Elkmont, Tennessee

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Elkmont, Tennessee

ElkmontTennesseeLocated in upper Little River Valley of the Great Smoky Mountains the ghost town of Elkmont started as the “Appalachian Club” vacation community. Logging activities were also predominant in this town previously, which pioneered the Appalachian community. Little River Lumber Company owned the land here and in 1910 it began selling it off to fishing and hunting enthusiasts. The idea behind this was to put up a private social club.

The Appalachian clubhouse served as a lodge but after a short while, members of the club had their own vacation cottages set up in the town. Year 1912 saw the establishment of a 50-room resort lodge, which came to be known as the Wonderland Park Hotel. Just close to the hotel, on the hill, other cottages were put up.

For the well to do east Tennessee families, the Wonderland Club and Appalachian Club became favorites for vacation where these families could come in to enjoy the cool environment of this place in summer as well as take time to socialize. In 1920, one of the cottage owners at Elkmont by the name Willis P. Davis brought the idea of establishing a national park here, which was well received by David C. Chapman who continued advocating for the same.

The federal and state governments were engaged and an agreement was finally reached, on condition that the states of North Carolina and Tennessee would purchase the land where the park would be situated. This was followed by the sale of the first 76,000 acres by founder of Little River Lumber Company; Colonel Wilson B. Townsend.

Others within the vicinity of the park had to sell what they owned and seek settlements elsewhere while those who owned properties in Elkmont traded their cottages at half the total cost so that they could keep their leases for a lifetime. Most of these leases expired in 1992 and another two in 2001 and this meant that ownership of all these properties was under the National Park Service.

In a bid to ensure that the park remained in its natural state, there was a call to bring down existing buildings, but in 1994, the cottages and Wonderland Hotel were featured on the National Register of Historic Places and this kept them from being demolished. Eventually, the hotel collapsed in 2009 and the park’s service indicated that it had a plan to restore 18 cottages and the Appalachian Clubhouse.

There are two structures to be restored at “Society Hill” and “Millionaire’s Row” sections that are part of the Appalachian Club while the other 17 are on the “Daisy Town” section of the club. All other structures that are not part of these will be demolished. Today, the ghost town of Elkmont has many structures that have remained unrepaired and you can get to view these in the course of your visit of the campground at Elkmont. The area also serves as a ranger station and historic district that is under the care of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. When restored, the site will act as an attraction to various individuals visiting the park and the history of this former town will be preserved for a long time coming.

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