While hiking in Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains National Park, hiker Jordan Liles discovered something you probably wouldn’t expect to find in the middle of a nature preserve: an entire town, completely abandoned, and being reclaimed by nature.
The Wonderland Hotel Annex
A cottage, heavily damaged.
The town is, or was, named Elkmont, and is now referred to as being part of the Elkmont Historic District. It’s located on the still-active Elkmont Campground, in the park. Since it was built in the early 20th century, the site has been home to a hotel and resort community, and, before that, to a pioneer community and logging town.
The hotel in the early 1900s.
The fountain’s foundation can still be found on the property.
The dining room of the hotel in about 1990, two years before closing.
At this time, there were only six property holders left at Wonderland.
To get there, Liles went about a mile up an old gravel road inside the park and entered the abandoned community. It consists of houses and a large hotel, called the Wonderland Hotel and built in 1912. The hotel, and the surrounding houses, became known as the “Wonderland Club,” and were used as exclusive vacation properties in the 1920s and 30s. When the land became a federal park in the 30s, the owners of the cottages were given lifetime leases, so they could keep enjoying their vacation homes. However, the park officials eventually got tired of dealing with the properties, and the lifetime leases became 20-year leases in 1952. By 1992, the park refused to renew the leases, and the hotel and cottages were slated for removal. However, some people considered the buildings historical, and a debate over their fate would go on for the next fifteen years.
For now, it looks like the Wonderland Club has been spared, though the buildings are falling quickly into disrepair. Restoration efforts would more than likely go into the neighboring Appalachian Club, whose buildings are older as well as more historically significant to the area.
The Wonderland Annex, which is the only part of the hotel that remains standing.
This sign provides hikers with information about the Wonderland Club.
Luckily for us, though, Liles had his camera with him when he rediscovered the Wonderland Club, so even if the buildings deteriorate or are removed, we’ll always have a record of them. Liles compiled his footage into a 22-minute documentary called ‘Tennessee Wonderland,” in which he explores the buildings, including some of the cottages and the Wonderland Annex, which is the standing structure of the hotel. The main hotel collapsed in 2005 after being damaged by a fire a decade earlier, and its remains have been dismantled.
Be sure to watch it until the end, where you can see images of the Wonderland Club throughout the years, including then-and-now comparison photos.
Read more: http://viralnova.com/tennessee-wonderland/