UNITED STATES – When Joey arrived in Pigeon Forge, she felt like she had stepped back in time to the bygone era of 1800s America, with its charming wooden houses and architectural styles of yesteryears.

Joey Hadden, a New York resident, embarked on a trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and decided to visit Pigeon Forge in Tennessee in April. This town, located about a 25-minute drive from the national park, is one of the state’s renowned destinations, attracting 10 million visitors annually.

A more than 200-year-old town steeped in American charm - Image 1

Pigeon Forge from above, with the Great Smoky Mountains in the distance. Photo: TourScaner

  • Old Mill General Store, a multipurpose shop. Photo: Insider.

Joey spent a night in the town and stumbled upon a square that made her feel like she had time-traveled. This was none other than the Old Mill Square, a hidden gem in Pigeon Forge that has been around for over 200 years. It features a cluster of shops built in the architectural style of the 1850s to 1890s. The standout attraction in the square is the Old Mill, a nearly two-century-old water-powered flour mill.

The Old Mill has piqued the interest of travelers and is recognized as a National Historic Landmark in the United States. Built in 1830, it stands as one of the oldest continuously operating flour mills and one of the most photographed sites in the country. Today, visitors often pay around $4 for a 30-minute tour to witness how farmers from a bygone era used to grind flour. The architectural style of the Old Mill represents the local heritage, with other buildings in the area sharing a similar design.

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Old Mill Square. Photo: Pigeon Forge

As Joey explored Pigeon Forge, she couldn’t help but feel transported to a historic world with its abundance of wooden houses that reflected the architectural trends of 1800s America.

Joey was particularly drawn to the Old Mill Store, the largest general store in the town. Here, visitors can find souvenirs, food items like flour, cornmeal, and various other goods.

“For me, this is the most exciting part of the town,” Joey commented on the square, which also serves as the town’s shopping hub. Everything here seems frozen in time, with its enduring architectural charm spanning centuries.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Video: Youtube/My pigeon forge

After leaving the Old Mill, Joey visited the Old Forge, a small distillery with a striking red façade. The distillery’s shop features small bottles of spirits. Across the street, there’s a candy store, an ice cream shop, and a pottery workshop, all exuding a vintage vibe.

Joey had expected to find a typical vacation town with all the modern amenities, but the historic district surprised her. However, apart from the square, which she likened to a place “where time stands still,” the rest of the town is lively, catering to tourists with various activities.

According to Pigeon Forge’s tourism portal, the town boasts “beautiful scenery year-round” and is a result of a blend of longtime residents and young families attracted to its natural beauty, making it their retirement destination.

In the 1800s, Pigeon Forge was an agricultural town surrounded by the Great Smoky Mountains. Thanks to the stunning mountain landscape, it has steadily grown in popularity among tourists. Businesses were established, and restaurants opened to meet the growing demands of visitors. Some renowned restaurants in town include the Old Mill Restaurant, Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen, Local Goat, Bullfish Grill, and Bennett’s Pit Bar-B-Que. These eateries serve American cuisine and local specialties such as chicken, pork, lamb, sausages, steaks, hot biscuits, preserves, jellies, and candies.

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The food at Bennett’s Pit Bar-B-Que includes grilled meat, salad, potatoes, and vegetables. Photo: My Pigeon Forge.

Today, Pigeon Forge is a major tourist destination in Tennessee. Apart from outdoor activities in the Great Smoky Mountains, visitors can partake in entertainment at the town’s amusement parks and play areas. Pigeon Forge also has a library and an education system, ranging from preschool to high school, admired by many.

“You will find Pigeon Forge as a quintessential American town with a wholesome atmosphere, Southern hospitality from a bygone era, and a strong emphasis on family values,” writes the town’s tourism website.