Exploring Gatlinburg’s Historic Gems

Exploring Gatlinburg’s Rich History

Gatlinburg is a charming mountain town located in Tennessee that’s known for its unique blend of natural beauty and tourist attractions. But what many visitors may not realize is that Gatlinburg also has a rich and fascinating history that’s just waiting to be explored. From the town’s early settlers to its infamous moonshine industry, there are plenty of stories and secrets to discover in Gatlinburg.

The town’s history dates back to the early 1800s when the first settlers arrived in the area. One of the most notable was William Ogle, who built a cabin in what is now downtown Gatlinburg in 1802. The town continued to grow over the years, with the establishment of churches, schools, and a post office. In the late 1800s, Gatlinburg’s first tourist attractions began to emerge, including the Gatlinburg Inn and the famous Sugarlands Distillery.

Discovering the Town’s Hidden Gems

While Gatlinburg’s history is certainly interesting on its own, there are also plenty of hidden gems throughout the town that offer a unique glimpse into its past. One such spot is the Little House of Pancakes, a tiny restaurant that’s been serving up delicious breakfast dishes since 1973. The building itself dates back to the early 1900s and was once home to a general store and post office.

Another hidden gem is the Gatlinburg Arts and Crafts Community, which is the largest group of independent artisans in North America. The community features over 100 working studios and galleries, where visitors can watch artists create everything from pottery to jewelry. Many of these studios are housed in historic buildings that date back to Gatlinburg’s early days.

A Journey through the Past

To truly experience Gatlinburg’s history, visitors should consider taking a journey through the past with a guided tour. The Gatlinburg Welcome Center offers a walking tour of the town’s historic sites, including the Ogle Cabin, the oldest standing structure in Sevier County. Visitors can also take a self-guided tour of the Great Smoky Arts and Crafts Community, which features several historic buildings and a museum that showcases the area’s rich artistic heritage.

For a more immersive experience, visitors can check out the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center, which is located just a short drive from Gatlinburg. The center features interactive exhibits and displays that highlight the history and culture of the Smoky Mountains region, including the Cherokee people and the area’s early settlers.

Gatlinburg’s Historic Buildings and Landmarks

One of the most striking aspects of Gatlinburg’s history is its collection of historic buildings and landmarks. The Gatlinburg Inn, which opened in 1937, is one of the most recognizable landmarks in town. The inn has hosted countless celebrities over the years, including Johnny Cash and Lady Bird Johnson, and is still operational to this day.

Another iconic building is the Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery, which is located in the heart of downtown Gatlinburg. The distillery is housed in a historic brick building that dates back to the early 1900s and was once home to a general store. Today, visitors can take a guided tour of the distillery and learn about the history of moonshine in the Smoky Mountains.

Uncovering the Town’s Fascinating Stories

While Gatlinburg’s historic buildings and landmarks are certainly impressive, it’s the town’s fascinating stories that really bring its past to life. One such story is that of the Walker sisters, a group of spinster sisters who lived in a remote cabin in the Smoky Mountains for over 70 years. The sisters were known for their self-sufficient lifestyle and their beautiful quilts, which are now on display at the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center.

Another fascinating story is that of the Greenbrier Ghost, a local legend that dates back to the late 1800s. The story goes that a woman named Zona Heaster was murdered by her husband, but her ghost appeared to her mother and revealed the truth. The husband was eventually convicted of the crime, making it the only case in US history where a ghost’s testimony was used in a court of law.

Preserving Gatlinburg’s Heritage

While Gatlinburg’s history is certainly fascinating, it’s important to remember that it’s also fragile. That’s why the town is dedicated to preserving its heritage for future generations. The Great Smoky Mountains Association works tirelessly to protect the park’s historic structures and artifacts, while the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center strives to educate visitors about the area’s rich cultural history.

Visitors can also help preserve Gatlinburg’s heritage by supporting local businesses and artisans, many of whom are working to keep traditional crafts alive. By taking the time to explore Gatlinburg’s historic gems, visitors can gain a deeper appreciation for the town’s unique character and the people who shaped its past.

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