The City of Mount Airy is a beautiful and vibrant community located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Mount Airy is a unique place, famous for our friendliness, nostalgic scenery, Old-Time music, and pork chop sandwiches.
Mount Airy is proud to be the hometown of American actor, Andy Griffith. Our city is widely believed to be the inspiration for the fictional community of Mayberry, the setting for The Andy Griffith Show and its sequel Mayberry RFD. Several locations and names mentioned in both shows reflect real places and people in our community. We are home to the Andy Griffith Museum , which holds the world's largest collection of Andy Griffith memorabilia, collected by his childhood friend, Emmett Forrest. The nostalgia of "Mayberry" is celebrated every year during the annual Mayberry Days Festival.
Andy Griffith (June 1, 1926 - July 3, 2012)
Downtown Mount Airy, 1902 Courtesy of the Surry County Historical Society
Mount Airy was settled before 1747, and became the center and trading post of the surrounding area known as The Hollows. A "wagon road" to what is now Forsyth County was opened in 1762, which US Highway 52 closely follows today. "The Hollows Road" ran from Forsyth County through Surry County and across the mountain. This road was the connection between North Carolina and Virginia.
For many years "The Hollows Road" was the only graded road along this section of the mountains for a distance of about 75 miles. Mount Airy became a favorite stopping off place for travelers and traders to enjoy the fresh mountain air and natural beauty of the area.
Courtesy of the Surry County Historical Society
Mount Airy continued to grow and prosper. In the first half of the 1800's, there was an influx of permanent residents, consisting of professionals and land-owners, who went on to become town leaders. From a population of 400 in 1850, it increased to nearly 3,000 by 1892.
Industry entered in the 1840's, when the town's first cotton factory opened. Mount Airy was incorporated in 1885, and the railroad came in June 1888. These evens brought fire and police protection, electricity in 1892, telephone in 1893-94, the water works in 1895, and trash collection in 1899. The granite quarry, which is now the world's largest open-faced granite quarry, began large-scale production in 1889; the first furniture factory began work in 1895. Tobacco factories were all over town, until the tobacco trust forced them out of business towards the end of the 19th century.
Paved streets appeared in 1912; a new hospital was built in 1914, and a high school opened in 1916. After World War 1, lucrative textile industry revived in 1921. The end of World War II brought more diversified industries: plastics, electrical appliances, concrete works, paper products, and construction companies.
Education has always been important to the citizens of Mount Airy. Private boy's academies were present from the early 1800's, and private schools for girls since the close of the Civil War. Graded schools cam in 1895, and in 1897 Mount Airy passed the first public school tax in Surry County.
Excerpted from "Collections and Recollections" Published by The Mount Airy Restoration Foundation, Inc., 1985