The year was 1946, WWII had ended and the town of Blowing Rock was a year—round home to approximately 200 hardy souls. On a busy evening one or two cars might be seen driving around the quaint village.
It was during this sleepy era that historic Maple Lodge, Blowing Rock’s oldest, continuously—operating bed & breakfast, was founded. The Lodge, located on Sunset Drive in the heart of town, was begun by Jo Greene after a fire at the same location destroyed her home three years earlier.
An incorrect alarm signal allowed the fire to destroy everything in the home except for the stone fireplace, even though the fire department was located across the street. The fire happened during the height of WWII when blackout sirens were a common occurrence. Upon seeing the fire, someone gave a blackout signal instead of a fire alarm, causing everyone in town. including the fire department, to close their blinds and turn out all the lights. The fire was eventually doused by soldiers stationed in town.
Jo Greene, who owned the Wagonwheel Grill on Main Street, decided to open a bed & breakfast, and her home was rebuilt room by room over a three—year period. The war made it difncult to find large quantities of certain building materials, so various woods were used throughout the Lodge such as knotty pine, locust. oak. and cherry . The Lodge was named by Greene’s children Bill and Dorothy for four Maple trees that graced the front yard.
After completely rebuilding the home, Maple Lodge opened for business, initially sporting seven bedrooms and six bathrooms. “We were considered pretty fancy by some folks, because back in those days it was unusual for each room to have its own bath,” said Greene.
ln the l940’s and l950’s, Blowing Rock’s tourist season ran from May l5 – September 15, a far cry from the year—round appeal of today’s Blowing Rock. The only guests who stayed after September were telephone workers installing the town‘s new phone system. “We didn’t have people coming to look at the leaves, and skiing wasn‘t an option back then,” said Greene.
In the beginning, Maple Lodge‘s guests were primarily overflow traffic from the nearby Sunshine Inn. Greene never spent a dime on advertising and said that word—of—mouth from satisfied guests brought her the most business. “If you have clean rooms and treat people right, they’ll come back. and more than likely tell others.” said Greene.
There was one family that Greene particularly remembered. They showed up without reservations when the Lodge wasn’t yet rebuilt from the fire. “l thought they were just common folk who didn’t have enough sense to make reservations ahead of time,” said Greene. Greene allowed them to sleep on extra cots and a friendship was quickly bom. She later discovered that the guests were actually a wealthy family from Florida that owned the Quigg Rice Company. The family had such a good time that they stayed at the Maple Lodge every year, and of course made reservations ahead of time.During the Winter, Greene would sometimes visit the family in Florida and was fortunate to travel with them to Cuba the year before travel sanctions were imposed.
Greene reminisced about Winter in Blowing Rock. “There wasn’t much to do back then so the police would block off Sunset Drive and let the kids turn it into a sledding hill. They would build a big bonfire and the people living on the street would take turns making hot chocolate for everyone.”