Seven Wonders: Choosing North Carolina's Can Be a Challenge
"Well," I wondered, "what are our wonders?" I was on my way to Petra in Jordan, where I was spending a few days after a longer trip to Israel.
Why Jordan? After all, it is not the most popular tourist destination in the world. Most visitors to Israel pass by the chance to visit the part of the "Holy Land" that lies on the East Bank of the Jordan River.
Those folks miss a lot - Mount Nebo, where Moses got a look at the lands on the other side of the Jordan River before he died. Or the acres and acres of Roman and Byzantine ruins at Jerash. Or Petra itself, an ancient city of magnificent classical buildings and facades carved into a mountainside. Seeing these buildings emerge after a long walk through the high walls of a narrow canyon is thrilling.
For some time, Petra has been a popular destination for a few "in-the-know" travelers.
But, as I learned from our guide, it is now on the "must see" list of many more people. "Because," he said, "in 2007 it made a list of the world's New Seven Wonders," along with the Great Wall of China, Brazil's statue of Christ the Redeemer, Peru's Machu Picchu, Mexico's Chichen Itza pyramid, the Colosseum in Rome, and India's Taj Mahal.
This list of man-made wonders got me thinking about things I would put on a list of Seven Wonders of North Carolina.
Take a look at what made my list and let me know what you think.
1. Dorton Arena at the State Fairgrounds in Raleigh. While the unusual-looking building, completed in 1952, has been called "a flying saucer," it is, according to best-selling author and Duke professor Henry Petroski, "recognized among professional architects and engineers as 'the most important building in America today.'"
2. Biltmore House in Asheville. George Vanderbilt's 19th-century chateau and the adjacent 8,000 acres attract visitors from all over the world.
3. Duke Chapel. A visit to this neo-gothic cathedral, completed in 1935, is like a trip to Europe. The building's architect, Julian Abele, has been called "America's first black architect of renown."
4. State Capitol building in Raleigh. Completed in 1840, it is an enduring example of the Greek Revival style and the work of noted architect Alexander Jackson Davis. Still functioning as the office of the governor, it is a living museum.
5. The Linn Cove Viaduct on the Blue Ridge Parkway at Grandfather Mountain, said to be "the most complicated concrete bridge ever built." Some would say that the Parkway itself should be on the list. Or, remembering the late Hugh Morton's role in pushing for the viaduct, we might add another Grandfather Mountain-related construction. Here is what the late Charles Kuralt once said: "I would call the Mile-High Swinging Bridge the Eighth Wonder of the World, except that I went to the Republican Convention and learned in Houston that the Astrodome is the Eighth Wonder of the World. But this bridge is the Third Wonder of Avery County, I'll tell you that - right after Hugh Morton and Mildred the Bear."
6. Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. It is the tallest lighthouse in the country. It has become a symbol for our state's coastal heritage. The complicated and risky move inland from the encroaching sea sealed its place on my list, even though our friend Hugh Morton vigorously opposed the project.
7. The old Charlotte (now Bojangles) Coliseum. When completed in 1955, it was the largest unsupported steel dome in the world and became the example for similar and bigger sports arenas across the country.
Now it's your turn. What seven wonders would make your list?
D.G. Martin is hosting his final season of UNC-TV's "North Carolina Bookwatch," which airs Sundays at 5 p.m. This Sunday's (Jan. 10) guest is Roy Williams, author of "Hard Work," a down-to-earth and poignant memoir of one of North Carolina's most admired people.
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