Gatlinburg's Forgotten History: How Place Influences Interest in Heritage

Authors: Craig R. Laing*, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
Topics: Tourism Geography, Cultural Geography, Landscape
Keywords: tourism, cultural landscape, Appalachia
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 1:20 PM / 3:00 PM
Room: Bacchus, Sheraton, 8th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Gatlinburg, Tennessee’s municipal boundaries border the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. As a gateway town to the nation’s most visited national park, Gatlinburg is a dense cluster of tourist services catering to the park’s ten million visitors a year. As a service center, the tourist crowd has little interest in Gatlinburg’s own history, and as a result, the town’s heritage is overlooked and ignored. However, just across the line in the national park, history moves to the forefront of the tourist crowd’s consciousness. They come to the park looking for that history and the park service has catered to and fostered that interest by the construction of two visitor’s centers, one devoted to the park’s natural history (Sugarland Visitor’s Center) and one devoted to the park’s cultural history (Oconaluftee Visitor’s Center and Mountain Farm Museum). The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate how the cultural landscapes of the national park and Gatlinburg reflect the tourist crowd’s varied interest in their respective histories. This will be accomplished by examining how history is visually presented, or not presented, within the Great Smoky National Park, at its visitor’s centers, and along the Parkway, Gatlinburg’s main street. While recognition and promotion of Gatlinburg’s own history as a tourist town may run counter to the tourist crowd’s inclinations, it is time that Gatlinburg’s history be reclaimed.

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