Drivers entering Hickory on U.S. Highway 321 are now greeted by a beautiful, artistic leaf sculpture at the Highway 70 exit ramp.
The Gateway at U.S. Highway 321 and 70 is one of the projects identified under the $40 million bond referendum approved by Hickory voters in 2014. The City contracted with Amec Foster Wheeler for design of the Gateway. The design includes an artistic leaf structure, measuring nearly 20 feet tall, that is symbolic of the Hickory area. The two leaves represent the natural beauty of the area, as well as the community's strong ties to nature, trees, art, and furniture manufacturing. The upright leaf depicts the beautiful colors and vibrancy of spring and summer, while the downward, golden leaf depicts the falling leaves of autumn and winter. Like the cycle of leaves growing and falling from the trees, the City of Hickory continues to evolve and reinvent itself. Additionally, the sculpture includes a backlit sign reading, "Hickory, est. 1870," which is meant to welcome motorists and serve as an introduction to the City.
Construction of the Gateway at began in December 2018, with the installation of landscaping beds in all four quadrants of the interchange. Southern Lawnscapes of Hickory was contracted by the City of Hickory for the landscaping improvements related to this project. Local company, Sign Systems, Inc., constructed the sculpture and began installing the Hickory sign the second week in January and the first leaf on Friday, February 1. The second leaf was installed on Monday, February 11. Now that the backlighting has been installed and the landscaping berm around the structure has been constructed, the Gateway is officially complete.
“Gateways mark the major entrances into the City with distinctive signage, landscaping, and sculptures or art. We are very excited to see such a beautiful Gateway now welcome people to Hickory,” said City Manager Warren Wood. “The Gateway tells people that Hickory is a vibrant community and a destination worth a closer look. We hope it encourages drivers to pull off the highway, explore our great city, and discover all the wonderful things we have going on in Hickory.”
In addition to the 321/70 Gateway, a future Gateway is planned for the intersection of Interstate 40 and Lenoir Rhyne Boulevard, as part of the City's bond program. This Gateway has not been designed yet.
For more information and updates about the City’s Crafting Hickory projects, please visit www.CraftingHickory.com.