For more than 50 years, visitors to the Cherokee entrance to the Park have enjoyed the Mountain Farm Museum: nine log buildings relocated from other parts of the Park and reconstructed here as a pioneer farm complete with crops and animals. It is one of those rare places to visit that is safe for the kids, interesting for the adults, and not a drain on the wallet. The buildings are scattered in a fenced field with a self-guided tour (booklet is available at Visitor’s Center). Local artists favor the fence and shadows that lead up to the first buildings of the farm. The main house has a bed set up and a quilt frame hanging from the ceiling the way many older houses still do in the mountains. “Leather britches” (dried green beans) hang against the kitchen wall and blue tin pots sit by the stone fireplace. The apple house is a mix of textures for artists: stone foundation and weathered boards. Notice the horseshoe hinges on many of the doors. Looming at the end of the farm is log barn with many photo opportunities: a rooster calls out a greeting from the rafters, carts and a buggy sit at the side of the barn waiting to be put to use again, tools hang on their wooden pegs. The hay rake parked against the split rail fence needs slow film and a tripod to capture the detail. A sketch artist could capture the timelessness of the scene with a few strokes of the pencil.
Just up the road on the left is Mingus Mill, a restored grist mill from 1886. It is a short walk from the parking lot to the mill, with a wooden bridge over a bubbling stream. The water-powered grindstone rumbles below the floorboards as it powders dried corn into meal. The attendant is a very outgoing man who tells good story of the mill to those who willing to linger a few moments in his world. Upstairs offers a framed view of the wooded path through the old windows. If you use a fill flash, don’t stand directly in front of the glass to avoid reflection. I like to take interior shots of the mill with a tripod and no flash to capture to mood of the natural light coming through the windows and casting shadows on the old wood floor and steps.
Directions from Franklin: Hwy 441 north goes across the Park toTennessee. The new Visitor’s Center is on the right just after you enter the Park, and has many interpretive exhibits and an interesting gift shop with books on wildflower and tree indentificationn Mingus Mill is a short distance past the Center on the left.