Blowing Rock, a draw for mountain visitors since the 1880s, has retained the flavor of a quiet New England village, with stone walls and buildings with wood shakes or bark siding. About 1,200 people are permanent residents of this town at a 4,000-foot elevation, but the population swells each summer. On summer afternoons it seems as if most of the town's population is sitting on benches in the town park. To ensure that the town would remain rural, the community banded together to prohibit large hotels and motels. Blowing Rock is the inspiration for the small town in resident Jan Karon's novels about country life in the fictional town of Mitford.