Location: Townsend, Tennessee
General Description: Located just at the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center provides an historical background to life in the Great Smoky Mountains. Beginning with a very good film about the people and history of the area, the Museum is laid out with exhibits of early archeological discoveries of the earliest inhabitants, a log cabin broken up room by room to display life on the frontier, and exhibits about education, religion, and industry of the pioneer people. There is also a separate Transportation Gallery with exhibits of early model Ts and horse drawn road building equipment. Outside are 11 historic buildings brought to the heritage center to provide examples of houses, barns, churches, schools, and sawmill.
1) I found the Heritage Center to be well worth the cost of admission. While I already knew about some of the history of the mountain people that lived in the Smoky Mountain region, I learned a lot about how they dealt with every day life. I found the Transportation Gallery to be particularly interesting, especially the exhibit of the road building equipment. In those early days of wagons and bad roads, the road tax was not a monetary obligation. Rather citizens had to donate time to build and maintain the roads. I know I have seen horse drawn graders and loaders before without understanding what I was looking at. I can recall trying to figure out how they were used on a farm, when actually they were designed to maintain the roads.
2) The most interesting house on the property was the temporary residence for lumbermen and their families. These one room houses would be loaded onto flatcars and pulled by the train to the new location for logging. The houses would then be dropped off along the train tracks until the area was logged and it was time to move on. The logging industry in this region did not last very long, but it was the dominant industry in the region for this period. The pictures they had of a location after being logged to be compared to a recent image of the same location are dramatic.
3) Once again we shared the Heritage Center with grade school children on a field trip, which we have learned is to our advantage. We were able to listen into an archeological presentation of field procedures used to excavate a site and they were making cornbread using Dutch Ovens in one of the homes. The small piece we tried was excellent and something Kal would like to try with her own Dutch Oven.