Great Smoky Mountains hotel: Why was it abandoned?

In a stunning and eerie video, photographer Jordan Liles explores the defunct Wonderland Hotel and the abandoned neighborhood around it.

A photographer came upon an abandoned neighborhood hidden away in a national park in Tennessee, and a video posted on YouTube last year documents his exploration of the haunting buildings.

“About a mile up an unnamed gravel road inside Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the back way into an abandoned neighborhood and hotel, some of which was originally constructed more than 100 years ago,” writes the photographer, Jordan Liles, on his blog.

The Wonderland Hotel was built in 1912 to accommodate visitors who rode the train into the mountains, according to the video. An annex added in 1920 after the hotel became a private club is the white building that still stands to this day, originally consisting of a front lobby and fireplace, restroom and 14 apartments.

Wonderland Club members each received a lot on which they could build summer homes, Liles says in the video. Just six of these members were still alive in the late 1980s. 

The Wonderland Hotel shuttered its doors in November of 1992 when its lease expired, and the final two home leases expired in 2001. In 1995 the main part of the hotel was partially lost to a fire and 10 years later, after its remnants collapsed, the National Park Service had it dismantled. In 2006, the entire district that includes the Wonderland Hotel was placed on the "11 Most Endangered Places" list by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

A blogger wrote about her stay at the Wonderland Hotel, which was described to her as “rustic,” shortly before it closed.

“At my first sight of the Wonderland Hotel, my heart just sank,” she wrote. She describes the quirks of the rundown lodge -–hauling luggage up a fire escape to her tiny room, a gap between hers and the neighboring bathroom, and thin walls allowing little privacy.

“But we found ourselves falling in love with the place. It was quaint. It was charming. It was peaceful. It was in a beautiful setting, and there was even the sound of a cascading river wafting up through the trees,” she wrote.

Liles’s video, “Tennessee Wonderland,” shows the historic homes and hotel, with the final scenes flashing between old photos taken when the hotel was still running, and what those places – eerie and overgrown – look like today.

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