Rattlesnake Lodge
A Brief History and Guidebook
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About Dr. Ambler

The story of Rattlesnake Lodge is more than that of land and buildings and
ruins.  The editorial in the Asheville Citizen upon the death of Dr. Ambler will
give the reader a better understanding of the man behind the lodge.

Asheville Citizen-Times 6/6/32

Dr. Chase P. Ambler

For more than forty years the life of Dr. Chase P. Ambler was bound up with that of Asheville and of Western North Carolina. He came here as a young medical graduate, established himself as a physician and specialist built for himself a brilliant and constantly growing reputation in his profession, won the confidence and affection of the community and asserted a leadership the fruits of which have been of untold value already, with still richer promise for the immediate future and for all the years to come.

Dr. Ambler was the father In Western North Carolina of the movement which at length eventuated in the establishment of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Someone, it is possible, may have talked about a national park in this region before Dr. Ambler. The first plans that took form and which were bodied Into action originated with him. He had gone with his friend Judge Day of Ohio, on a fishing trip into the Sapphire country and on this trip the idea which he was to push from that time on took hold upon his imagination. 

At his urging a parks and forestry committee was formed by the Asheville Board of Trade, and this committee, of which he was chairman, called a convention, held in this city November, 1899, the Appalachian National Park Association being then organized. Dr. Ambler was secretary-treasurer and moving spirit of that association from that time until its voluntary merger into the American Forestry Association more than a quarter of a century later; and the Appalachian National Park association did the work that resulted in the passage of the Weeks bill of 1911, creating the Pisgah Forest Reservation it laid the foundations of and built up the support for the conservation movement in this section.

It can be maintained with all confidence that but for the Appalachian National Park Association the beauty of the verdure of the mountains of Western North Carolina would long ago have been ravaged, there would have been no Pisgah Forest Reservation, there would have been no Smoky Mountains National Park. And but for Dr. Ambler the Appalachian National Park Association would never have come into being when it did, in time to save much of the priceless heritage of the past centuries; would never have been the intelligent, purposeful, untiring, persistent, persuasive, convincing and effective organization that it proved itself to be. 

The debt which this community owes to Dr. Ambler is immense, incalculable. And not this community alone but the entire region and the nation, our own generation and posterity.

Dr. Ambler's long and useful and arduous efforts for forestry conservation, for the protection of wild life, for the creation of A national park in Western North Carolina became the major contribution of his life but they were Incidental to a busy practice and a busy life. He found time for hunting and fishing and as one of the organizers of the Audubon Society in Asheville helped to secure legislation providing thirty years ago for hunting and fishing licenses in North Carolina and the appointment of game wardens. He found time for Masonry and was continuously active in Masonic work for thirty-seven years. He found time for various other civic endeavors and it was during his presidency and under his driving leadership that the Buncombe County Medical Society, as long ago as 1903, succeeded, after a fight that had lasted for several years, in securing the passage of an ordinance providing for meat and milk inspection. He was a member of the Board of Trade for years. He did not neglect the various associations of his own profession and his work and writings in the field of pulmonary diseases were widely known and highly regarded. He was outstanding as a medical specialist. If he had done nothing else his professional record was so shining as to make him long remembered. 

We have dwelt in this article, now that he has passed on, upon the part that he had in the leadership of some of the most permanently constructive activities in this part of the country. But if we have emphasized this phase of his career it can be said also that he was one of the most distinguished physicians of his time. He had much to do with spreading the fame of Asheville as a resort for health seekers. His knowledge and skill and reputation added to the repute in which Asheville came to be held in this regard and the entire community was the gainer through the successes which he achieved professionally. 

It is not, given to many men to enjoy so satisfying a career. Nor has Asheville numbered among the sons of her adoption many from whose life and efforts she has benefited so generously and in so many different ways.


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Mt. Ambler.   A 1953 Citizen-Times article about naming a peak in the Smokies, states: "...(The Appalachian National Park Association) was perfected and the forward movement was underway.  The result was the achievement of vast benefits for this mountain region.  Today we have national forests, a national park, the Blue Ridge Parkway, all related directly or indirectly to that meeting here in 1899, for it aided immeasurably in the creation of public sentiment that, through the years, brought these proposals to realization.  Dr. Ambler, through his years of devotion to the cause of conservation, rendered outstanding service.  His memory deserves to be honored and it is entirely fitting that the mountain in the Great Smokies bear his name."  (Mt. Ambler is a 6,100-ft peak 2.5 miles NE of Newfound Gap.)

Curtis Creek. In 1961, Dr. Ambler was again recognized when a monument, shown below, was dedicated to his memory.  The very first purchase of national forest land in the United States under the Week's Law was this 8,100 acre tract in Curtis Creek, north of Old Fort and south of Big Laurel Gap.  It became the nucleus of the Pisgah National Forest.

Carolina Mountain Club.  Dr. Ambler was Chairman of the committee that formed the southern chapter of the Appalachian Mountain Club in 1920.  It was the forerunner of, and was replaced by, the Carolina Mountain Club in 1923.  Dr. Ambler was one of the six incorporators of the CMC at that time.

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One cannot help feeling that somewhere above there is a man smiling about the use of "his" Rattlesnake Lodge land, and "his" trails.  He fulfilled a wonderful dream when he sold the 1,300 acres to the government   Little did he know that after his death the remaining lodge land would become government property.  Nor could he know that the trails he built in order for people to enjoy the mountains would become part of the Mountain-to-Sea trail, and they would be maintained by the Carolina Mountain Club.

Although the buildings are now gone, the beauty of the place and the mountains can still be enjoyed.  It is hoped that it will continue to be protected by all who visit.
 
 

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