February 21, 2006

East Tennessee > Alleghany Falls and Alleghany Springs Hotel in Maryville (Blount County), Tennessee

"Linnaeus Hastings and Karl Garner at Alleghany Falls near the Alleghany Springs Hotel"

(This weekend's snowy weather reminded me of this goofy trip from last month. - LJ)

While Reading Blount County Remembered I ran across this photograph of Alleghany Falls taken by WO Garner in the 1890s. I had never heard of that waterfall. I couldn't find any mention of it on the World Wide Web. None of my books that cover the Great Smoky Mountains National Park mention it, so I was pretty sure it wasn't inside the park. The book said the falls were visible from Alleghany Loop Road. I had never heard of that, either, but it was enough of a clue to plug into Google Maps to get started.

Since the snow they promised us on Saturday never materialized at the lower elevations, it was a good day to search for Alleghany Falls. Melissa and Katie and I loaded up in the car, ate lunch at Kay's Ice Cream in Maryville, and then picked up our friend Jay for a road trip.

The Google Maps directions weren't quite right, but a stop at a little diner on 129 got us going in the right direction. (See driving directions at the end of this post.) Once we found Four Mile Road we got stopped for a bit while two guys loaded a surplus Jeep onto a flatbed truck. The road was too narrow to pass, so I got out and asked the guys for directions. One of them said he had played in the falls and creek many times as a kid. He assured us that we just had to go to the end of Stump Road and turn right and we couldn't miss it.

Within half a mile of the turn we reached a set of falls. It seemed a might small, but we stopped and took pictures. It didn't take long to convince ourselves that the falls were too small to be the ones pictured in the photograph unless Linnaeus Hastings was a midget.

As we drove further the creek switched to the other side of the road and got smaller and smaller and then disappeared entirely. We almost gave up until we found another creek flowing alongside the road flowing in the opposite direction. At 2.5 miles we found Alleghany Falls.

Sidney_Lanier_-_frontispiece_photograph.jpgAlleghany Springs and Alleghany Falls were once the raison d'etre for Blount County's finest resort. According to this excellent article, at various times Blount County's resorts included Wildwood Springs Hotel, Cowan Springs, Cure-All Spring, Mount Nebo Hotel, Melrose Springs Hotel, Kinzel Springs Hotel, Sunshine Rest Cottages, Yellow Sulfur Springs Hotel, Line Springs Hotel, Alleghany Springs Hotel, and perhaps the best known of them all, the Montvale Springs Hotel, where poet and musician Sidney Lanier set his only novel, Tiger Lilies. He stayed at Montvale during the Civil War from 1860-63 when his family owned the hotel. Almost all of the resorts succumbed to fire, changing railroad routes, and, probably, changing tastes in leisure away from the supposed curative powers of mineral springs.

Montvale Springs is the most storied of the resorts due to its longevity and legendary patrons - including not only Lanier but Smoky Mountains namesakes Thomas Lanier Clingman (Clingman's Dome), Joseph LeConte (Mount LeConte), and Arnold Guyot (Mount Guyot). In terms of accommodations, however, Alleghany Springs Hotel was without a doubt the finest of them all:

Alleghany Springs Hotel, located on the southern end of Chilhowee Mountain, opened June 1, 1886. Jesse Kerr, who had previously owned the nearby Yellow Sulphur Springs and had erected some sort of building for guests, owned the Alleghany Springs property. It was sold in 1885 to Nathan McCoy of Camden, Indiana, who built a pretentious three-story, 60-room hotel at a cost of $85,000, accommodating 300 to 400 guests. There were at least eight cabins and four mineral springs on the site.

(Alleghany is the correct local spelling for the hotel and the community in Blount County. The name Allegheny as applied to a county and a river in western Pennsylvania and a mountain range of the Appalachian system is spelled differently. There are four other counties by that name. The ones in Virginia and North Carolina spell it just as did the hotel. The ones in New York and Maryland spell it Allegany. The word is of American Indian origin, possibly Delaware, of uncertain meaning.)

A place was leveled off on the side of the mountain and the hotel was built leaving no opportunity for a head-on photograph. No known photographs of the front or overall view of the hotel exist. Most common reproduction is from a sketch which is believed to be based on knowledge of the hotel.

There were gas lights, electric call bells and a bathroom on each floor. A bath house near the spring afforded hot and cold baths. Guests had their choice of iron, sulphur or freestone water.

There was a commissary, a resident physician and a U.S. post office on site. Croquet, tennis, bowling, dancing, fishing and driving occupied guests. A wide two-story veranda extended the length of the building, furnishing a lovely panorama of the countryside for the rocking chair brigade and card players. It advertised 4,800 feet of shaded porch. The daily mail service provided passenger service to Maryville.

The cream of Knoxville society were regular patrons as well as many from afar. Alleghany Station (Greenback) on the L&N Railroad was established for the convenience of guests arriving by train.

The parlor on the second floor was elegantly furnished and a ballroom in the basement could accommodate 50 to 100 couples with ample room for orchestra and spectators. The parlor was luxuriously furnished in golden brown plush upholstered love seats, divans and chairs, and a rosewood piano. Crystal chandeliers reflected rainbow colors over the Brussels carpets and rich brocade drapes. Marble top dressers, wash stands and tables of walnut were used throughout the hotel.

In fact, everything about the hotel's appointments was of the very best for that day.

In the office was a large safe that old-timers remember which required seven yokes of oxen to haul it up the mountainside. It was used in off-seasons to store valuables, which among others included several dozen sets of table silver, a large silver pitcher and dozens of silver goblets as well as other large service pieces.

In 1895, the hotel went into the hands of receivers, the investment was too heavy and the appointments of the hostelry too luxurious for the isolated setting. Long after the hotel burned remains of the safe may still be seen at the site.

The hotel and cabins were reopened and in 1898 the cabins were reported as full. At that time it was managed by Dr. Jesse C. Kerr, who practiced medicine at Greenback. He was the great-grandfather of Lorene Smith. During that time, her grandmother, Laura Farr Kerr, became seriously ill and stayed at the hotel under the care of Dr. Kerr until she recovered.

Lorene's grandfather, Robert J. Kerr, operated a livery stable in Greenback. In 1906-07, he or an employee frequently took drummers (salesmen) and guests arriving by train to Alleghany Springs Hotel and back using a horse drawn hack.

The hotel continued to operate until 1915. The building burned in December 1932.

Driving directions

These are the directions we used, supplied by Google Maps with a few corrections and additions.

  1. From Knoxville, drive towards Maryville along Alcoa/Airport Highway.
  2. Just past McGhee-Tyson Airport the road splits. Bear right towards Fontana/Atlanta on US 411S/129S. Go 4.9 miles.
  3. Turn left at the traffic light onto 129. Go about 7 miles.
  4. At the split, bear left away from 129 onto 336/Six Mile Road. At the split there is a store and an historical marker at the split for Alleghany Springs. Go 1 mile.
  5. Turn right onto onto Four Mile Road. Go 0.2 miles.
  6. Turn left at Stump Road. Go 0.9 miles.
  7. At the T intersection stop sign turn right onto Alleghany Loop Road. Go 2.5 miles to Alleghany Falls. The smaller falls is at 0.5 miles.

If you're coming from Maryville here is another set of directions that may be easier.

  1. From Lamar Alexander Parkway (US 321) in Maryville, turn onto Montvale Road near the Maryville Municipal Building. Go roughly 7 miles.
  2. At Dude Cooper's store turn right onto 336/Six Mile Road. (Note that if you go straight you're about a mile from the entrance to what was Montvale Springs and until this past year was YMCA Camp Montvale. How things change and continue to change. Just when you think you're studying history it decides to study you.)
  3. Go 5.4 miles.
  4. Turn left onto Alleghany Loop Road. When we were there the sign was missing, but the sign across from Alleghany Loop Road is Chota Road. There's a store or shop of some kind painted white on the right side of the intersection, and a sign for Ridge Valley Farms, where Starke and Amanda got married.
  5. How far is it to the falls? Can't say, since we didn't go that way and therefore didn't gauge it, but it's right on the road and if you've got eyes you just can't miss it.

    More Goofy Trips

    Posted by lesjones | TrackBack


Any ideas what those building(s) were? Are they just old houses?

Posted by: Chris Wage at February 20, 2006

There weren't any markers or signs, unfortunately. The one story building looks like a store.

Posted by: Les Jones at February 21, 2006

What a great way to spend a weekend afternoon.

Posted by: Benson at February 21, 2006

If I'm thinking about the same place, the falls is roughly here, isn't it?

I've rode around Allegheny Loop Road a few times on bicycle last summer. Didn't realize the history you post above. Interesting.

Posted by: Brian A. at February 21, 2006

That's the place. I'll bet that is a good road to bike.

Posted by: Les Jones at February 21, 2006

Is Allegheny Falls on private property or is it public? Did you have to get permission from a private owner to access?

Posted by: Louie Allocco at February 23, 2007

I'm not sure if it's public or private land. The falls are right on the road, though.

Posted by: Les Jones at February 23, 2007
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