GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WVLT) – The Gatlinburg Inn, a longtime landmark in the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains’ trademark town, will remain open under ownership of members of the two families who built and preserved it for more than 75 years.
The future of the classic hotel in the center of Gatlinburg’s shopping and entertainment district had been in doubt since the December 2011 death of Wilma Cook Miller Maples, the widow of Rel Maples, who built the Inn on his family’s homestead in 1937.
The estates have sold the hotel and surrounding property to Gatlinburg Inn Partners LLC, owned by separate companies formed by the grandchildren of Rel Maples and members of the Miller family, most of whom live in East Tennessee.
“We had never met each other, so it took a while to sort things out, but in the end we saw that the only way we could be sure of preserving our shared legacy was to take on the responsibility and keep the Inn open,” the new owners said in a joint statement. “Any other course could have meant the end of The Gatlinburg Inn, at least the Inn that we and millions of people have known for decades.”
The Inn has hosted countless celebrities, entertainers, artists, governors, senators, former presidents and first ladies, and in recent years has been a quiet haven of country charm in the town that borders the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the nation’s most popular.
The hotel was featured in the 1967 Ingrid Bergman movie, “A Walk in the Spring Rain,” and was the place where internationally honored songwriters Boudleaux and Felice Bryant wrote “Rocky Top,” which quickly became the theme song of the University of Tennessee. Many other prominent figures in the music and entertainment world have been guests at the Inn.
The Inn will be managed by Hospitality Solutions of Sevierville, Tenn., which operates hotels in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. The firm’s president, Logan Coykendall, is a Sevier County civic leader who has eagerly taken on the task of enhancing the Inn while preserving the character that makes it a Smokies landmark.
“I believe in The Gatlinburg Inn,” Coykendall told the new owners when first approached about taking over management. “I’ve been in the business community Gatlinburg for most of my life and understand that the inheritors of the Gatlinburg Inn could have taken the easy way out but have taken a courageous step and opted to preserve the Inn for our community. Our management team is very honored excited about being involved in the preservation and enhancement of such a unique and historic property.”
The new owners had already made some changes, such as keeping the Inn open through December, which drew much interest and proved successful. Following some repairs and upgrades that are now in progress, the hotel will reopen on May 1. It will remain open year-round, as a constant testimony to the fundamental character of the Great Smoky Mountains and their people.