If you’ve ever been to the Smoky Mountains, then you know…you know just how beautiful they are. I’ve seen them, and they are beautiful. Nevertheless, there are things about the Smoky Mountains that I didn’t know. I love history and I love ghost towns, and now I find out that there is another one in the Smoky Mountains. It’s Daisy Town, Tennessee, and it has an interesting past. It was a century ago, when Daisy Town was thriving, that the Knoxville elites flocked to the Elkmont area. Sadly, today, the abandoned summer homes of Daisy Town make up a ghost town.
Elkmont started out in the 1830s, as a logging area, and so the moving into the area, and the area began to thrive. By the early 1900s, a lumber company built a railroad to transport the logs, and with that came people too, of course. When people saw that the area was going to make them rich, the affluent people who were living in Knoxville also began to visit the mountains finding them absolutely beautiful. They started building summer homes for themselves, and Daisy Town was born. By the 1920s, Elkmont was a summer playground for the city’s well-to-do population. Of course, if you wanted to spend your summers there, you would need money, so it was really an exclusive area.
The first thing built was the Appalachian Clubhouse, which was a social hub for the prominent members of society, and with that and all the activities, came the cabins and cottages lining the one-lane road to the club. It was specifically this area that became known as Daisy Town. The club hosted dances, games, bingo, and horseshoes, through the 1920s and into the 1930s. Other areas, that had larger houses to draw the very wealthy, were nicknamed Millionaires Row and Society Hill. Nevertheless, time changes things, and even the fancy places like Daisy Town, Millionaires Row, and Society Hill have simply become the “Elkmont Ghost Town” and are nothing more than a tourist attraction for those of us who find ghost towns fascinating. It doesn’t detract from the beauty of the area, and for history buffs, like me, it probably adds to the attraction.
The whole decline of Daisy Town began in 1934, with the creation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It didn’t happen overnight, of course, but the Elkmont area fell within the new park’s borders. The people who owned the homes weren’t forced out but were rather given a lifetime lease. Unfortunately for the families, the lease was not transferable, and as each owner died, the home was transferred to the park service. The slow end to Daisy Town and all the Elkmont vacation spots was complete by the early 1990s, leaving the park with 70 abandoned structures. Without proper care, the buildings began to decay, until all that was left was the eerie reminders of their heyday, such as is common to ghost towns.
All is not lost for Daisy Town, however. While the cabins and cottages are closed to the public, you can look inside and picture happier times. The Appalachian Clubhouse was given a different fate. The park service decided to restore it so that it could be used for events. Not only that, but nineteen other structures around Elkmont are slated for renovation by 2025, something I think is very cool. It’s sad to see these parts of our history being allowed to fall apart and disappear. For now, the walk along Jakes Creek Trail will provide view of this historic little area where you can still see chimneys, walls, and other remains of 1920s cabins. It’s an area I hope to visit one day.