In 1885 Civil War general Thomas Wilder constructed a grand resort hotel atop Roan Mountain near a hunting lodge he had built after he came to the area following the war. The Cloudland Hotel opened to great fanfare with plans to make Roan Mountain a destination for those seeking relief from the summer’s heat and allergies.
Wilder had a home in Roan Mountain, TN, but he enjoyed summers atop The Roan and thought a resort there would be a big moneymaker. Not only was the Cloudland Hotel located at a high elevation with cooling breezes, it featured fine dining, games, outdoor activities, and other amenities for guests, including 166 rooms with copper bathtubs, cherry furniture, and spring mattresses for the beds.
The Cloudland was built straddling the state line between North Carolina and Tennessee. In fact, the line ran through the dining room, and a table had a representation of it painted down its length. This made for some interesting times as Mitchell County was “dry” (no alcoholic beverage sales) while Carter County, TN, was “wet” (allowing alcoholic beverages). The Mitchell County sheriff would station himself strategically on his side of the state line, arresting anyone venturing over from the Tennessee side and charging them with public drunkenness.
The resort was the destination of visitors from the U.S. and Europe. John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club, was a visitor in the 1890s and was most impressed with the environment of Roan Mountain and with the hotel. Letters penned by visitors reveal other famous persons and give us a picture of a world-class destination enjoyed by many.
Alas, the short summer season atop Roan Mountain combined with high maintenance costs on the building doomed the venture. In 1910, the Cloudland closed, and its contents and exquisite woodwork were sold off or pilfered. The building eventually fell in, and a portion of it burned. Today, little evidence of the grand hotel remains on its location atop Roan Mountain.
In recognition of the Cloudland’s important role in Mitchell County history, the Mitchell County Historical Society chose the Cloudland Hotel as the subject of its 2018 Christmas Ornament. It is decorated with a drawing of the famous resort that appeared in a newspaper advertisement in the 1890s along with a sprig of the famous rhododendron that appears in the largest naturally-occurring rhododendron gardens in the world atop Roan Mountain. Please contact MCHS for more info.