Monday, October 06, 2014

Wonderland Lodge

I stumbled across a Huffington Post article that linked to a YouTube video on Wonderland Hotel. The video can be viewed here: Tennessee Wonderland. The videographer did a fabulous job documenting the abandoned hotel and surrounding homes. The property had been taken over when Gatlinburg National Park came into existence. You can Google Elkmont, Tennessee for the story. I don't want to go into a whole lot of detail on that simply because I don't want to share information that may possibly be incorrect. It's a sad little story, but I do have some good memories of Wonderland, although not of the original hotel.

I first heard of Wonderland Hotel from my now ex grandparent-in-laws. They had been going there for years, meeting up with out-of-state friends and playing bridge, chatting on the front porch sitting in a few of the many rocking chairs that lined the front of it, eating some fabulous food, and just enjoying the mountains. H (my ex grandmother-in-law) shared with me how the hotel guest rooms had no television, no phones, and no air conditioning. If you wanted to call someone, you had to go to the lobby. The hotel was run by a board and when the area was being converted to a national park, they were allowed to keep the hotel running until the last board member died. That was the story she knew, anyway. After that, the hotel was re-built on the outskirts of the park property lines and re-named Wonderland Lodge. That's the location I'm personally familiar with. I wish I had taken pictures of our stay there as the Lodge is now closed. We went there in 1995. We got there by turning onto a small two-lane road next to a house that I was told doubled as an artist residence. The road meandered up the mountain, you rounded a corner, and poof! There was the Lodge, sitting on top of a hill. I remember the entire front porch was lined with rocking chairs. The lobby was huge. Antique quilts were draped over the upstairs railing. It seems like I remember an American flag pinned up on the wall. A small table and chairs were placed at the front with a cloth checkers game draped over the table where anyone could pick up a game of checkers. Another room off to the side had a few games for the younger crowd - one of those foosball tables and an arcade game, I believe. I think there may have even been a phone in there as well. If you walked upstairs, you could see another table and chairs. This table had a jigsaw puzzle on it. The puzzle was for anyone to work on and throughout our stay I remember seeing quite a few people taking a few minutes out of the day to try and piece together another corner of it (and yes, I sat at that table more than once throughout our stay!). The rooms at the Wonderland Lodge mirrored the original idea of the Wonderland Hotel - no television, no phones, no a/c (although it seems like I remember some of the upstairs rooms had a/c). The breakfasts were huge, the lunches and dinners were great. If you sat on the front porch in the morning, you could see the mist move through the mountains. It was very peaceful. 

I looked up the Wonderland Lodge and was disappointed to see that it had apparently closed earlier this year:

http://dininginthesmokies.com/_sevier/dswonder.htm

And it looks like the newer Wonderland Lodge has been converted into a mental health facility: http://pasadenavilla.com/ which I think is a good place to have one. It's nice and quiet and has a wonderful mountain view. 

H and her crew continued to make the trek to Wonderland Lodge until just a few years ago when their health prevented them from making the trip. They had a good relationship with the owners and it seems like I remember they had started dabbling in horses there towards the end. I hate that I couldn't make it back to the Lodge itself before it closed, but I'm glad I have the memories that I do of it. It really was a magical place.

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