Today’s tourists weren’t the first to discover the beauty of the Smoky Mountains. A century ago, Knoxville elites flocked to the Elkmont area. Today, their abandoned summer homes are a ghost town you can explore.
In the 1830s, settlers began logging in the area called Elkmont. By the early 1900s, a lumber company built a railroad to transport logs. Soon the railroad transported people, too, including affluent Knoxvilleans visiting the mountains. By the 1920s, Elkmont was a summer playground for the city’s well-to-do.
Prominent visitors built the Appalachian Clubhouse as a social hub. The cabins and cottages lining the one-lane road to the club became known as Daisy Town. Through the 1920s and into the ‘30s, the club hosted dances, games, bingo, and horseshoes. Nearby, other Elkmont areas boasting larger houses took on the nicknames Millionaires Row and Society Hill. (Today the whole area is called “Elkmont ghost town” on many tourist sites.)
The creation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 1934 was the beginning of a slow end to Daisy Town and all the Elkmont vacation spots. The area fell within the new park’s boundaries. The National Park Service made a deal allowing owners to keep their cabins under lifetime leases.
The leases ended by the early 1990s, leaving the park with 70 abandoned structures. The buildings began to decay, leaving eerie reminders of their heyday.
Daisy Town is easily accessible. Park at the Jakes Creek Trailhead at the end of Jakes Creek Road B. Walk up the road, between the tumbled remains of stone walls, toward the Appalachian Clubhouse building. You can’t go inside the slumping cabins you pass, but you can look in the windows and picture families spending lazy summer days there.
When you reach the clubhouse, you’ll see the next chapter of Daisy Town’s story. The park has restored the clubhouse as an event space. Nineteen structures around Elkmont are slated for renovation by 2025, so come back to see how these crumbling retreats look once they’re spruced up.
From the trailhead parking area, take time to walk the Jakes Creek Trail in the direction opposite from Daisy Town. Spot chimneys, walls, and other remains of 1920s cabins.