GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WATE) – Around 12 million people visit Gatlinburg and the surrounding area every year. Many stay downtown, while others enjoy the views from cabins and lodges high in the mountains.
One lodge just off Ski Mountain Road was destroyed, but the owner is determined to rebuild.
Ellie Morgan, the catering and events manager, was the last one to leave as the wind-whipped fire swept through the Lodge at Buckberry Creek last Monday.
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“It’s hard to believe, hard to see it now,” she said. “Very blessed that everyone made it off the mountain okay. All of the employees were wonderful that night.”
Buckberry Creek was one of Gatlinburg’s premier retreats, lodging both famous people and visitors like you since it opened 12 years ago.
“We have said we will send back your deposit, but some people have said, ‘Please leave it for the rebuild. We want to be part of that.’ So that was awfully encouraging,” said Jeanie Johnson, lodge designer.
“It’s just so surreal seeing everything here and the property, just looking at everything and it’s gone,” said assistant manager Katie Carter.
Buddy McLean and his brother developed the lodge. His grandfather purchased the property in 1945. The lodge had 42 suites that can house 100 people in luxury.
“Just like other people, we are resolved to getting this back. In fact, I just talked to a demolition person to see when he could get scheduled to come up here and look,” said McLean.
Somehow, a rocking chair survived the fire while everything else around it was destroyed. McLean says it will have a special place when the lodge is rebuilt.
“It’s pretty much a symbol of only one thing that really stands and it’s sitting here looking at these beautiful views and beautiful trees,” McLean said. “You can’t ask for much more.”
Also on Tuesday, a website called “Mountain Tough” was launched to connect people who need help with all the resources they need, as well as show volunteers how they can donate their time or money. Visit MountainTough.org for more.