I have to say, Elkmont Historical District is one of the most bizarre places I’ve ever seen. I didn’t even know it existed until the day before when I walked past part of it finishing up Jake’s Creek Trail. It was so odd, I decided to come back the next day when I had more energy to really look around and explore.
For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, Elkmont Historical District was originally Elkmont Appalachian Club, founded in the 1920s as a luxury vacation community in the mountains. In the 1930s when the National Park was founded, the owners of these vacation homes were either bought out or negotiated life-long leases to the properties. In 1994, Elkmont was listed on the National Register of Historical Places. The park has done some emergency stabilization of the existing homes and hopes to eventually restore them to their former glory. Although visitors like myself can walk through the community, no-one is allowed within the premises.
The phrase that kept running through my mind when walking down the main street, was “Stairs leading to nowhere.” What makes Elkmont so bizarre, in my opinion, is it’s a modern-day ghost town. I’ve seen my fair share of ghost towns when I was living in the Southwest, but all of those looked like they came straight out of a John Wayne movie. To see a ghost town less than 80 years old smack dab in the middle of a National Park is eerie, to say the least.
I spoke to a friend of mine who’s more familiar with the Smokies than I am due to a childhood spent in the Park. We both agreed that we hope Elkmont Historical District gets restored before it’s too late. It’s one thing to say you’re going to restore the old homes, but I get the feeling if they wait too long, parts of history will be lost to us forever…