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Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Gatlinburg, Tennessee
City of Gatlinburg
Gatlinburg has burgeoned into a popular tourist destination due to the inception of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which borders the community.
Gatlinburg has burgeoned into a popular tourist destination due to the inception of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which borders the community.
Nickname(s): "Gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains"[1]
Location in Sevier County, Tennessee
Location in Sevier County, Tennessee
U.S. Census Map
U.S. Census Map
Country United States
State Tennessee
County Sevier
Settled ca. 1806
Incorporated 1945[2]
Named for Radford Gatlin
 • Type City Manager-Commission
 • Mayor Jerry Hays
 • Total 10.1 sq mi (26.3 km2)
 • Land 10.1 sq mi (26.3 km2)
 • Water 0.0 sq mi (0 km2)
Elevation 1,289 ft (393 m)
Population (2012)
 • Total 4,047
 • Density 333.4/sq mi (128.8/km2)
Time zone EST (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP code 37738
Area code(s) 865
FIPS code 47-28800[3]
GNIS feature ID 1647737[4]

Gatlinburg is a mountain resort city in Sevier County, Tennessee, United States. It is thirty-nine miles southeast of Knoxville. The population was 3,944 at the 2010 Census, and 4,047 according to the 2012 Census estimate. The city is a popular vacation resort, as it rests on the border of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park along U.S. Route 441, which connects Gatlinburg to Cherokee, North Carolina through the national park.


  • Geography 1
  • History 2
    • Early history 2.1
    • Radford Gatlin and the Civil War 2.2
    • Gatlinburg at the turn of the 20th century 2.3
    • The national park 2.4
    • The Fire of 1992 2.5
  • Demographics 3
  • Tourism 4
  • Climate 5
  • Notable people 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


Gatlinburg is located at (35.721925, -83.499334).[5] According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 10.1 square miles (26 km2), all land.

Gatlinburg is hemmed in on all sides by high ridges, with the Le Conte and Sugarland Mountain massifs rising to the south, Cove Mountain to the west, Big Ridge to the northeast, and Grapeyard Ridge to the east. The main watershed is the West Fork of the Little Pigeon River, which flows from its source on the slopes of Mount Collins to its junction with the Little Pigeon at Sevierville.[6]

U.S. Route 441 is the main traffic artery in Gatlinburg, running through the center of town from north to south. Along 441, Wears Valley to the north before turning east, connecting Gatlinburg with Newport and Cosby.[6]


Early history

The Ogle Cabin in Gatlinburg

For centuries,

  • City Of Gatlinburg Homepage
  • Gatlinburg Department of Tourism
  • The Anna Porter Public Library website
  • Gatlinburg, Tennessee at DMOZ

External links

  1. ^ a b Rudy Abramson and Jean Haskell, Encyclopedia of Appalachia (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2006), 644.
  2. ^ Tennessee Blue Book, 2005-2006, pp. 618–625.
  3. ^ a b "American FactFinder".  
  4. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names".  
  5. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990".  
  6. ^ a b Gatlinburg USGS Gatlinburg Quad, Tennessee, Topographic Map
  7. ^ Michal Strutin, History Hikes of the Smokies (Gatlinburg: Great Smoky Mountains Association, 2003), 322–323.
  8. ^ Strutin, 322–323.
  9. ^ Gladys Trentham Russell, Smoky Mountain Family Album (Alcoa, Tennessee: Gladys Trentham Russell, 1984), 6.
  10. ^ Carson Brewer, Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Portland, Ore: Graphic Arts Center Publishing, 1993), 18.
  11. ^ a b c Russell, 6.
  12. ^ Zeno Wall, "Gatlinburg", Newport (Newport, Tennessee: Ideal Publishing Company, 1970), 132.
  13. ^ Wall, 128.
  14. ^ Donald Reagan, Smoky Mountain Clans (Gatlinburg: Donald B. Reagan, 1978), 66.
  15. ^ Donald Reagan, Smoky Mountain Clans Volume 3 (Gatlinburg: Donald B. Reagan, 1983), 137–138.
  16. ^ Russell, 6–9.
  17. ^ a b c d Abramson, 644.
  18. ^ J.A. Sharp, "Radford Gatlin: Gatlinburg's First Tourist" [3] Accessed: 19 May 2007. Archived October 26, 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^ Michael Frome, Strangers In High Places: The Story of the Great Smoky Mountains (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1994), 123–124.
  20. ^ Wall, 128–132.
  21. ^ Lucinda Oakley Ogle, Jerry Wear (editor), Sugarlands: A Lost Community In Sevier County, Tennessee (Sevierville, Tennessee: Sevierville Heritage Committee, 1986), 57.
  22. ^ Frome, 165–166.
  23. ^ Frome, 161.
  24. ^ Pearl Cashell Jackson, Pi Beta Phi Settlement School (University of Texas, 1927), 14.
  25. ^ Jackson, 11, 39.
  26. ^ Helen Phyllis Higinbotham, "Nursing In the Mountains", Pi Beta Phi Settlement School (University of Texas, 1927), 26.
  27. ^ Higinbotham, 27.
  28. ^ Evelyn Bishop, "Folk Lore", Pi Beta Phi Settlement School (University of Texas, 1927), 31.
  29. ^ Bishop, 32–35
  30. ^ a b Frome, 166–191.
  31. ^ Daniel Pierce, The Great Smokies: From Natural Habitat to National Park (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2000), 33.
  32. ^ Brewer, 110.
  33. ^ Jackson, 11.
  34. ^ North Callahan, Smoky Mountain Country (New York: Duell, Sloan & Pearce, 1952), 222.
  35. ^ History of the Gatlinburg's Fire Department
  36. ^ "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2014". Retrieved June 4, 2015. 
  37. ^ "Census of Population and Housing: Decennial Censuses".  
  38. ^ "Incorporated Places and Minor Civil Divisions Datasets: Subcounty Resident Population Estimates: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2012". Population Estimates. U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 11 December 2013. 
  39. ^ Ober Gatlinburg Ski Resort & Amusement Park
  40. ^ Gatlinburg (Tourist Town Guides) ISBN 978-0-9792043-2-6
  41. ^ Hollis, Tim (1 May 2007). The land of the Smokies: great mountain memories. Univ. Press of Mississippi. p. 145.  
  42. ^ "Smoky Mountain Winterfest". 
  43. ^ "Gatlinburg Winter Magic Trolly Ride of Lights". 
  44. ^ [4] Archived February 4, 2015 at the Wayback Machine


Notable people

Climate data for Gatlinburg 2 SW, TN, 1981-2010 normals, extremes 1925-present
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 81
Average high °F (°C) 48.4
Average low °F (°C) 25.2
Record low °F (°C) −18
Average precipitation inches (mm) 4.56
Average snowfall inches (cm) 3.6
Average precipitation days 14 13 13 12 15 14 14 13 10 10 12 14 154


Because of the ease of obtaining a marriage license in Tennessee, Gatlinburg is a popular destination for weddings and honeymoons, with over twenty wedding chapels in the town and surrounding areas.[44]

During the Christmas season the entire downtown area is decorated with lights for the Winterfest Celebration. This celebration takes place from November thru February. [42] Visitors during the Winterfest Celebration can also take a Trolly Ride of the Lights from Nov 12, 2014 to Jan 25, 2015 for only $5.00 [43] Visitors also benefit from a free shuttle bus that traverses the city every half hour.

Gatlinburg also has numbered intersections in the core of the town. The numbers hang from traffic lights or are on signs, and are written on official tourist maps. A similar idea was tried in Niagara Falls, New York after the then-mayor of Niagara Falls visited Gatlinburg and brought the idea back to Niagara Falls, although the idea was short-lived in New York and was scrapped due to budget issues.

A few music and family-oriented theaters make their homes in Gatlinburg as well, including the Sweet Fanny Adams Theatre, which hosts a musical comedy. In recent years, the number of musical shows in Gatlinburg has dwindled with several shows having gone to Pigeon Forge and its many venues.

Hollywood Star Cars Museum, which opened in 1996, features George Barris.

There is a walk-through haunted attraction known as the "Mysterious Mansion". Vincent "Val" Valentine built this attraction in 1980. It is similar to "Old House" at Panama City Beach, Florida's now-defunct Miracle Strip Amusement Park.[41]

Another popular attraction is Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies which also features special exhibits covering subjects such as the Titanic, pirates and more recently the planet Mars. Pigeon Forge.

Gatlinburg is an important tourism destination in Tennessee, with many man-made attractions, and it borders the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Ober Gatlinburg[39] is the only ski resort in Tennessee. It has eight ski trails, three chair lifts, a wildlife encounter area, and is accessible via roads and a gondola from the city strip. The Gatlinburg Trolley, a privately funded public transit system, caters to area tourists.[40]

Ober Gatlinburg aerial tramway
Gatlinburg is home to a plethora of specialty shops, most of which are designed with a rustic, mountain theme


The median income for a household in the city was $37,606, and the median income for a family was $40,813. Males had a median income of $24,283 versus $19,250 for females. The per capita income for the city was $19,678. 7.1 percent of the population and 5.8 percent of families were below the poverty line. 13.4 percent of those under the age of 18 and 6.7 percent of those 65 and older were living below the poverty line.

In the city the population was spread out with 14.9 percent under the age of 18, 6.6 percent from 18 to 24, 25.5 percent from 25 to 44, 32.8 percent from 45 to 64, and 20.3 percent who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 47 years. For every 100 females there were 97.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 93.4 males.

There were 1,541 households out of which 17.8 percent had children under the age of 18 living with them, 51.5 percent were married couples living together, 9.0 percent had a female householder with no husband present, and 35.7 percent were non-families. 29.7 percent of all households were made up of individuals and 12.1 percent had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.16 and the average family size was 2.64.

As of the 2000 census,[3] there were 3,382 people, 1,541 households, and 990 families residing in the city. The population density was 333.4 people per square mile (128.8/km²). There were 3,993 housing units at an average density of 393.7 per square mile (152.0/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 95.71 percent White, 0.15 percent African American, 0.56 percent Native American, 1.71 percent Asian, 0.03 percent Pacific Islander, 0.86 percent from other races, and 0.98 percent from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.95 percent of the population.


On the night of July 14, 1992, Gatlinburg gained national attention when an entire city block burned to the ground, due to faulty wiring in a light fixture. The Ripley's Believe It or Not! museum was consumed by the fire, along with an arcade, haunted house, and souvenir shop. The blaze was fortunately stopped before it could consume the adjacent 32-story Gatlinburg Space Needle. The block, known to locals as "Rebel Corner", was completely rebuilt and reopened to visitors in 1995. Few artifacts from the Ripley's Museum were salvaged. Those that were salvaged are clearly marked with that designation in the new museum. The fire prompted new downtown building codes and a new downtown fire station. Ripley's has caught fire twice since its reopening, once in 2000, and again in 2003. Both of those fires, coincidentally, were caused by faulty light fixtures. The 2000 fire caused no damage. The 2003 fire was contained to the building's exterior and the museum suffered minimal damage, primarily cosmetic.[35]

Downtown Gatlinburg

The Fire of 1992

While the park's arrival benefited Gatlinburg and made many of the town's residents wealthy, the tourism explosion led to problems with air quality and urban sprawl. The town's infrastructure is often pushed to the limit on peak vacation days, and must consistently re-adapt to accommodate the growing number of tourists.[17]

The park radically changed Gatlinburg. When the Pi Phis arrived in 1912, Gatlinburg was a small hamlet with six houses, a blacksmith shop, a general store, a Baptist church, and a greater community of 600 individuals, most of whom lived in log cabins.[33] In 1934, the first year of the park, an estimated 40,000 visitors passed through the city. Within a year, this number had increased exponentially to 500,000.[17] From 1940 to 1950, the cost of land in Gatlinburg increased from $50 to $8000 per acre.[34]

Andrew Huff would spearhead the movement in the Gatlinburg area. He opened the first hotel in Gatlinburg—the Mountain View Hotel—in 1916.[31] His son, Jack, would establish LeConte Lodge atop Mount Le Conte in 1926.[32] In spite of resistance from lumberers at Elkmont and difficulties with the Tennessee legislature,[30] the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was opened in 1934.

Extensive logging in the early 1900s led to increased calls by conservationists for federal action, and in 1911 Congress passed the Weeks Act to allow for the purchase of land for national forests. Authors such as Horace Kephart and Knoxville-area business interests began advocating the creation of a national park in the Smokies, similar to Yellowstone or Yosemite in the Western United States. With the purchase of 76,000 acres (310 km2) of the Little River Lumber Company tract in 1926, the movement quickly became a reality.[30]

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park comes to an abrupt end at the foot of Gatlinburg, along the popular Gatlinburg Trail

The national park

Such isolation would draw folklorists such as Cecil Sharp of London to the area in the years following World War I.[29] Sharp's collection of Appalachian ballads was published in 1932.

Many times it is the ballad that the child learns first, no Mother Goose melodies are as familiar, and it is strange indeed to listen to a little tot singing of the courtly days of old, the knights and 'ladyes' and probably the tragic death of the lover.[28]

Evelyn Bishop, a Pi Phi who arrived at the school in 1913, reported that the mountain peoples' relative isolation from American society allowed them to retain a folklore that reflected their English and Scots-Irish ancestries, such as Elizabethan Era ballads:

One of the doctors was called to several cases of honey poisoning. The men had robbed some bee gums, eaten a pound or two of each and been knocked unconscious where they stood.[27]

Higinbotham complained that there was an unhealthy "lack of variety" in the mountain peoples' diet and that they weren't open to new suggestions. Food was often "too starchy," "not well cooked", and supplemented with certain excesses:

I soon found that people weren't used to hurrying, and that it takes a long time of patient waiting and general conversation to find out what they have really come for, or to get a history of the cases when making a visit. I have had to get used to getting most of a woman's symptoms from her husband, and not having heart failure when a messenger comes with the news that so and so is "bad off", "about to die", or "got the fever."[26]

The journals and letters of the Pi Beta Phi settlement school's staff are a valuable source of information regarding daily life in Gatlinburg in the early 1900s. Phyllis Higinbotham, a nurse from Toronto who worked at the school for six years, wrote of the mountain peoples' confusion over the role of a nurse, their penchant for calling on her over minute issues, and her difficulties with Appalachian customs:

In 1912, the Pi Beta Phi women's fraternity established a settlement school (now the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts) in Gatlinburg after a survey of the region found the town to be most in need of educational facilities.[24] While skeptical locals were initially worried that the Pi Phis might be religious propagandists or opportunists, the school's enrollment grew from 33 to 134 in its first year of operation.[25] Along with providing basic education to children in the area, the school's staff managed to create a small market for local crafts.

A pivotal figure in Gatlinburg at this time was Andrew Jackson Huff (1878–1949), originally of Greene County. Huff erected a sawmill in Gatlinburg in 1900,[23] and local residents began supplementing their income by providing lodging to loggers and other lumber company officials.[17] Tourists also began to trickle into the area, drawn to the Smokies by the writings of authors such as Mary Noailles Murfree and Horace Kephart, who wrote extensively of the region's natural wonders.

In the 1880s, the invention of the band saw and the logging railroad led to a boom in the lumber industry. As forests throughout the Southeastern United States were harvested, lumber companies were forced to push deeper into the mountain areas of the Appalachian highlands. In 1901, Colonel W.B. Townsend established the Little River Lumber Company in Tuckaleechee Cove to the west, and lumber interests began buying up logging rights to vast tracts of forest in the Smokies.[22]

Gatlinburg at the turn of the 20th century

As the Union forces converged on the town, the outnumbered Confederates were forced to retreat across the Smokies to North Carolina. The Confederates would never return, although sporadic small raids continued until the war's end.

... he told me about when he was a sixteen year old boy during the Civil War and would hide under a big cliff on Turkey Nest Ridge and watch the Blue Coats ride their horses around the graveyard hill, shooting their cannon toward Burg Hill where the Grey Coats had a fort and would ride their horses around the Burg Hill ...[21]

Despite its anti-slavery sentiments, Gatlinburg, like most Smoky Mountain communities, tried to remain neutral during the war. This changed when a company of Confederate Colonel William Holland Thomas's Legion occupied the town to protect the salt peter mines at Alum Cave, near the Tennessee-North Carolina border. Federal forces marched south from Knoxville and Sevierville to drive out Thomas' men, who had built a small fort on Burg Hill.[20] Lucinda Oakley Ogle, whose grandfather witnessed the ensuing skirmish, later recounted her grandfather's recollections:

In 1856, a post office was established in the general store of Radford Gatlin (c. 1798–1880), giving the town the name "Gatlinburg".[17] Despite the town bearing his name, Gatlin, who had only arrived in the flats around 1854, constantly bickered with his neighbors.[18] By 1857, a full-blown feud had erupted between the Gatlins and the Ogles, probably over Gatlin's attempts to divert the town's main road. The eve of the U.S. Civil War found Gatlin, who would become a Confederate sympathizer, at odds with the residents of the flats, who were mostly pro-Union, and he was forced out in 1859.[19]

Radford Gatlin and the Civil War

In the decade following the arrival of the Ogles, McCarters, and Huskeys in what came to be known as White Oak Flats, a steady stream of settlers moved into the area.[11] Most of these settlers were veterans of the American Revolution or War of 1812 who had converted into deeds the 50-acre (200,000 m2) tracts they had received for service in war.[13] Among these early settlers were Timothy Reagan (c. 1750–1830), John Ownby, Jr. (1791–1857), and Henry Bohanon (1760–1842).[14][15] Their descendants still live in the area today.[16]

White Oak Flats Cemetery. Gatlinburg was originally known as White Oak Flats, still remembered in a few places in the resort town.

While various 18th century European and early American hunters and fur trappers probably traversed or camped in the flats where Gatlinburg is now situated, it was Edgefield, South Carolina native William Ogle (1751–1803) who first decided to permanently settle in the area.[9] With the help of the Cherokee, Ogle cut, hewed, and notched logs in the flats, planning to erect a cabin the following year.[10] He returned home to Edgefield to retrieve his family and grow one final crop for supplies. Shortly after his arrival in Edgefield, however, a malaria epidemic swept the low country, and Ogle succumbed in 1803.[11] His widow, Martha Jane Huskey Ogle (1756–1827), moved the family to Virginia, where she had relatives. Sometime around 1806, Martha Huskey Ogle and her brother, Peter Huskey, along with her daughter, Rebecca and her husband, James McCarter made the journey over the Indian Gap Trail to what is now Gatlinburg, where William's notched logs awaited them.[11] Shortly after their arrival, they erected a cabin near the confluence of Baskins Creek and the West Fork of the Little Pigeon.[1] The cabin still stands today near the heart of Gatlinburg. James and Rebecca McCarter settled in the Cartertown district of Gatlinburg. [12]

rather than Indian Gap. Newfound Gap US-441 largely follows this same route today, although it crests at [8]

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