The John Cable gristmill in Cades Cove in the Smoky Mountains.
April 24, 2024

The Smoky Mountain area is home to a treasure trove of historic buildings and places that transport visitors back to a bygone era. Long before Gatlinburg, TN became a major tourist destination, the Smokies were home to pioneer families who lived in rustic log cabins scattered throughout the foothills of the mountains. Whether you’re a group of diehard history buffs or a family with young kids, you will love exploring these 4 historical sites in Gatlinburg TN, and the Smoky Mountains.

1. Cades Cove

The Missionary Baptist Church in Cades Cove on a fall day.

Named after the Cherokee leader Chief Kade, Cades Cove is a breathtaking valley in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that is filled with well-preserved historic buildings. The valley was first settled in 1818 by John and Lurena Oliver, and by 1850, Cades Cove was a small agrarian community of 685 people.

When the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was established, the residents of Cades Cove were forced to leave, but a number of historic homesteads have been maintained by the National Park Service. Today, visitors to the valley can see John Oliver’s cabin, other homes from the 1800s and early 1900s, a working grist mill, a cantilever barn, and three lovely churches.

2. Historic Ogle Cabin

The Ogle Cabin is another one of the historical sites in Gatlinburg TN that holds an amazing piece of history. Constructed in 1807, this cabin has the distinction of being Gatlinburg’s very first log home. The cabin was built by Martha Jane Ogle, her brother Peter Huskey, and her seven children. Five years earlier, Martha’s husband William had laid the groundwork for the cabin by fashioning some local timber into logs, but sadly, he passed away in 1803 before he could finalize his family’s move to the Smoky Mountains from South Carolina. Visitors can see the Historic Ogle Cabin at the Gatlinburg Welcome Center, which is located at 520 Parkway. You won't want to miss this historic site in Gatlinburg TN!

3. The Walker Sisters Place

The Walker Sisters Place in the Great Smoky Mountains.

While the establishment of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 1934 forced many families to leave their homes, that wasn’t the case for the Walker Sisters . These five unmarried sisters flat-out refused to move out of their log cabin, which was built by their grandfather in the 1840s. Ultimately, the Walker Sisters negotiated a lifetime lease for their cabin and continued living a traditional agrarian lifestyle without electricity or modern conveniences. The sisters even became quasi-ambassadors for the national park, greeting visitors at their cabin and selling homemade treats, crocheted doilies, children’s toys, and poems.

After the last living Walker Sister passed away in 1964, the National Park Service preserved their historic homestead and opened it up for public viewing. The cabin is located along the Little Brier Gap Trail, which begins at Metcalf Bottoms.

4. Elkmont Ghost Town

The Elkmont area in the Great Smoky Mountains has a truly unique history. Around 1900, the Little River Lumber Company transformed this small mountain community into a bustling logging town, complete with its own railway line. Before long, wealthy families from nearby Knoxville, TN began taking the train down to Elkmont for weekend getaways. These well-to-do Knoxvillians started buying land from the lumber company and building vacation homes.

When the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was established, many of Elkmont’s property owners obtained lifetime leases, which expired around 1992. Today, Elkmont is a “ghost town” with a variety of historic buildings that have been maintained by the National Park Service.

Want to learn even more about Gatlinburg TN history? Find out more about this popular mountain town here !

More Sites in Gatlinburg TN

These popular historic sites in Gatlinburg TN are just a few of the many things you can see when you explore the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. If you're looking for more things to do while you're there, we can help! Learn more about other can't-miss sites in Gatlinburg and the Smokies with our weekend guide to visiting the national park.

Where to Stay in Gatlinburg

Chairs and tables on the deck of a Gatlinburg cabin.

When you stay with Parkside Cabin Rentals, you will have the perfect home base for exploring all of these fascinating historical sites in Gatlinburg TN, and the Smoky Mountains. With everything from 1 bedroom cabins to 7 bedroom cabins, we are guaranteed to have the ideal accommodations for your vacation. To start planning your getaway, browse our selection of cabins in Gatlinburg !

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