History

Over 80 Years In The Making:

THE HISTORY OF THE GREAT SMOKY ARTS & CRAFTS COMMUNITY

No one planned it when the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community developed in Gatlinburg, it just happened. For years, artists and craftsmen practiced their specialty in downtown Gatlinburg. Sometimes in studios and galleries and often, out on the street where visitors and residents could watch them develop their creations. People came and watched, and the craftsmen did what they do best; they crafted.
John Cowden, Woodcarver

Around 1937, John Cowden and several other craftsmen decided to go home…weather, increased traffic, excessive commissions to shop owners, and other disruptions were impacting their ability to work as they wanted, and they decided to move their craft shops to to the Glades, where many of them lived. They left downtown to the shop owners and set up their own shop, studios, and galleries, in or near their homes.

They invited the visitors to Gatlinburg to come out to the Glades to see their facilities and look at their wares. They soon realized they could do even more and better work, because of the availability of their tools and supplies. Not to mention the reduction in stress because of being close to the comfort and surroundings of home and family.

Shortly after John Cowden made the move, another long established artisan and member of the community, Carl Huskey, a furniture maker, followed suite and opened the Village Craft Shop in the Glades. Soon after that dozens of other artisan and craftsmen started migrating to this new center of activity, and the seeds were sown for the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community.

As the word spread, more and more visitors to the area found their way to the Glades in search of locally created art, carvings, furniture, brooms, pottery, sculptures, candles, dulcimers, scrimshaw, and dozens of other locally created artistic creations. As the visitors increased, so to did eateries and lodging. The community continues to grow and new facilities were built to house the ever growing number of artists and craftsmen.

Several wedding chapels were built to accommodate the hundreds of young couples coming to Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains to get married. Then even more facilities were built to meet the demand for lodging when many of these same couples returned with their families for vacation, in later years.

Between May and October of 1982, over 11 million people visited the area while attending the Knoxville World’s Fair (officially known as the Knoxville International Energy Exposition) and one of Gatlinburg’s best kept secrets, the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community, was discovered. That’s just how it happened. For over 75 years this community of artists and craftsmen has continued to grow and prosper and has become the largest artistic community in America.

Noah McCarter, Chair Maker
With over 96 artists and craftsmen, dozens of eateries, quaint lodging, wedding chapels, and acres of free parking; the Galdes is a must see on your visit to the Smokies. If you’d prefer, there is also a dedicated trolley route (the Yellow route) for your convenience. All of the members of this unique organization are located on an 8 mile loop bordered by Glades Road, Buckhorn Road, and State Route 321 (also know as East Parkway).

Drive out to see us or take the trolley and see what everyone is talking about. It’s hand made in America; it’s a step back in time; and it is all here for you while visiting the beautiful Great Smoky Mountains.