A Ghost Town in the Great Smoky Mountains
I closed my eyes and imagined what it must have been like in the good ole days. I could almost smell the barbeque and see the children playing as I walked through “ Millionaires Row”. Affectionately dubbed that for the cabins built along the Little River by Knoxville socialites starting back in the early 1900s.
There was even a lodge out there at one time. The Wonderland Hotel was the only lodge ever built in the park. Not much remains but a staircase and a plaque. The only thing left of these summer retreats is the shell of what used to be beautiful homes in a wonderful location. This place used to have thousands of visitors at any given time. Now it sits deserted.
The government decided not to renew lifetime leases in the 1990s. That would send the residents of Daisy Town, Society Hill and Millionaires Row packing. The only thing they had left would be the memories. The homeowners agreed to the leases so that the land would be protected and could be enjoyed for years and years to come. Well, the park is protected and people still do enjoy the area. The end of the leases signified the residents losing their homes.
I once heard a story that the only reason the Great Smoky Mountain National Park doesn’t charge an entrance fee is because the residents of Elkmont and other communities throughout the Smokies. They had specified in their agreements with the government, to give up the rights to their land through leases, that the government couldn’t charge an admission. At least they kept up to that end of the bargain.
Although there are no official ghost stories, this area definitely has some residual energy still lingering. It is well worth it to spend a day here just exploring the old buildings and taking in some history but you better do it fast. Plans are in place to tear half the town down and fix a few of the more salvageable places. Oh, and if your in town during June, don’t miss the synchronized firefly light show. This is a world-renowned phenomenon that only happens once a year around June.
Elkmont is located in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. From Gatlinburg, TN. take Newfound Gap Rd. south into the park. Turn right at Sugerlands Visitors Center onto Little River Rd. Go about 4 ½ miles to the Elkmont entrance and turn left. Proceed to the trailheads.