First opened in 1903, the Chilhowee Inn is the oldest operating inn of Blount County. Nestled in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains on the bank of the Little River, the Chilhowee Inn is intertwined with the history of this area.
Originally constructed as a hotel for early visitors to the mountains, the Inn has also served a boarding house for teachers during the school year, a nationally renowned restaurant, and today operates as a bed and breakfast. The Chilhowee Inn has passed through many owners over the last hundred years, and each has added to its special place in Blount County history.
Chilhowee (chil-HOW-ee) is the name of the mountain range in which the town of Walland is located. This range of rolling mountains border the Tennessee side of The Great Smoky Mountains.
Built by the Schlosser Leather Company, or “tannery”, the Chilhowee Inn was originally a 5 room cottage. Its main purpose to house executives visiting the tannery. Sleeping quarters were in the attic, where you can see the dormers. This was at the last stop on a spur of the Knoxville-Augusta line of the Southern Railway System, and the starting point for the Little River Railroad. The Inn was named by Mrs. Rachel Fisher, wife of the builder, Mr. A. J. Fisher who was also Superintendant of the tannery.
Walland was a company town then, named for the two principal partners of the Schlosser Leather Company, Mr. WALton and Mr. EngLAND.
All that remains of the tannery, is this entrance marker to the England & Walton Company.
The pictures below & left, show the first addition to the Chilhowee Inn. There were 8 rooms on each floor of the addition, with a hallway down the center(16 guest rooms plus the cottage). Staircases were located outside on either end. The addition was connected to the original cottage by a “dog trot” (covered porch). If you look closely at the picture on the left, you can see 6 insulators and wiring on the right of the picture. Yes, the Chilhowee Inn had electricity from its beginning. This was DC current, with the generating plant located 2 miles downstream on the Little River. There were benefits to being a “company town”. The tannery not only brought jobs, but also electricity to Walland.
All of the original structure still exists today. (Rooms are larger, and the staircase is inside).
Below is the covered railroad bridge which was the
only vehicle bridge across the Little River into
Walland, at this time.
The Walland Depot is now part of the Little River Railroad Museum display in Townsend.
US Hwy 321 follows the old railroad bed from Maryville.
Fording was the only way across the Little River to Walland, from the RR depot. Some locals made a little extra money by carrying visitors across the river in their wagons or buggies.
Below is a picture of Walland, Tennessee c.1910. The large group of buildings in the center is the tannery, which was destroyed by fire in the 1930’s. Lower right is the Walland Depot, last stop on a spur of the Knoxville-Augusta line of the Southern Railway, and the starting point for the Little River Railroad. A turnaround for the train was located across the river at the tannery. The Great Smoky Mountains are in the background.
Another view of Walland , c.1910, with the Chilhowee Mountains in the background. In the center left you can see the covered railroad bridge, and right behind it — the Chilhowee Inn.
A view of Walland, Tennessee today, with the Smoky Mountains in the background. Gone is the tannery & the railroad, but the beauty of these mountains remain.
This photo was taken from the mountain behind the Chilhowee Inn.
The Little River Railroad Co. takes the last load of logs out of The Great Smoky Mountains, before becoming a national park.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park opened in 1934, and was officially dedicated in 1940. Original proposal for the park included the towns of Townsend and Walland within its boundary.
For most of its history, the Chilhowee Inn has served visitors
to this area with a place to stay and get a good meal. It was
once used as a boarding house for teachers during the school
year, rent paid for by the tannery. This allowed for a 9 month
school year in Walland.
The Chilhowee Inn entered its “golden age” in the 1930’s., with the creation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This brought ever more visitors to the mountains, with over 9 million people visiting the Park last year. The Chilhowee Inn became nationally renowned for its excellent meals and service. People visiting the new national park, would carry their experiences back home, and write ups of the Chilhowee Inn began to appear in many national publications of the times. Local organizations, and those in surrounding counties, would come to the Chilhowee Inn for their annual meetings and dinners.
The Chilhowee Inn ceased being open to the public c.1970. It spent 20 years sitting vacant and deteriorating, until purchased by the Pullias family in 2005. Since moving in, John, Carolyn, their son Tom, along with family and friends, have worked to bring the structure and grounds back to what it is today. The Chilhowee Inn re-opened as a Bed & Breakfast on February 1, 2008. The restoration is far from over, but the Chilhowee Inn is ready once again to serve visitors to the Great Smoky Mountains.
Come and experience a part of East Tennessee history, and enjoy our hospitality.
- John & Carolyn Pullias