Gatlinburg, Tennessee is unlike anywhere else in the world! Situated at the doorstep of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, our charming city offers unparalleled scenery and a wonderful collection of family-friendly attractions. To help you prepare for your next vacation in the Smokies, Hearthside Cabin Rentals has put together six fascinating facts about Gatlinburg TN.
Believe it or not, Gatlinburg’s very first log cabin is still standing! Construction on this historic homestead began around 1802 when William Ogle came to the Smoky Mountains and decided to build a house in what he called “The Land of Paradise.” Ogle scouted a spot for the cabin, fashioned logs out of local lumber, and returned to South Carolina to fetch his family. Sadly, William fell ill and passed away in 1803 before he could make it back to Gatlinburg. Nevertheless, in 1807, William’s wife Martha, her brother Peter, and her seven children traveled to Gatlinburg, where they used William’s logs to build their home.
Although the Ogle Cabin is no longer at its original location, it is still intact and open for viewing at the Gatlinburg Welcome Center (520 Parkway). For more information, check out our guide to the top four historical sites in the Smoky Mountains.
2. Gatlinburg’s Namesake Was Chased Out of Town
Although Gatlinburg was founded by the Ogle family, it takes its name from one of its most infamous residents. When Radford Gatlin moved to town in 1854, the sleepy little mountain community was known as White Oak Flats. A few years later, however, the town was known as “Gatlinburg” because the area’s first post office was located in Gatlin’s general store.
In spite of his newfound celebrity, Radford Gatlin was not well liked. He was constantly bickering with his neighbors and his pro-Confederate sympathies were poorly received in strongly pro-Union East Tennessee. Ultimately, Gatlin was given a beating and chased out of the city that bears his name in 1859.
As Radford Gatlin’s expulsion from town illustrates, tensions ran high in Gatlinburg during the Civil War. Very few people owned slaves in the Smoky Mountains and on the eve of secession, fewer than 20% of voters in Sevier County favored breaking away from the United States. However, the rest of Tennessee felt differently, and in 1861, The Volunteer State joined the Confederacy.
During the war, Gatlinburg tried to remain neutral but it was eventually occupied by the Confederate Army. The rebels used Gatlinburg as a home base as they ventured into Alum Cave to mine saltpeter, a mineral needed to produce gunpowder. The Confederate occupation of Gatlinburg ended in 1863 after the Battle of Burg Hill, an hour-long skirmish in which two Union forces drove the rebels back across the Smokies into North Carolina.
4. Gatlinburg is Home to Tennessee’s First Pancake House
Another one of our favorite facts about Gatlinburg TN concerns the city’s most popular food: pancakes. As anyone who has visited Gatlinburg can tell you, there is no shortage of breakfast restaurants in town. Once upon a time, however, there were no pancake houses in the entire state of Tennessee. Mercifully, this changed in 1960, when the Pancake Pantry opened its doors in Gatlinburg. This legendary restaurant is still in operation on the Parkway, and it still serves the very best homemade hotcakes you’ll ever eat!
In addition to boasting the first pancake house in Tennessee, Gatlinburg also has the first (and only) ski resort in the state. Established in 1962, Ober Gatlinburg is one of the Southeast’s most celebrated places to go skiing, snowboarding, and snow tubing. A convenient Aerial Tramway transports visitors from downtown Gatlinburg up to the top of Mt. Harrison, where the resort is located. While Ober is most famous for its winter sports, it also features year-round amusement park attractions (not to mention a fantastic Oktoberfest celebration in the fall).
6. Moonshine Was Legalized in Gatlinburg in 2009
Making moonshine is a time-honored Smoky Mountain tradition. Back in the day, farmers would turn their extra corn into whiskey so they could make some extra cash to support their families. The unaged whiskey was known as “moonshine” because it was often made by the light of the moon, in order to avoid the long arm of the law. While distilling white lightnin’ was once an illicit activity, a change in Tennessee’s state law in 2009 allowed moonshiners to come out of the shadows and legally sell their liquor. Today, visitors to Gatlinburg can visit a number of awesome moonshine distilleries where guests can sample a variety of flavors and pick up a jar or two to take home.
We hope that you enjoyed learning these fun facts about Gatlinburg TN! When you stay with Hearthside Cabin Rentals, you will be near all of Gatlinburg’s wonderful attractions, restaurants, and shops. With everything from 1 bedroom cabins to 18 bedroom lodges, we are sure to have the ideal accommodations for your getaway. To start planning your escape, browse our selection of cabins in Gatlinburg!