Tennessee is a state with a rich history and culture, but also a state with some hidden secrets. One of them is an abandoned town that most people don’t know about, located in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The town is called Elkmont, and it has a fascinating story behind it.
The Origins of Elkmont
Elkmont was originally a logging town, founded in 1908 by the Little River Lumber Company. The company exploited the vast forests of the Smoky Mountains, and built a railroad to transport the logs to the nearby town of Townsend. The workers of the company lived in Elkmont, in simple cabins and cottages.
However, as the logging industry declined, Elkmont began to transform into a vacation destination. In the 1910s and 1920s, a group of wealthy businessmen from Knoxville bought the land and the buildings from the lumber company, and established a private resort community. They built a clubhouse, called the Appalachian Club, and a hotel, called the Wonderland Hotel, to cater to the visitors who wanted to enjoy the natural beauty and the recreational activities of the area. Elkmont became a popular place for fishing, hunting, hiking, and socializing.
The Fate of Elkmont
In 1925, the federal government decided to create a new national park in the Smoky Mountains, to protect the environment and the wildlife. The government bought the land from the lumber company, including the land surrounding Elkmont. The residents of Elkmont were given two options: either to sell their properties and leave, or to lease them for a limited period of time. Most of them chose the latter option, and were granted lifetime leases or 20-year leases, depending on the location and the condition of their buildings.
However, in 1992, the leases expired, and the National Park Service took over the ownership of Elkmont. The park service planned to demolish the buildings and restore the natural landscape, but faced opposition from some preservationists and historians, who argued that Elkmont was a valuable part of the cultural heritage of the region. In 1994, Elkmont was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and in 2005, it was designated as a National Historic District.
Since then, the park service has been working on a compromise solution, which involves preserving some of the buildings and removing others. The Appalachian Club and the Wonderland Hotel were among the buildings that were scheduled for demolition, but the hotel collapsed in 2005 before it could be torn down. The remaining buildings are mostly empty and decaying, and are not open to the public. However, visitors can still walk around the town and see the remnants of its past glory.
Elkmont is a ghost town that tells a story of the changing times and the conflicting interests of the people and the nature. It is a place that evokes nostalgia, curiosity, and wonder. It is a place that most people don’t know about, but maybe they should. Elkmont is a hidden gem in the heart of the Smoky Mountains, and a part of the history and the identity of Tennessee.