My daughter and I just returned from our fall trip to the Smoky Mountains. I will soon be posting stories to my blog of our adventures, but I wanted to start with this story first...our visit to the abandoned Elkmont historic district. Below you will see a mix of old photos that I found on the internet, combined with a few photos I took while exploring.
First a little history about Elkmont. Elkmont started out as a lumber area in the Smokies in the early 20th century. The Little River Lumber Company put in a railroad system from Townsend to Elkmont to get the lumber out of the area and to get the lumber jacks into the Smokies. As the forests were cleared, the lumber company started to pull out of the area and started selling land to the people of Knoxville and Maryville. This area soon became a vacation spot for the wealthy, who returned year after year. In 1912, Charles Carter built the Wonderland Hotel on a hill overlooking Elkmont. This inn became the place for visitors to stay when they wanted to get away to the mountains. The Appalachian Clubhouse was built in 1912 and ultimately more than 70 other buildings were built in the area.
In the 1930s, this area began to change. The land was being purchased for the establishment of the National Park. The people who owned the vacation homes and the owners of the Wonderland Hotel were unhappy to lose their properties. Even though they were going to be paid for the land that was being claimed by the US government, they didn’t want to leave the area. They were provided with life-time leases and although this lasted for a long time, even the Wonderland Hotel was officially shut down in 1992. The homes and the hotel were both left to decay without upkeep. Elkmont became a ghost town.
Fast forward to 1994, when the Elkmont Historic District was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, which prevented the buildings from being destroyed. Great Smoky Mountains National Park initiated a planning process to determine the fate of the buildings. In 2009 the National Park Service announced plans to restore the Appalachian Clubhouse and 18 other structures. The Wonderland Hotel was removed back in December 2006, but a selection of historic materials were salvaged for conservation in the park’s museum collection. The Wonderland Hotel Annex was one of the structures scheduled for removal pending funding. However, the annex burned down in April 2016. The fire burned down the 8,600 square foot building and to date, there is no known cause of the fire.
My daughter and I decided to brave the overgrown steps to see what was up the hill. We didn't know that the annex had burned down earlier this year. We looked it up when we were back in cell range. I will post other pictures of the cottages in Elkmont in a separate post.
TOP LEFT: the old Wonderland Hotel, TOP RIGHT: the remains of the fountain
BOTTOM LEFT: overgrown stairs that lead up to the old Wonderland Hotel, BOTTOM RIGHT: old photo of the Wonderland Hotel
TOP LEFT: the old Wonderland Hotel annex building, TOP RIGHT: side view of annex and fireplace
BOTTOM LEFT: chimney remains, BOTTOM RIGHT: park service employee putting out the fire April 19, 2016