Photographer Chet Guthrie visited the “lost town” of Elkmont in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to document many of the buildings that will be torn down this month. Here’s some background:
Established in 1908 by the Little River Lumber Company, Elkmont was a logging town connected by railroad and at the center of an untouched forest. Trains coming off the Smokey mountains would use the community as a place of rotation so another locomotive could transport the timber for cutting.
Over the next 11 years, the area became a get-a-way for Knoxville and Sevierville’s elite and Elkmont turned into three districts: Daisy Town, Millionaires Row and Society Hill. At one time, Elkmont was the second largest town in the area right behind Sevierville.
In 1911, wealthy hunters and fishermen interested in the dense forest of the Smokies formed the “Appalachian Club” which became Daisy Town. In 1912, Charles Carter was given land to build the Wonderland Hotel on the top of Elkmont’s ridge. 10 cottages were built on the trail to the hotel which opened in 1919. This tract of land became Millionaires Row.
In 1925 the Little River Lumber Company ceased operations and in the process stripped the land of 750 million board feet of wood. One year later, all the land was sold to the GSMNP. As time progressed the railroad bed was removed and paved into a highway.
After a 20-year lease, the last resident left in 2002. The GSMNP wanted to demolish the buildings, but came into conflict with the National Register of Historic Sites and a political argument was waged on whether the cabins would be torn down or preserved. In 2009 a plan was pitched that both organizations agreed on: 19 of the buildings would be renovated while 56 others would be dismantled. Demolition began in March 2017.
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