History buffs will love visiting Gatlinburg, Tennessee! Our Smoky Mountain city is filled with remnants of our days as a frontier town from hundreds of years ago. Even if your kids aren’t fans of museums or history class, they will love visiting the area’s historic cabins and buildings because they offer an interactive window into the past that you won’t find behind a glass case or in a textbook. To help you make the most of your next vacation, Hearthside Cabin Rentals has put together a guide to four popular historic sites in Gatlinburg TN and the Smoky Mountains.
1. Cades Cove
When it comes to the history of the Smoky Mountains, it’s hard to beat Cades Cove! This incredibly scenic valley is frequented by over 2 million people each year. Visitors to the cove will find an impressive collection of well-preserved cabins and homesteads from the 1800s that you can walk inside and explore.
Long before the establishment of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Cades Cove was home to a thriving community. The first Euro-American settlers arrived in the valley around 1818, and by 1830, Cades Cove had 271 residents. When the national park was dedicated in 1940, the families in Cades Cove were forced to relocate, but many of their historic properties remain.
Today, tourists in Cades Cove can see a variety of beautiful buildings, including cabins, three churches, barns, and a working grist mill. All of the landmarks are conveniently located along the valley’s 11-mile, one-way loop road.
2. Historic Ogle Cabin
The Ogle Cabin is one of the most beloved historic sites in Gatlinburg TN. While log cabins are now ubiquitous in the Smoky Mountains, the Ogle Cabin has the distinction of being the first log home ever constructed in Gatlinburg!
The cabin takes its name from William Ogle, an intrepid settler who journeyed from South Carolina to East Tennessee to find a new home for his family. When he came across the future location of Gatlinburg, William knew he had found the perfect place to build a house. After cutting down some local timber and fashioning the trees into logs for his cabin, William returned home to South Carolina to collect his wife and seven children.
Tragically, William contracted an illness and passed away before he could make it back to Gatlinburg. Determined not to let her husband’s work be in vain, William’s wife Martha Jane Huskey Ogle took her family to the Smokies in 1807 and finished building the cabin using the logs William had left behind. Visitors to Gatlinburg can see the Historic Ogle Cabin at the Gatlinburg Welcome Center at 520 Parkway.
3. The Old Mill
In nearby Pigeon Forge, vacationers will find The Old Mill. Located right off of the Parkway, this historic grist mill attracts over one million visitors each year. In fact, The Old Mill is the most photographed mill in the United States!
When the grist mill was constructed in 1830, it stood next to an iron forge along the Little Pigeon River. While the Old Mill ground grain into flour for farmers in the Smoky Mountain area, the iron forge produced bars of iron, building equipment, and farming implements that were sold around the nation. In 1841, the area’s first post office was established at The Old Mill and the burgeoning town was given the name Pigeon Forge – pigeon because of the Little Pigeon River and forge because of the iron forge.
The iron forge was ultimately dismantled and sold for parts in the 1880s, but The Old Mill is more popular than ever! Today, The Old Mill Square is home to two fantastic restaurants, a general store, candy kitchen, creamery, pottery shop, blacksmith craft shop, moonshine distillery, and even more fun.
4. The Walker Sisters Cabin
Much like Cades Cove, Little Greenbrier is a community in the Smoky Mountains that was uprooted by the establishment of the national park. While hundreds of Little Greenbrier residents were forced to leave their homes in 1940, one family refused to relocate.
The Walker family worked out a special deal with the National Park Service where they were able to live in their old fashioned log home for the rest of their lives. The family consisted of Margaret, Polly, Martha, Louisa, and Hettie Walker, five unmarried sisters who inherited their 19th-century cabin from their father, John. The sisters lived a traditional life and were totally self-sufficient: growing their own vegetables, raising livestock, and making their own clothes.
Rather than shunning attention from park visitors, the Walker Sisters welcomed guests and even sold fried apple pies, crocheted doilies, and poems. When the last living Walker sister passed away in 1964, the cabin was turned over to the national park and has been a popular historic site ever since. You can see the Walker Sisters Cabin along the Metcalf Bottoms Trail, which begins near the Wears Valley entrance to the national park.
Where to Stay in Gatlinburg
When you stay with Hearthside Cabin Rentals, you will be near all of these incredible historic sites in Gatlinburg TN and the Smoky Mountains. With everything from 1 bedroom cabins to 18 bedroom cabins, we are guaranteed to have the perfect property for your vacation. To start planning your escape, browse our selection of cabins in Gatlinburg!