Historic Structures in the Great Smoky Mountains
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park was not always public land. Unlike the majority of other national parks that were established on lands already owned by the federal or state governments, what is now the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was a collection of privately owned parcels.
Some of these parcels were huge tracts owned by timber and mining companies. Others were small self-sustaining farms and orchards. Still others were small lots with vacation, hunting and fishing cabins.
Property owners that did not voluntarily sell their land to the Park were subject to condemnation. A fortunate few were granted lifetime leases and allowed to stay.
Many structures were razed as soon as they were vacated. Fortunately, at some point it was decided that some structures had either historical or educational value and should be preserved as a living exhibit about life in the region prior to the establishment of the park.
These maintained structures are located throughout the park. The largest collections are in Cades Cove, Cataloochee and Roaring Fork but there are individual structures interspersed around the park. These include cabins, churches, barns, mills and fire towers. Some are easy to get to while others require long hikes and careful planning.
One of the most easily overlooked structures is passed by thousands every day and few know it is there. It is the Luftee Baptist Church in Smokemont. As you enter the campground area on the bridge over the Oconaluftee river the church is right in front of you. It is often obscured by trees but this edifice is in a lovely spot and is well worth the extra few minutes it takes to stop by and see it.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is the Hall Cabin in Bone Valley or the Mount Cammerer Fire Tower. To get to either one of these will require a lengthy hike.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park boasts an amazing natural legacy. But the record of human habitation is also carefully preserved for prosperity!