About The Appy Lodge
Why We Built The Appy Lodge
Gatlinburg has been home to me and my family for eight generations since our common ancestor, Martha Jane Huskey Ogle came to settle in the midst of the most beautiful places on Planet Earth just after the turn of the 19th Century. While the land that would one day become the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was indeed spectacular, it was also a rugged, untamed wilderness filled with reasons for its lack of human habitation. The land was rugged, the hills were steep, the soil was rocky, the wild animals were plentiful, and civilized life here was hard to imagine. Her husband, William Ogle had surveyed this untamed wilderness and determined that he would move his family from South Carolina to these hills of East Tennessee but unfortunately he would not live to make the journey. So his widow Martha made the journey alone accompanied by her seven children.
The Ogle family has stayed in these hills for over 200 years. The first hundred were filled with eking out a meager existence, farming, hunting, trapping, fishing and praising God that they’d just make it through another year of living off the land. Our country would enjoy tremendous growth, we would experience an industrial revolution, go through several world wars, but Gatlinburg was essentially frozen in time with its inhabitants occupying a simple life filled with love, faith, family, and little else. The Great Depression had little effect on the Smokies people because you could not fall into what you were already in.
It was not until after the early 1900’s that our people would participate one of this country’s greatest laboratory experiments of true capitalism. The land was magnificent, the scenery unmatched. These Appalachian Mountains, born early in God’s creation, eroded into the awe inspiring shapes so visually attractive today, were a natural draw for people to recreate. As the early settlers saw this newfound desire, the seeds of what would later become one of America’s most popular destinations were planted. Settlers built cottages, cottages gave way to tourist courts, tourist courts to hotels. Restaurants were built to feed visitors. Handicrafts, previously used solely for subsistence only, then became a hot commodity for regional visitors who frequented the Smokies area and wanted a piece of Appalachian folklore. A tourism economy, as modest as it was, was born.
If these were the seeds of tourism, then the creation of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park in 1934 would provide the water and fertilizer to grow those seeds into a full-fledged industry. The nation would soon discover what would become its most visited National Park. Yes, our family was in the hotel business then in Gatlinburg as it is today. Gatlinburg, over this past half century, has seen its quaint independent hotels replaced by national chains in virtual sea of cookie cutterdom. The names are different but rooms and lobbies and public areas are virtually the same. The brand standards of the major chains, for the most part, call for rooms to be the same from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine and everywhere in between.
We were or perhaps are part of the problem. Our company is a Marriott franchisee. Marriott is a good company. Maybe the best hotel company anywhere, but their hotels look monotonously similar. Their interiors are nice, sleek, professionally done, but pick one of three or four interior schemes regardless of your locale coupled with almost no choice about the exterior architecture. We thought, we can do better. We owe it to our ancestors. We owe it to the beautiful National Park that surrounds us and sustains us. What if we created a hotel that stood for something? What if we created a hotel that was true to its location and its community’s heritage? What if we paid tribute to a true American treasure, one that ran through our back yard? What if, instead of mindless abstract art, we adorned our hallways with beautiful scenery and facts and history of America’s longest continuous national footpath? It was through these very questions that we would set out to create The Appy. The Appy or more formally, The Appalachian Lodge would be part museum, part hotel. The Appalachian Lodge would seek to educate our guests about not only the Appalachian Trail, but maybe just introduce them to the Great Outdoors. We agree with the words of the famous author of A Walk in the Woods, Bill Bryson, who said, “…the Trail gave me a profound and lasting appreciation for the natural beauty of the country I grew up in. It isn’t the America I remember from my childhood. It’s an even better one.” The Appalachian Trail is synonymous in many respects with the American spirit and who we are as a nation. Its pathway encompasses a cross section of our great nation, exposing its hikers to almost every type of terrain, every weather condition, and the wonderful melting pot of our country’s people. The Appalachian Trail is somewhere up there with apple pie, baseball, and the American Dream. Its ruggedness reflects that same ruggedness our forefathers had to endure when they created this democracy.
So, our mission became simple. Be true to our heritage. Showcase the Great Outdoors. Take our guests back in time to another place, another time. Create a special environment of learning dedicated to a true American gem. Be a good neighbor to the National Park. Introduce people to the life changing and lifesaving passion of hiking. Share our love of nature at its finest. Welcome to The Appalachian Lodge, but just call us The Appy. Take on a trail name or better yet, let your loved ones give you a trail name that is uniquely you. Sit in one of our rockers and just enjoy what God has placed before you. Sleep in a much more comfortable bed than you’ll find out on the trail but while you’re doing it, learn a little something about one of the hundreds of shelters along the trail. Explore those great Americans who first thought of, fought for, and made sure that future generations could enjoy a transcontinental footpath forever. Hang around our lobby and maybe you’ll run into one of those brave souls called “thru-hiker” and listen to tales from the Trail. Enjoy old fashioned hickory furniture made just like the pioneers made it. We hope that the taste we give you for the Appalachian Trail and the Smokies will whet your appetite for a lifetime of love of the Great Outdoors. If that happens, we’ve accomplished our goal. Have a good time and have fun here at The Appy!
-David A. Ogle