What comes to mind when you think of Pigeon Forge? Maybe you think of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Maybe you think of the iconic Wheel at The Island. Maybe you think of cruising down the Parkway. For many people, though, the first thing that comes to mind when they think of Pigeon Forge is the Old Mill. And for good reason, too. This Pigeon Forge landmark dates back nearly 200 years and has been a memory-making destination for generations.
The Old Mill in Pigeon Forge
The Pigeon Forge Mill, also known as the Old Mill, is truly a sight to behold. Nestled upon the banks of the west fork of the Little Pigeon River, this historic structure as been turning since 1830. Today the Old Mill is home to restaurants and shops, but it’s rich history gives a certain unforgettable ambiance to our Smoky Mountain city.Things To Do
Then: History of the Old Mill
Located just off the Parkway, the Old Mill in Pigeon Forge is a popular spot for tourists and locals alike. It dates all the way back to the early 19th century and is one of the oldest operating grist mills in the country. It has a rich history and is an important part of East Tennessee's heritage. The Old Mill was built by businessman Isaac Love in 1830. Love is an essential figure in the history of Pigeon Forge. He built the iron forge which gave the city its name in 1817 on the same industrial complex where he built the mill just 13 years later.
Initially under Love’s vision, the mill was used to grind grain. Local farmers would bring wheat, oats and corn to the mill to make flour. Love sold the mill to John Sevier Trotter in 1849 and from there its purpose changed.
The Old Mill Pigeon Forge: 1900s
Trotter was a Union supporter and during The Civil War the Old Mill powered looms used to make cloth used by the U.S. military. After the war, Trotter used the waterwheel to power a sawmill on site. The mill was sold to businessman A.T. Householder in December of 1900. Under his reign a generator was installed in the mill bringing light to the Smoky Mountains. The milldam we see today with rushing water was built by Householder in 1916. The generator at the mill and milldam powered Pigeon Forge until 1930.
By the time the Great Smoky Mountain National Park was established in 1934, Pigeon Forge became a tourist town and the Old Mill was recognized as a stop along the way. The mill switched hands several times as Pigeon Forge blossomed and grew, with each owner catering to tourists stopping by U.S. 441. Today the Old Mill is the only location in Pigeon Forge featured on the National Register of Historic Places.
Now: The Old Mill Pigeon Forge Today
Today, you can see the rich history of the Old Mill in many different ways as the structure serves as the centerpiece of Old Mill Square. Here you’ll find a variety of shops and restaurants, each of which borrowing from the quaint and rustic ambience shared by the rushing milldam waters and turning breatshot wheel. The Old Mill Candy Kitchen won Best of Pigeon Forge 2019 in the sweets category. Read on for more of their tasty dining options.
Today the restaurants and food shops around the Old Mill include:
- The Old Mill Restaurant: Known for its home-cooked favorites like chicken and dumplings and corn chowder, the Old Mill Restaurant is a can’t miss dining destination in Pigeon Forge.
- Pottery House Cafe and Grille: From fresh local trout to top quality steaks, the Pottery House Cafe and Grille is another top dining destination in Pigeon Forge. Sit outside by the pond when the weather is mild or enjoy the indoor dining room.
- The Old Mill Creamery: Fresh churned ice cream is a gift from heaven on a warm day, and that’s exactly how you’ll feel when you’re enjoying a sweet treat from The Old Mill Creamery.
- The Old Mill Candy Kitchen: Have you ever had a Bear Paw? This unique confection features chocolate, caramel and nuts and you’ll find the original version here at the Old Mill Candy Kitchen, along with other favorites like taffy and penny candy.
Shops at the Old Mill Square include:
- The Old Mill General Store: The Old Mill is still operational today and you can buy flour, grits and other products ground by the mill at this general store.
- Pigeon River Pottery: Appalachian arts and crafts are rich with history in the Smoky Mountain and you can see artists at work at Pigeon River Pottery.
- The Old Mill Farmhouse Kitchen: Find everything you need to whip up a true home-cooked Southern meal at the Old Mill Farmhouse Kitchen.
- Sassafras: Shop the latest southern styles at this boutique featuring clothing, accessories and more.
- Old Forge Distillery: This family friendly distillery makes moonshine, gin, bourbon whiskey, cream liqueurs and more. They also have a lounge and patio area for you to enjoy.
Find the Old Mill and Old Mill Square located off Old Mill Avenue, Parkway Light #7, in Pigeon Forge. With such a rich history and so much to taste, see and shop, you need to make this Pigeon Forge landmark part of your next Smoky Mountain vacation. Start planning your next getaway today!