Along-ago stagecoach stop, a battlefield in the last days of the Civil War, a land of farmers and hunters, and a place where a white church steeple marks the heart of the community, Pleasant Gardens is barely a wide spot along U.S. 70 between Old Fort and Marion. But its rich history since the original 1740s land grant makes the community an intriguing detour from the modern world.
Located at the wooded escarpment where the Piedmont meets the Blue Ridge Mountains, Pleasant Gardens comprises a string of houses, farms, and utilitarian stores, and offers an amiable alternative to east-west travel on thundering Interstate 40 nearby.
This time of year, a visit can satisfy even well-traveled gardeners, with Fletcher Greenhouse & Nursery providing a touch of the tropics. Owners Bob and Virgie Fletcher have grown hothouse flowers for more than half a century. Bob propagates the trees—dawn redwood, Japanese maple, and native persimmon—and the couple welcomes visitors to pick muscadine grapes in the fall.
Just around the corner, Presnell’s General Merchandise stocks vegetable seeds in bulk, along with hunting gear. It’s the perfect retail anchor for outdoorsmen and, given the taxidermy displays, a place of wonderment for children.
During warmer months, Dot’s Dario, at the intersection of U.S. 70 and N.C. 80, is Pleasant Gardens’ cool hangout. Customers pick from dozens of fruity soft-serve ice cream flavors and sundaes, before dining alfresco with a sweeping view of fields and mountains.
The workshop of famed chair maker Max Woody, a sixth generation craftsman, is fragrant with wood smoke and furniture oil. Visitors are welcome, and when time allows, he offers demonstrations using antique hand tools. His seats are in high demand, so if you want to take home one of his exquisite ladder-back chairs, you’ll have to put your name on the waiting list.
For a glimpse of Pleasant Gardens’ past, step inside the handsome Carson House. Built in 1793, the plantation of John Carson was once a hub of politics (it served as McDowell County’s first courthouse) and social gatherings, hosting the likes of Andrew Jackson and Davy Crockett.
Despite the community’s rich history, the one mystery is how it came to be named Pleasant Gardens. Like the origin of a mountain folk tale, the answer seems to be lost in time.
Fletcher Greenhouses & Nursery
98 Padgett Rd.; (828) 724-4642
Historic Carson House
$5; (828) 724-4948
Max Woody's Workshop
3355 U.S. 70 W., Marion