Here is the lowdown on the history of Elkmont, which has been receiving a lot of attention lately due to a recent online article talking about the “discovery” of a forgotten town in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The picture you see here was taken in the Daisy Town neighborhood in October of 2012.
Elkmont’s history begins sometime around 1908, when the Little River Logging Company operated in what would soon become the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Prior to the logging outfit’s presence in Elkmont, this little town was a sleepy farming community high in the mountains. The logging company’s actions drastically changed the landscape of the Smokies. They logged the ancient virgin forests and created vast, clear cut areas. Life in Elkmont was not easy, at least not at first. The economy now revolved around the lumber industry and by this time, a railroad, machine shop, post office, homes, and other buildings were built here. Being a logger was dangerous work and included many risks. Elkmont is also the site of a notorious train wreck that happened in 1909 which involved a logging train manned by engineer Gordon A. “Daddy” Bryson. The train lost control on a downhill grade and it derailed, killing both men. During the 1920s, most of the good timber had been harvested from the Smokies. Since the lumber company could no longer cut quality timber in Elkmont, they decided to move elsewhere in search of more timber. The lumber company soon moved operations to Middle Prong, which is upstream from the former town of Tremont. The railroad was removed and a make shift road was put in its place.
In 1910, Elkmont was also a slowly developing resort town that eventually became known as the “Appalachian Club”. Members of this club built many cabins of different architectural styles along a path which started at the Wonderland Club. Elkmont became a well-known destination for tourists who were making their way through the area and the resort provided a rustic charm and comfort for visitors.
In 1926, Congress passed a law which authorized the creation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Elkmont had began another era in its history–from being a logging camp to quaint resort town and to National Park property. The property owners at Elkmont were offered long term leases and the Appalachian and the Wonderland Club were taken by the state and were sold for half their value. The long term leases were relinquished in 1952 for 20 year leases, which would allow enough time to bring electricity to Elkmont. The leases were renewed in 1972 and even though some of the buildings were given longer leases, the last of them expired in 2001. In 1994, Elkmont was added to the National Register of Historic Places.