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Most Smoky Mountain lovers have heard about this abandoned resort town in the Smoky Mountains, but how much do you know about the history of Elkmont? Elkmont went from a logging community, to a vacation destination, to a ghost town. Now, it’s a place where the Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s many visitors love to explore. Elkmont used to be so much more than just an abandoned resort town! Here are 7 things you didn’t know about the history of Elkmont Ghost Town:
1. The Little River Railroad was originally built to transport logs.
Before Elkmont was a popular resort town, it was a booming lumber town. The town of Elkmont was established in 1908 and served as a base for the Little River Lumber Company’s logging operations. While it evolved over the years to bring wealthy vacationers to the area, the Little River Railroad was originally built to transport logs for the lumber company. The lumber was harvested from the mountains and transported down the Little River to the mill in Townsend.
2. It was home to two private social clubs.
We bet you never knew that Elkmont Ghost Town was home to not one, but two, private social clubs! Around the year of 1910, the Little River Lumber Company started selling stripped land to individuals who created a private social club. This club was known as the Appalachian Club, and was mainly made up of hunting and fishing enthusiasts. The club had a series of cabins that became a vacation destination. Membership into this club was so exclusive, however, that in 1919, a group of Knoxville businessmen purchased the Wonderland Hotel in Elkmont and created its own private club, the Wonderland Club. Over the years, the two vacation communities evolved into a favorite vacation spot for wealthy families to escape the summer heat.
3. The Levi Trentham Cabin was moved.
The Levi Trentham Cabin is the oldest surviving structure in Elkmont. It dates all the way back to the 1830s. However, did you know that this historic structure isn’t in its original place? The Levi Trentham Cabin was originally located in the upper area of Jakes Creek. It was moved to the Appalachian Club’s Daisy Town section in 1932 to serve as a guest house. This historic structure is one of the buildings that has been restored by the National Park Service. Visitors can walk inside of the cabin to explore!
4. The residents’ lifetime leases were converted to 20-year leases.
When Elkmont was sold to the National Park Service, the residents had two options. One, they could sell their homes for full price and relocate immediately. Two, they could choose to sell their homes at half price in exchange for a lifetime lease. This original lease meant the owners could stay in their cottages until they died. However, the lifetime leases were converted into 20-year leases in 1952. Luckily, the leases were renewed again in 1972 for another 20 years. The National Park Service chose not to renew the leases in 1992 and took over the area entirely.
5. The Wonderland Hotel and several cottages were placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
There was originally a park management plan that called for the Wonderland Hotel and cottages to be demolished once the National Park Service took over. However, the hotel and several of the cottages were placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1994 as the “Elkmont Historic District.”
6. The Wonderland Hotel collapsed in 2005.
Although it was on the National Register of Historic Places and not demolished by the National Park Service, the Wonderland Hotel collapsed in 2005. Several homes around it were in such disrepair that the NPS slated them for removal.
7. The NPS announced plans to restore 19 historic buildings in Elkmont.
A few years after the Wonderland Hotel collapsed, the National Park Service announced its plans to restore 19 historic buildings in the Elkmont Historic District. The plans included the Appalachian Club and 18 other cottages. Once restored, people who visited Elkmont Ghost Town would have the opportunity to walk inside the buildings and explore! The other cabins not included in the restoration project were demolished. In 2017, the national park finished restoration of 4 cabins in the Daisy Town area, along with the demolition of 34 along Jakes Creek Trail and Little River Trail. In 2018, the demolition part of the project was completed. Work on the project is still being done today.
Visit Elkmont Ghost Town
Now that you know about the history of Elkmont Ghost Town, you’re ready to visit and explore it for yourselves! Before your trip, check out our guide to everything you need to know about Elkmont Ghost Town!