 82°4′12″W / 35.91361°N 82.07000°W / 35.91361; -82.07000Coordinates: 35°54′49″N 82°4′12″W / 35.91361°N 82.07000°W / 35.91361; -82.07000
CountryUnited States
StateNorth Carolina
Named forThe spruce pine[1]
 • MayorDarla Harding
 • Total4.68 sq mi (12.13 km2)
 • Land4.68 sq mi (12.13 km2)
 • Water0.00 sq mi (0.00 km2)
2,559 ft (780 m)
 • Total2,175
 • Estimate 
 • Density457.71/sq mi (176.72/km2)
Time zoneUTC-5 (EST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC-4 (EDT)
ZIP code
Area code(s)828
FIPS code37-64260[4]
GNIS feature ID1015757[5]
WebsiteSpruce Pine online

Spruce Pine is a town in Mitchell County, North Carolina, United States. The population was 2,175 at the 2010 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. In 1923, after an escaped convict allegedly raped a local resident, a large armed mob rounded up scores of men who were laboring on a road construction project and forced them to leave town on boxcars. North Carolina Governor Cameron Morrison deployed National Guard troops to Spruce Pine so that the workers could return and complete the road.[6]

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.

Railroad tracks and train station in Spruce Pine.

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. The town also boasts the moniker of "The Mineral City of the World"

In 1998, the medium-security men's state prisons Mountain View Correctional Institution and Avery-Mitchell Correctional Institution opened at the Avery-Mitchell County line.[7] [8]

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.

The Downtown Spruce Pine Historic District and Gunter Building are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[9] Spruce Pine is the exclusive supplier of sand to Augusta National Golf Club.


Spruce Pine is host to many unique festivals annually. These festivals bring tens of thousands of attendees to the small town to discover what makes Spruce Pine unique.

  • The NC Mineral & Gem Festival: By far the most well known and established festival in Spruce Pine, it is truly world famous. The first Mineral and Gem Festival in Spruce Pine was produced by the Spruce Pine Chamber of Commerce and was called the Spruce Pine Mineral and Gem Festival. Chamber President Harold Van Day and Secretary Susie English Stoppard decided to organize a festival to bring tourists to the area and spotlight the mining heritage of the area. The manager of the festival was Mr. Peter Lowe. It was first held August 5-7th 1959 at Harris High School. Later the name was changed to the NC Mineral & Gem Festival and in 2019 it celebrated its 60th year.
  • Fire on the Mountain: Fire on the Mountain is an annual celebration of the art of the blacksmith, held the last Saturday in April in downtown Spruce Pine. The event is a partnership between Spruce Pine Main Street, Penland School of Crafts and the Toe River Arts Council. Each year the festival contains a month-long exhibit of new work by artist blacksmiths culminating in a closing reception Friday night before the festival. A featured blacksmith demonstrates their craft multiple times, presents a lecture at Penland school and conducts a Master Demonstration workshop the ready before the festival. The festival contains demonstrators to showcase their talents, tool vendors, a free hands-on tent and of course great local food.
  • Troutacular: The first Saturday in June Spruce Pine celebrates its Mountain Heritage Trout Waters designation by hosting a free event designed to educate children on one of Mitchell Counties greatest resources, trout fishing. The one-day event starts at sunrise and is free for children ages 14 and under to compete in a fishing tournament and enjoy other activities.
  • Spruce Pine BBQ & Bluegrass: Come chill with the most sizzling BBQ competition teams in the southeast and the hottest bluegrass in the Nation! The festival occurs in July at Rotary Park.
  • Spruce Pine Alien Conference & EXPO - S.P.A.C.E.: The most unique festival in Spruce Pine celebrates the fact Mitchell County is host to more UFO sightings than anywhere else in North Carolina. Spruce Pine raw materials were used to create the great lens in the Palomar, Hubble and many more great telescopes. Spruce Pine has the purest quartz in the world utilized in the creation of all computer chip-based technology and used on the tiles of the Space Shuttle. These connections to space exploration and the unidentified flying object phenomenon combined, made Spruce Pine the perfect place to host what will soon be the east coast's largest alien festival. This annual event is typically the second weekend in June and features speakers from televisions Ancient Aliens (to include past guest Mike Bara), local and national authors, alien researchers, live music, costume contests, vendors of alien merchandise, beer/food vendors and more. The event is free to attend with some paid events to see speakers and trips to the observatory.
  • Toe Jam Rockin’ Music Festival - This annual event is Saturday Labor Day weekend. The event showcases the local region's best Rock bands on a full concert stage on Lower Street in Spruce Pine. The all-day event is free to attend and features live music, watermelon eating contests, hula-hoop contests, hot wing eating contests. For the kids there is a zip line, a water slide, make your own tie-dye t-shirt, face painting, dance competitions and more. For adults, there is a costume contest, beer vendors, shopping. The event also raises money for local charities to include the Shepard Staff Food Bank & Toe River Valley Watch.


Abandoned Bon Ami mine is open for tours

Spruce Pine is located at 35°54′49″N 82°04′12″W / 35.913743°N 82.069999°W / 35.913743; -82.069999.[10]

According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 3.9 square miles (10.1 km2), all of it land. The town limits are approximately 3 miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway, 50 miles northeast of Asheville, NC, and 40 miles southwest of Boone, NC.


Historical population
Census Pop.
2019 (est.)2,143[3]−1.5%
U.S. Decennial Census[11]
Community park in Spruce Pine.

According to the census[4] of 2000, there were 2,030 people, 888 households, and 575 families residing in the town. The population density was 522.0 people per square mile (201.5/km2). There were 968 housing units at an average density of 248.9 per square mile (96.1/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 96.35% White, 0.39% African American, 0.54% Native American, 0.05% Asian, 2.27% from other races, and 0.39% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 3.79% of the population.

There were 888 households, out of which 27.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 48.8% were married couples living together, 12.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 35.2% were non-families. 32.1% of all households were made up of individuals, and 16.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.29 and the average family size was 2.89.

In the town, the population was spread out, with 23.3% under the age of 18, 8.3% from 18 to 24, 26.6% from 25 to 44, 22.3% from 45 to 64, and 19.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females, there were 88.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 84.6 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $24,766, and the median income for a family was $33,902. Males had a median income of $22,324 versus $22,375 for females. The per capita income for the town was $15,440. About 12.4% of families and 17.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 30.5% of those under age 18 and 10.1% of those age 65 or over.

Media and educational facilities[edit]

Entrance to Historic Downtown Spruce Pine.

Spruce Pine is home to The Mitchell News-Journal, a weekly newspaper printed by Community Newspapers, Inc. and WTOE radio, at 1470 kHz on the AM dial and 101.1 FM. The radio station operates 24 hours a day and is an ABC Radio affiliate. It is owned by Mountain Valley Media, based in Burnsville, NC.

Spruce Pine is home to five schools: Greenlee Primary (K-2), Deyton Elementary (3-5), Harris Middle (6-8), Tri- County Christian School and the Spruce Pine Montessori School (18 months - 6th grade). Secondary education for Spruce Pine students is at Mitchell High School, located in the Ledger community of Mitchell County.

Mayland Community College also calls Spruce Pine home. Founded by an act of the North Carolina General Assembly in 1971, Mayland hosts some 35 curriculum programs and provides vocational and technical training, along with college transfer opportunities to residents of the region.


East Carolina University Dental School announced a facility would open in 2014 on the Blue Ridge Regional Hospital campus to serve Western North Carolina residents in the Mayland area (Mitchell, Avery and Yancey Counties). This facility is one of 5 facilities proposed throughout the state of North Carolina.

Beginning in 2014, The North Carolina Department of Transportation began widening U.S. Route 19E, which is the major corridor linking the towns of Spruce Pine and Burnsville to Interstate 26. The widened highway has transformed a two-lane highway to a divided four-lane featuring grassy medians and turn lanes. The widening project was completed in 2020.

Notable people[edit]

  • Gaylord Perry, Professional Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher resides in Spruce Pine.[12]
  • Bill Szymczyk, American music producer & technical engineer. Bill has produced such acts as B.B. King, Eagles, Joe Walsh, James Gang & Elvin Bishop just to name a few. He now lives in Little Switzerland a suburb of Spruce Pine.
  • Roy Williams, UNC basketball coach, was born in Spruce Pine but grew up in Asheville.
  • Gerri Willis, Native of Spruce Pine, Fox Business Network Anchor and Reporter.

In popular culture[edit]

Violet Karl, the protagonist of the musical Violet (based on a short story by North Carolina writer Doris Betts), is from Spruce Pine.


  1. ^ a b "North Carolina Gazetteer". Retrieved December 26, 2020.
  2. ^ "2019 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved July 27, 2020.
  3. ^ a b "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". United States Census Bureau. May 24, 2020. Retrieved May 27, 2020.
  4. ^ a b "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  5. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  6. ^ Elliot Jaspin, Buried in the Bitter Waters: The Hidden History of Racial Cleansing in America (New York: Basic Books, 2008), pp. 201-218.
  7. ^ http://www.doc.state.nc.us/dop/prisons/mountain
  8. ^ http://www.ncdps.gov/Adult-Corrections/Prisons/Prison-Facilities/Avery-Mitchell-Correctional-Institution
  9. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  10. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23.
  11. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Census.gov. Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  12. ^ Gaylord Perry (1938 - ) - North Carolina History Project Retrieved 2018-07-23.

External links[edit]