Sometimes, you visit a place, and you don’t realize the history. Step back in time at the Old Mill Historic District in Pigeon Forge.
This 1800’s water-powered grist mill sits on the banks of the Little Pigeon River. It once produced the meals and flours that the early settlers of the Smokies’ relied on to eat and provided the electricity for the town until 1935.
We walked down the steps to see the Old Mill’s giant water wheel.
It’s an impressive sight. Then, the realization that it is using the flow of the Little Pigeon River to turn the 4600-pound stones and awe sets in. These massive stones are called French Buhrs and are made of flint granite. We saw only the second set ever used in The Old Mill’s 178-year lifespan. In action, these stones can convert grain into approximately 1,000 pounds of product per day.
In fact, the Old Mill still operates, and the products ground at The Old Mill are used in many of the dishes at the Old Mill Restaurant.
We dined at The Old Mill Restaurant for lunch. The biscuits and corn fritters we ate were created with product from the Old Mill.
The food was good.
I chose the Fried Chicken combo dinner, which was delicious, moist pieces of fried chicken served with creamy mashed potatoes and tasty green beans.
In its hey-day, The Old Mill was a place of announcements. Look around, and you’ll see where notices of weddings, birth announcements, death announcements all were posted. Through history, important items were tacked up–notably the Declarations of War, the names of those going off to serve their country–and the names of those who would not be returning home from battle.
The Old Mill was the town’s first Post Office.
It served as a knitting mill during the Civil War.
Today, The Old Mill is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and one of the most photographed mills in the country.
After lunch, we wandered through the craft shops and stores that preserve the area’s heritage. It’s a working tribute to the people of the Smokies.
There are a lot of unique shops here and plenty of photo opportunities.
You never know who you’ll see here. Hands down one of the highlights of our trip is when we stumbled into Iron Mountain Metal Craft.
The kids were fascinated as they watched a blacksmith make knives.
The owner and showman is blacksmith Robby Bowman.
If his name sounds familiar, it’s because Bowman appeared in Season 3, Episode 5 of The History Channel’s Forged in Fire and again in Season 4, Episode 5 featuring a selection of “Fan’s Choice” favorites.
Iron Mountain Metal Crafts is an up-close demonstration as Bowman shares his blacksmithing skills. He heats, molds and bends metals into knives.
It’s also a hands-on activity, where for a small fee, you put on the apron, and step out as a blacksmith, creating your own knife you keep as a souvenir.
Bowman is a third generation Blacksmith, which is part of the local heritage here. In the 1800s blacksmiths gathered along the Pigeon River and set up business, from these forges is where the town got its name, Pigeon Forge.
There’s plenty to do in The Old Mill Historic district in Pigeon Forge. Parking can be challenging during peak times. The food is good, and the shops offer a variety of items and shows.