Old photo day

by | May 7, 2022

This was posted in a private group and isn’t my photo, but you’re looking at what used to be a landmark on the edge of Blowing Rock, NC.

All the nostalgic tropes apply, but Holley’s was usually a simple proposition: Million-dollar views from an upper-story deck outside a paneled room where locals sat at long wooden tables and drank pitchers of cheap domestic draft. There was a downstairs room where the owners occasionally booked local bands, and I think there was some kind of convenience store around front facing Highway 321, too.

Nothing fancy, but I felt comfortable there, and so did all sorts of people. The sunset crowd was quite a social mix during my two magical Watauga summers.

Anyway, Holley’s closed around the turn of the century and got replaced by an upscale fine-dining restaurant, because of course it did. Million-dollar views are wasted on people who order $5 pitchers of Bud. Turns out the fancy place closed in 2018, and its replacement went bankrupt in 2020. The current owners run a burgers and craft beer place, and at least that’s a step in the right direction. But as I looked at the photos on their website, I couldn’t help notice how self-conscious the design felt.

It’s a trend I notice more acutely now as I step back into the world after two years of pandemic isolation. So many modern businesses give me the sense that I’m stepping into an illustrated business plan.

Or a theme park.

This photo reminded me that sometimes when a place was built for one thing, and maybe expanded into another thing, and later evolved into something entirely different, after enough time it can just accidentally stumble into true authenticity. Which might be why so many modern commercial designers seem so devoted to making deliberate replicas of the serendipitous.

Cranking out perfect copies of unique old things that never existed: That’s the future, laddie!