When you're driving past all the shimmering lights and action-packed attractions in Pigeon Forge, it's easy to forget about the storied history of this peaceful mountain community.
While many visitors come to Pigeon Forge to experience Dollywood and other fun sights, many of us want to explore the region's distant past. There are many sites that tell the history of Pigeon Forge, TN you won't want to miss during your stay.
While there are dozens of places to experience days gone by in the Smoky Mountains, we've made a list of the top 5 most historic places in Pigeon Forge, TN!
Use this guide on the top Pigeon Forge historic sites to plan a vacation that's as educational as it is fun!
1. The Old Mill
The Old Mill in Pigeon Forge is, in fact, very old. This working grist mill dates from 1830 and stands as the only building in Pigeon Forge listed under the National Registry of Historic Places.
The mill stands on a lovely section of the Little Pigeon River where some of the first settlers made their home over two centuries ago. This site was also home to a iron forge, for which Pigeon Forge received its name.
Today, visitors can still explore this working grist mill that produces ground grains for the Old Mill Restaurant. Take a tour of the mill to learn about the important role this mill played in Pigeon Forge's history. Don't forget to snap some pictures of the iconic waterwheel and the beautiful Little Pigeon River!
Nestled inside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park only a short drive from Pigeon Forge, you'll find the historic town of Elkmont.
There are dozens of abandoned vacation homes and clubhouses that remain from this area's days as an exclusive resort community. Different areas of Elkmont have lofty names like "Millionaire's Row" and "Society Hill," for the elites who spent summers in the Smoky Mountains to escape oppressive summer heat.
This historic site allows you to see a mix of more recent history and the earliest settlers of the Smokies. Overall, there are 3 periods – early homesteaders, evidence of railroads and logging, and then a resort town of the 1920s and 30s.
The oldest structures in Elkmont are the Levi Tentham Cabin that dates from the 1830s and the Avent Cabin that was build around 1850. Together, these stand as some of the oldest preserved structures in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
If you're vacationing in Pigeon Forge, one of the best ways to visit Elkmont is to drive through Wears Valley and enter the park through the Metcalf Bottoms Park entrance.
3. Cades Cove
Cades Cove is a hotbed for finding historic home-places inside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The first permanent settlers arrived in this gorgeous mountain valley in 1818. Before European settlement, the native Cherokee used this valley primarily as hunting grounds.
After the formation of the national park, many of these cabins, mills, and churches were preserved for future generations to explore them and enjoy the valley's picturesque scenery.
By visiting the preserved cabins in Cades Cove, you can learn the story of past residents like hardscrabble settlers, moonshiners, and revolutionary war veterans.
You can see all of these highlights by driving the 11-mile, one-way, loop road that winds through Cades Cove. On your way, you may meet some local residents like bears, birds, deer, turkey, and hawks.
- The John Oliver Cabin
- John Cable Grist Mill
- The Dan Lawson Place
- The Myers Barn
- The Cades Cove Methodist Church
4. Little Greenbrier
As it's name suggests, Little Greenbrier was one the smaller communities in the Smoky Mountains. By taking a short hike on the Metcalf Bottoms Trail will take visitors past the Little Greenbrier School House, an old grave yard, and the Walker Sisters Cabin.
The community of Little Greenbrier dates back to the 1830s. Today, the only remaining home is the Walker Sisters cabin was once home to 5 spinster sisters who lived inside the national park until the 1960s. This historic cabin features a large porch, 2 levels, spring house and a corn crib.
The round trip hike to the Walker Sisters Place in Little Greenbrier is only 2.6 miles and is quite easy. The trailhead is in the Metcalf Bottoms Picnic area in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
5. Wheatlands Plantation
This historic plantation was once the largest farm in Sevier County. The manor house dates from 1824. This historic site also witnessed the Battle Of Boyd's Creek, a Revolutionary War battle between John Sevier's "Over the Mountain Men" and Cherokee warriors who had aligned with the British.
In the Antebellum Period, Timothy Chandler owned this property and 14 slaves who worked the land. As one of the wealthiest plantations in the region, they produced wheat, buckwheat, butter, honey, sweet potatoes, oats, hogs, wool, and whiskey.
Today, visitors can tour this impressive manor house and the property. On a tour, you'll learn about the colorful history of Wheatlands Plantation, which has been the scene of many tragedies including fires, murders, and battles.
You can find the Wheatlands Plantation just off of Highway 338 between Sevierville and Seymour, TN.
Exploring the History of Pigeon Forge
By spending some time at these historic sites throughout Pigeon Forge and the Smoky Mountains. We think that exploring this region's storied past will give visitors an appreciation of the first European settlers who made these mountains their home.
We also recommend visiting some other sites on the National Register of Historic Places in Sevier County for an even more complete picture of Pigeon Forge's past.
Written by Mark Frazier