Fun Mountain was a theme park originally opened near Great Smoky Mountains National Park and was later abandoned, all located in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

Over the last eight months, I’ve carefully been planning, researching and editing a new project in my spare time. I shot this new short film in Gatlinburg, Tennessee near Great Smoky Mountains National Park during the same week I was shooting “Tennessee Wonderland.” Today, I present “Tennessee Mountain View: Exploring an Abandoned Theme Park in Gatlinburg.” While my original goal for this short film was to simply explore an abandoned structure, it ended up being so much more. I know you value your time, so as with my previous two films, I placed a lot of importance on including an ending worth the time it takes to watch the video in full.

Also, part of this project is the presentation of still photographs, some of which can be seen in the short film. The entire photo album is now available, including some from photographer Brandy Amos.

I owe thanks to a lot of people, all mentioned in the end credits. Two key contributors are music composers Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) and Bing Satellites (bingsatellites.com) for providing the soundtrack. Photographer Brandy Amos helped with allowing the use of several photos from the past. And I also thank Bradley Reeves for being gracious enough to provide usage rights for archive video from the Tennessee Archive of Moving Image and Sound.

And here is a collection of articles, videos, images and other various links relevant to this project:

Feel free to contribute your thoughts in the comments, and I hope all of you enjoyed the short film.

Update (March 8, 2014): Thank you very much to both Yahoo and Knoxville News Sentinel for running stories on my film. One of my photos and a link to the story even made it in top center placement on the Yahoo homepage for several hours. I don’t think you could buy that space if you wanted to, so I’m very grateful for their kindness.

Old Comments

The following are comments originally posted under this article before this website was moved to its new location. I copied and pasted these comments in June 2024, so the number of years reflects that time period.

Brandi Osborne – 7 years ago

My husband and I honeymooned in The Smoky Mountains nearly 21 years ago. When I saw your video I called my husband and asked him if he remembered Fun Mountain. He said he did and told me that was where I talked him into getting on the Ferris Wheel that he hated. That brought back some memories, so I went looking through our wedding photos and sure enough, there was a picture of the two of us on the Tilt-a-Whirl at Fun Mountain. The fact that it no longer is open to newlyweds and visiting families makes me so sad. I couldn’t imagine then that there could come a time that the joy found there would no longer click and hum along with life. For me it’s been a very eye-opening realization about the impermanence of life. I don’t know if that is a good thing or a bad thing, but certainly it is very haunting. Thank you Jordan, for the beautiful film and for the memories.

Lady Alexandria Lewis – 8 years ago

I remember a time when the boys could do push-ups in the middle of the street in Gatlinburg just after Christmas, I was born in the into the family of McGill so I grew up in the Sevillerville, pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg Townsend area stayed in the Wonderland hotel and elk Mont Campground and on Mount Leconte Hotel. I remember Dollywood when it was Gold Rush Junction . I saw a lot of changes in that area. Most of them, not for the better. It is my belief the people of that area sold their heritage(my opinion). The memories are great and the pictures were nice. Thank you,

Lady Alexandria Lewis

Doroteo Arango A. – 10 years ago

Sir: my compliments to you for your ingenuity and for the quality of your work. Thank you for giving us the pleasure of “visiting” these places.

Joe – 10 years ago

I really enjoyed the video of the abandoned chairlift and the story behind it. It was very interesting when you explained the history behind the site.
The hotel had more character than the amusement park, but as you mentioned, money before history.
Thanks for sharing the video.
Joe Wydock
Conyngham, Pa

Jordan Liles – 10 years ago

Thanks Joe. Hope all is well in Conyngham!

Vesna – 10 years ago

To clarify for the folks who say the government forced these people out. The Elkmont cabins were used as summer homes for the wealthy folks from Knoxville and Asheville. Little River trail was called Millionaire’s Row. The folks from the Elkmont community were the ones who helped raise the money to create a National Park, to protect what was left of the remaining Old Growth Forest left in the East. The government did not participate in this until after the money was raised, $5 million by local citizens and $5 million by JD Rockefeller. The Elkmont folks, like many of the rest of the folks living in what was the Park, were given a life time lease. The leases expired in the 1970’s and in the 1990’s. The Park is now the most visited National Park in the country turning what was a very poor area into a multi million dollar tourist destination. The creation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park has helped the local economies greatly through the years, allowing our area to have some of the best quality schools in the nation. The Park not only contains the remaining old growth forest in the East, it is home to more life than anywhere else on the planet in the temperate zone.

Lee N. Allen – 10 years ago

Jordan:
In the 1930s and 1940s, as late as 1949, my parents (born in 1899 and 1904) took my brother and me (b. 1926, 1931) up to Elkmont. Mother’s father was a member of the Appalachian Club and she spent much time as a child each summer vacationing there. She took us in the 1930s to the Appalachian Club area and we drove through the grounds. I am dubious that I could locate it today (if it even exists). We were spending Daddy’s vacation at a family-owned cottage nearer the Wonhderland Hotel, just back of the boys camp that was just across the road from the Wonderland Hotel. My uncle bought a tract of land and built a very substantial cabin, made from cinder block, produced by a cinder block factory (if that’s what you call such a place) of which he was a partner. In the 1960s my wife and I made an exploratory trip to Elkmont, and I learned that the cabin had been turned into a home for Park officials. So far as I could tell it was the only structure which survived on that real estate development.

On the same trip in the 1960s my wife and I drove up to the Wonderland Hotel, which was still functioning, but it had too few clients to have made survivability likely, and on a subsequent trip we found it abandoned. During the Depression years that we used my family’s Elkmont cabin, our family went to Gatlinburg to one of the four or five big hotels with white-table-cloth dining rooms for special meals. I think that we ate at Wonderland only once or twice in all these years No reason for eating so few meals there; we just wanted to go down to Gatlinburg.

When we used to go to Elkmont during the pre-World War II era, there was a small grocery store about a quarter mile beyond the Wonderland (but before reaching the Appalachian Club), which also had a contract post office, which received mail once a day. Across the road from the store was an old one-room school house, which was no longer used, since there was no resident population. In my 88 years of life, I have traveled in all but three or four states and in some two dozen nations on five continents. I say this not to brag, but to explain why I cannot answer any questions about the school house. Specifically, I cannot recall whether it was open, and if were, I don’t recall whether there were furnishings in it. I have viewed so many school rooms that I am uncertain about this one.

With reference to Laurel Falls, Jordan properly described its location. In Park publications, it was described as an easy walk “for young and old alike.” To the falls is about a miles with little elevation change. We especially enjoyed the trip in late spring when the rhododendron bushes were in blossom.

May I comment on the reason Wonderland was close and my family was not allowed to continue occupying their cabin. It was National Park policy that no private land ownership be permitted in the park. That is generally true nationwide. The timber lands were also acquired and their cutting ended. That was the objective Theodore Roosevelt had when he set aside lands that became Yellowstone National Park. Although my family suffered because of enforcement of the policy of removing private land owners, I applaud the result of preserving the land in pristine fashion (with the exception of the highways, and we need them to get into these preserves).

Thank you a nostalgic video on the Elkmont area,
Lee N. Allen, Mountain Brook, Alabama USA

Jordan Liles – 10 years ago

Hi Lee. Thank you so much for your comment. You will be happy to know that the Appalachian Club is still standing and has been restored. It is not open unless you have an event of some kind though, I believe. I may be wrong about that.

I found a bridge in the woods when exploring near the club. It’s a small bridge that goes over a small stream. It’s made of stone and really is nice.

I am glad that you were able to enjoy the video. Regarding your point about how your family did suffer from the park closing, the ending is somewhat good in that the land is preserved for future generations. It was a great sacrifice made by your family, but for good reason I suppose. I love the Smokies. Such a wonderful area.

Alyce DiPofi – 10 years ago

Hi, this just spoke to me. My Mom and Dad spent their honeymoon, in 1948 in The Great Smoky Mts. Nat’l Park, (Laurel Falls). I’m looking at their photo album as I write this. Is the video that you shared near these Laurel Falls? If so, I have an album full of pictures. Just wanted to thank you for sharing this. It kind of made me feel closer to them, now that they are gone.

Jordan Liles – 10 years ago

Hi Alyce. Thanks for your comment. I believe that Laurel Falls is near Elkmont. If you’re coming from Gatlinburg, pass the visitor’s center and then go up the road before hanging a left to go to Elkmont, you will usually pass a lot of parked cars that are people who hike to Laurel Falls. I’m glad that my video gave you a bit of nostalgia!

Mou – 10 years ago

Very interesting in terms of history.

Beth VanFleet – 10 years ago

My mother and I stayed at the Wonderland Hotel in the seventies. The rooms were rather old and not at all modern, but the hotel itself was enchanting! We ate in the dining room where the food was excellent, and sitting in the rocking chairs on the front porch was wonderful. We looked down into the woods and could hear the stream below.

Thank you for your documentary on the hotel. It brought back wonderful memories!

My family and I visited in the 1990’s and were saddened to find the hotel was gone. It was something I wanted my children to see.

Beth VanFleet

Jordan Liles – 10 years ago

Thanks Beth!

Ice – 10 years ago

Mr. Liles, I suggest you do more research on places you claim to have discovered. Elkmont, TN in the Great Smoky Mountains was last occupied in the 1990’s. So therefore it was NOT abandoned over 100 years ago as you seem to have claimed. Here, I’ve done 5 minutes on Google and have this:

The Little River Lumber Company established the town of Elkmont in 1908 as a base for its logging operations in the upper Little River and Jakes Creek areas. By 1910, the company began selling plots of land to hunting and fishing enthusiasts from Knoxville, who established the “Appalachian Club” just south of the logging town. In 1912, a resort hotel, the Wonderland Park Hotel, was constructed on a hill overlooking Elkmont. A group of Knoxville businessmen purchased the Wonderland in 1919 and established the “Wonderland Club.” Over the next two decades, the Appalachian Club and Wonderland Club evolved into elite vacation areas where East Tennessee’s wealthy could gather and socialize.

Upon the creation of the national park in the 1930s, most of Elkmont’s cottage owners were given lifetime leases. These were converted to 20-year leases in 1952, and renewed in 1972. The National Park Service refused to renew the leases in 1992, and under the park’s general management plan, the hotel and cottages were to be removed. In 1994, however, the Wonderland Hotel and several dozen of the Elkmont cottages were listed on the National Register of Historic Places as Elkmont Historic District, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, sparking a 15-year debate over the fate of the historic structures. In 2009, the National Park Service announced plans to restore the Appalachian Clubhouse and 18 cottages and outbuildings in the Appalachian Club area (which were older and more historically significant) and remove all other structures, including the Wonderland Annex (the main hotel had collapsed in 2005).

Jordan Liles – 10 years ago

Hey Ice. I’m sorry some other websites have given the impression that I claim to have completely discovered Elkmont. I think they’re doing it to sensationalize the story so they can get more people to come to their websites. Have a look at my Tennessee Wonderland video beginning at around the 19:15 mark for when I present the proper history of the land.

Matthew – 10 years ago

You should really clarify that you didn’t “DISCOVER” anything. People have been going to and from the site since the hotel closed. You can’t discover something that’s not been lost or even forgotten for that matter.

Jordan Liles – 8 years ago

Little late on replying to this, but it makes sense that the people complaining are the ones who didn’t watch the video. The video to which you’re referring is Tennessee Wonderland. These comments are about a different video, but I’ll allow it. If you did actually watch the video Matthew you’d see at the end that there’s no way I would ever claim to be the first to find it. Next time it might be good if you watched before you complained. Happy President’s Day.

Donell Thomas – 10 years ago

The government and so called ‘environmentalists’ forced the good people out of Elkmont. It is a shame how people got forced out of their cabins.

Shelly Harris – 10 years ago

More research was needed regarding Fun Mountain Amusement Park. I was the secretary/bookkeeper and my father was the builder and general manager from opening day until closing. There were several unforeseen circumstances that contributed to the closing of the park.

Shelly Harris

Jordan Liles – 10 years ago

Thanks Shelly. I would have liked to find out more about Fun Mountain, but there isn’t much information available online. Please share your stories if you’d like.

Edith Williams – 10 years ago

Oh, my goodness, Greg! You’ve really DONE it this time! I remember spending one night in the Mountain View Hotel with my grandmother and my aunt. I was only 8 or 9 years old!

You know how I’ve always enjoyed you columns in the Sentinel. But, this one goes far and above ANY of the other ones.

Edith Williams

Jordan Liles – 10 years ago

Hi Edith. I’m so glad you enjoyed Greg’s article and my short film. I encourage you to also view Tennessee Wonderland, my other film about Tennessee. You can search for it easily on YouTube.

Mary Osterhout – 10 years ago

Thank you for the opportunity to view another wonderful hidden treasure. It’s so exciting to watch as one feels like they are there with you going along for the adventure. It’s such a shame some of these wonderful things are left to ruin. I think your work is fantastic and I appreciate your sharing it. Keep up the fantastic work; looking forward to the next find.

Jordan Liles – 10 years ago

Thanks Mary. I don’t have another “abandoned” video lined up at the moment, but I do have something a bit different that I think many people will find interesting. Should have it coming up soon.

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