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Historic Attractions Part of the Dollywood Experience

A visit to Dollywood stands for much more than fun and excitement. It represents a trip to a simpler time when experienced tradespeople relied on their hands to manufacture the goods needed for their existence. It is a place where the values and traditions of yesterday are at home next to impressive roller coasters like Lightning Rod, Wild Eagle and Thunderhead. Some of Dollywood’s most beloved attractions harken back to this time and are on display for a new generation.

Craftsman’s Valley Features One-Stop Shop for Authentic Handmade Crafts

In Craftsman’s Valley, talented artisans continue to perform the same jobs that were so vital to life in the late 1800s. Blacksmiths, just like those years before them, use their skills to create beautiful hand-forged steel items. Customized metal gifts and home décor, including the always-popular wind chimes, are available for purchase at the blacksmith shop. At the Old Flames Candle Shop, candle makers dip candles the old-fashioned way, creating an amazing range of beautiful handmade items. Available in many different shapes, sizes and scents, visitors often find gifts from the candle shop make perfect home accents. Children also can create special keepsakes by dipping their own candles with one of the candle makers.

At Smoky Creek Leather, guests can purchase leather apparel and accessories crafted by Dollywood’s leather smiths, and those looking for unique pieces of stoneware can find it at Stone-Penland Pottery. That’s not all—woodcarvers, glassblowers and many other skilled workers set up shop throughout the park.

A Step Back In Time Brought Dollywood's Grist Mill to Life

                Nearly 35 years ago, employees of Silver Dollar City (the park became Dollywood in 1986) began work on a special project. Construction began on a working grist mill which would be built exactly as it would have been in the 1880s. It was the first fully operating grist mill built in Tennessee in more than 100 years. What does it mean to build a structure as it would have been 100 years ago? It meant that the roof shingles were split by hand, and all the door hardware was created onsite by the park’s blacksmiths. The structure’s round logs were hewed by hand in front of the building site with holes drilled in the logs by hand using different size augers. The architectural shingles on the side of the building and all lumber were milled at the park’s sawmill which was then located in Craftsman’s Valley.  The window panes were made by the park’s glassblowers, and each window frame was made onsite using steam engine power to operate the five-in-one machine which is now located in the Valley Carriage Works wagon shop.

            All work on the grist mill was done by then Silver Dollar City employees during the park’s operating season so that park guests could observe the process.  It took six months to complete the mill, just in time for the annual fall crafts festival.  The Dollywood Grist Mill is a complete and fully operating mill where corn and wheat are ground into flour daily.  Both are available for purchase by park guests, along with a variety of other goodies including the popular cinnamon bread. 

History Is Right on Track with Dollywood Express

            Steam trains played an important role in shaping our country’s economic, cultural and physical landscape, providing a vital connection between the isolated mountain valleys and the developing cities and towns located just beyond them.  Long before our interstate system linked cities across the U.S., both people and supplies traveled by railway.  The Dollywood Express lets park guests relive that bygone era when things moved at a slower pace.  

            Two Baldwin coal-fired steam trains—Klondike Katie, No. 192, built in 1943, and Cinderella, No. 70, built in 1939—have interesting histories. They were originally built for the U.S. Army, and both engines were used in Alaska during World War II to transport troops and lumber.  Klondike Katie and Cinderella now work for the Dollywood Express where they take park guests—up to 550 people per excursion aboard its seven cars—on a scenic five-mile journey through the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains.

Robert F. Thomas Chapel 

            Located in Craftsman’s Valley is the Robert F. Thomas Chapel, named in honor of the doctor who delivered little Dolly Rebecca Parton. The one-room country church, which still hosts worship services each Sunday, features modest wooden pews and reminds guests of a simpler time.

            During the regular operating season, park visitors can attend worship services in the chapel at 11:30 a.m. Sunday. During the Christmas season, worship services are conducted Sunday evening at 5:30 p.m.