WLA Studio is preparing a Cultural Landscape Inventory of the Society Hill section of the Elkmont Historic District in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This month, WLA Studio principal Keyes Williamson and Project Manager Cameron Yates began a documentation and mapping project to identify and record information about the historic site’s character defining resources. Using GPS and ArcGIS to record location information about the cultural landscape, Cameron is creating a detailed map of a variety of features associated with the development of this resort community that predates the establishment of the National Park. Using historic photographs, maps, and by pushing aside the rapidly accumulating layer of multi-colored, fallen leaves, Keyes and Cameron were able to find historic walkways, roads, long-abandoned ornamental garden beds, swimming holes, and remnants of old mill structures.
Society Hill is a component of a recreational community developed by members of the Appalachian Club in the first three decades of the twentieth century. In the first years of the 1900s, the Little River Lumber Company constructed a railroad deep into the Little River Gorge to haul out lumber and logs. The Little River Railroad began offering residents of Knoxville, TN excursions into the mountains where they could fish, hunt, and enjoy the mountain scenery. By 1910, a group of Knoxville businessmen organized the Appalachian Club, acquired a deed for approximately 50 acres, and soon began to develop an exclusive summer retreat deep in the recesses of the Smoky Mountains. Members built dozens of summer cabins, many perched along the edge of Jakes Creek, exhibiting a variety of architectural types and styles.
The Cultural Landscape Inventory is an initiative of the NPS Park Cultural Landscape Program. The Inventory combines historic research and existing condition analysis to provide the National Park Service with a scholarly and scientific basis for making management decisions about historic and cultural resources. WLA Studio is currently leading a multi-discipline team that includes architects, archeologists, and natural resource scientists to provide on-call cultural resource planning.