Kacee Pennycuff Harris
As the words “heritage tourism” buzz across the travel industry, the Upper Cumberland is one step ahead of the game with many historic attractions drawing visitors from near and far. The attractions included in this article are not presented as a comprehensive list of the region’s historic attractions in the region. They’re merely a sampling of how the U.C. is finding the future of tourism in the past.
Fentress: World War I hero Sgt. Alvin C. York called Fentress County home and much of his legacy is still available for the curious visitor to explore. The gristmill that York ran upon his return from the war and his country home are open to the public.
Cannon: The Arts Center of Cannon County displays a wonderful assortment of white oak baskets and rocking chairs that played a large role in getting local residents through the Great Depression. These goods served as barter for those essentials that couldn’t be grown on the family farm.
Clay: The Dale Hollow National Fish Hatchery has been protecting the future of the U.C.’s aquatic life for 42 years in Clay County. By ensuring that waterways are healthy and full of native fish, the hatchery continues to play a role in sustaining water recreation in the region.
DeKalb: F. Z. Webb and Sons Drug Store has served downtown Smithville for almost 126 years. As the oldest family-owned drug store in Tennessee, this charming DeKalb County icon is a local and tourist favorite with its unique specialty gift shop, friendly service and hometown feel.
Macon: Visitors should not visit Macon County without visiting the historic trio of hotels in Red Boiling Springs. The town gushes with history just like the healing sulfur waters that made it a health resort Mecca in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Visitors can watch a documentary on the history of the resort boom at the Donoho or see a play at the Thomas.
Cumberland: Cumberland County is home to the Homesteads Tower Museum. Built in the late 1930s as part of the program to help rural folks survive the Depression, the stone tower was the administrative center of the 250-plus farms that made up the Cumberland Homesteads. Brave visitors may climb the 97 winding steps to enjoy the view.
Bonus stops: War Museum, Crossville; POW Camp, Pomona
Jackson: Stepping onto Clover Street in the historic riverbank town of Granville in Jackson County is a trip back in time. The true gem is the Granville Museum with racks of family history waiting to be discovered. An historic attraction himself, be sure to speak to the curator, Mr. Joe.
Bonus stop: Courthouse Third Floor History Museum
Overton: The Governor A.H. Roberts Law Office in Livingston preserves the history of the Overton County native that served as Tennessee’s governor from 1919-1921. His term dealt with issues like Prohibition and women’s suffrage, making this mini-museum an interesting stop.
Bonus stop: Overton’s new history museum
Pickett: The U.C. pays homage to another hometown legend at the Cordell Hull Birthplace in Byrdstown. Visitors can see where the “Father of the United Nations” was born and raised while browsing a wide collection of artifacts and historic items.
Putnam: It’s all aboard for a fun history lesson at the Cookeville Depot Museum. Built in 1909 by the Tennessee Central Railroad Company, the depot has model trains and exhibits that illustrate the impact the railroad had on our economy and history. Kids of all ages can climb aboard the steam locomotive and two cabooses located on site.
Bonus stop: Putnam County History Museum
Smith: The Smith County Heritage Museum is a hidden treasure for history buffs, featuring fascinating exhibits on agriculture, industry, the Civil War and everyday living in the past. A special exhibit on the county’s Century Farms garnered the new museum its first statewide award from the Tennessee Association of Museums.
Trousdale: The Hartsville Battlefield in Trousdale County serves as a reminder of the region’s role in the Civil War. Visitors can overlook the battlefield and graveyard. A monument stands to honor the fallen soldiers.
Bonus stop: Hartsville Depot Museum; Pioneer Village
Van Buren: Van Buren County hosted the first coeducational college in the South. Burritt College, founded in 1848, closed briefly during the Civil War to house Union troops. Today, visitors can visit the old campus where there’s the original entrance archway and a historical marker.
Bonus stop: Gilbert Gaul Homestead in Fall Creek Falls State Park
Warren: Cumberland Caverns in Warren County offers visitors an up close view of saltpeter mining operations from 1812. This National Natural Landmark is Tennessee’s largest show cave and boasts some of the largest underground rooms in the eastern United States.
White: A few miles east of Sparta sits an old building that served as a stagecoach stop and an early American Frontier home. The Rock House Shrine, built in 1835, sits along the old Wilderness Road that led travelers to broader horizons in the West and back.
Bonus stop: John White house, Fairgrounds, Sparta
Kacee Pennycuff Harris is executive director of the Upper Cumberland Tourism Association. To learn more about these historic attractions and others, visit www.uppercumberland.org and click “News Room.”