Clarence found some great photos of the old Blanket Mountain fire tower online. The Great Smoky Mountains Regional Project digitizes wonderful old photographs documenting the area’s history and makes them available online through the University of Tennessee Libraries in Knoxville. This is a wonderful searchable database to access a wide variety of information and images.
For example, there are three photos of Blanket Mountain taken by Albert Gordon (Dutch) Roth. The first photo shows a wooden fire tower, short and stocky with over 20 people sitting or standing on the tower. Mr. Roth took this picture on April 27, 1930. Almost no vegetation is visible and neither is the caretaker’s cabin.
By February 27, 1949, nearly two decades later, a new steel tower, much taller than its wooden predecessor, is in place. The caretaker’s small cabin is visible in two photos taken by Mr. Roth that day, and a growing fringe of trees and shrubs is quite evident. Looking at these photos, I’m inclined to think those mortared rock sections on top today are indeed part of the cabin’s chimney. It is the only rock portion of the little log cabin, which otherwise sits low to the ground. It has chinked log walls, a nice roof, and a full front porch. I could be quite happy in that cozy cottage – except perhaps in thunderstorms!
You really should check out this site. The Great Smoky Mountains Regional Project is a research based effort to provide a comprehensive annotated listing of all pre-1935 published items on the region, collect and preserve material, and digitize photographic collections, such as the Albert “Dutch” Roth Digital Photograph Collection that includes the three images posted here. According to the site, the Great Smoky Mountains Regional Collection “organizes, preserves, and makes accessible print, manuscript, visual, audio, and electronic materials on the Great Smoky Mountains regions of East Tennessee and Western North Carolina. The collection serves the research needs and interests of the academic community and the general public through active acquisitions in the following subjects: History, Culture, Literature, Arts, Folklore, Performing Art, Music, Recreation, Economic Development, Sociology, Human Geography, Anthropology, and Life and Physical Science.” There are links to other collections at universities, local libraries, state archives, and private organizations throughout the region.