Exploring the Smoky Mountains National Park, you can wander upon a lot of things you don’t expect, such as Elkmont Ghost Town.
Who knew there was a real ghost town in the middle of the Smoky Mountains National Park? Apparently a lot of people. When I heard about it, I was really excited to check it out, but I had a lot on my list and I didn’t know if it would actually make the cut. Strangely enough, I just happened to drive right up to it without even realizing it. I’m sure glad I did.
I’m going to do something completely crazy here and give a hint about my age. Ready? Here goes. My fangirl heart was so excited to explore this little ghost town because I was totally having Dirty Dancing flashbacks! It reminded me so much of the movie I could just about imagine it in its heyday. Individual homes lined the street that led to a large community center at the bottom of the hill, where everyone would gather for dinner and dancing and parties. Anyone else get that vibe? I know I can’t be the only one. At any rate, I loved exploring the old houses and reminiscing on what it would be like to spend some time here in the summers.
Elkmont Ghost Town in the Smoky Mountains National Park
Orignially designed as a sportsman’s club, Elkmont gradually changed into a social club for members and their families to enjoy the country getaway. The Little River Lumber Company promoted the area, which created interest as a vacation destination. Many of the rich citizens of Knoxville would take the train to Elkmont to get away from the rush of city life. The Appalachian Clubhouse, which served as the gathering spot for the community, also served as a hotel for visitors who didn’t have their own home built in the little town, or for guests of those who did.
There were actually three sections of Elkmont. The first section called the Wonderland Club was an area to the northeast which contained the Wonderland Hotel and cottages. The second section was the Little River Lumber Company logging town, which is now the Elkmont campground and ranger station. It was the central area of the Elkmont district. The third section was the Appalachian Club, which was further divided up into three sections, Daisy Town, Society Hill, and Millionaires Row. The homes that currently remain in Elkmont Ghost Town are those that were part of Daisy Town.
As I said, I wasn’t even expecting to come across this as I was driving. I was simply driving through the Elkmont campground to look around and happened to turn onto the road that led here. I had actually forgotten all about it until we arrived, and then I was pleasantly surprised to remember that I’d wanted to check it out. Now I was able to.
Some of the buildings are marked for no entry, probably because they are not stable and it would be a safety hazard for someone to walk around in, but there were plenty of open houses for you to explore. Walking along their porches, it was easy to imagine sitting there on a warm summer evening with the breeze blowing softly through the trees. Leaves rustling and crickets chirping, creating a gentle melody to relax and unwind from a fun filled day.
Once inside, you can see the changes that have taken place over the years. Time has withered the paint and warped the floorboards. It doesn’t matter. If you enjoy looking around and exploring old houses, it’s still a lot of fun. To see the differences in design and space give an idea of the unique lives that each person led. Some buildings were made up to be a lovely second home for the family who likes to get away. Others were thrown together with an array of styles and materials, simply providing a roof over the head for a weekend or so until they returned to their nicer homes in the city. Personalities shine through each home you examine.
The Appalachian Clubhouse
The clubhouse has been restored and is ready to serve those wanting to once again enjoy a happy gathering inside. Rocking chairs line the large porch for visitors to sit and enjoy the gorgeous wooded view. I did sit in those chairs and enjoy it for quite some time.
The National Park Service has decided to restore some of the old homes so that guests can enjoy the historical significance of the area. It’s thrilling to know that the park service plans to restore this area complete with a clubhouse and 18 cottages. The picture below is what one of the houses looks like during the renovations.
I can’t wait to go back and check out the area once the restoration is complete. Have you been to the Elkmont Ghost Town? What were your thoughts on it? Did you enjoy it as much as I did, or did you find it a waste of time? I’d love to hear what you think.