Demise of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Wonderland Hotel
For decades the Wonderland Hotel stood in the Elkmont section of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Much has been written about the history of the hotel that was constructed in 1911 and its role prior to and after the establishment of the national park.
This article is about the history of the Wonderland Hotel after it was closed in 1992. The National Park Service was confronted with the dilemma of what to do with an eighty year old structure that was badly in need of repair.
The wheels of government turn very slowly and while decisions were being made about the future of Elkmont nature began to take over. It doesn’t take long for an abandoned structure to yield to the elements and within a few years the building deteriorated to the point of collapse. At that point the site was cleared and all that remains of the Wonderland Hotel today is the brick fireplace that once warmed the lobby of the historic building.
There are two sides to every story, and for years the Park Service has weighed the choice of preservation of historic structures versus rehabilitation of the forest to the pristine state that preceded human intervention. Visitors come to the Great Smoky Mountains for a variety of reasons and the historic structures scattered throughout the park offer a glimpse into the lives of the people that once lived, worked and died here.
But every preserved structure has a cost associated with it. A decision to save a structure is a permanent ongoing expense of maintenance and upkeep. So it is not a option that should not be taken lightly.
Unfortunately for the Wonderland Hotel, the commitment for preservation was not forthcoming and the hotel has now been relegated to history. Today, but for the brick fireplace, the main structure of the building exists only in old photographs and the memories of those that once enjoyed this very special place.