Rest Cottage area dedication highlights history of area

The swinging bridge served as the main way visitors to the Sunshine Rest Cottage would get to their destination.

Photo by Jolanda Jansma

The swinging bridge served as the main way visitors to the Sunshine Rest Cottage would get to their destination.

Dorothy Storey had a mission in researching the history of Sunshine Rest Cottage and the surrounding community.

“I wanted to keep the history of Sunshine alive,” she said. “It is the oldest resort area in the state of Tennessee.”

On July 21, more than 40 residents and community leaders turned out to celebrate the history of the old resort and dedicate a sign and the grounds where the rest cottage once stood.

Storey lives in Cozy Cottage, the house directly across the street from where the rest cottage was located and where the historical area now sits.

“It is the oldest house still standing that Mr. Kinzel built it in 1907. Most everybody stayed here in the summer and would go somewhere else the rest of the year,” she said. “I’ve been working on this for 40 years. I’ve talked to so many people who had a house here.”

The property was originally deeded to the Sunshine Society of Knoxville on June 10, 1907, by Edward John Kinzel. The Sunshine Rest Cottage, opened in 1908 to serve Knoxville’s single female factory workers.

Storey said the rest cottage was built to serve girls between the ages of 14 and 16 who worked in factories in Knoxville. “The Sunshine Society built a three-story building, and, for $2, girls could ride the train from Knoxville, stay in the cottage for a week, swim in the river and hike in the mountains,” Storey said. “No men were allowed.”

The building later became the Smoky Mountain Inn, a popular place for tourists to stay and local people to dine.

On July 20, 1952, a fire consumed the building, leaving only the stone steps, the rock wall and the lobby’s stone fireplace, originally built by Mr. Kinzel in 1907. Over the years, a tree fell and severely damaged the fireplace.

In 2001, Pat Kouns, a Knoxville resident who had spent many childhood vacations in a cabin located near the Sunshine Rest Cottage, learned Storey was researching the history of Sunshine.

Storey showed her the damaged fireplace. Kouns asked the property owners for permission to have it restored. Lockey, Amos and Kevin Pryor, present owners, agreed, and she then paid stone mason Doug Huffaker to do the job using the original stones that had been knocked down by the falling tree.

Bill Kouns, Pat Kouns’ son, said, “I think God blessed me with the greatest mom someone could have. She was a champion of causes and people,” he said.

Bob Patterson, executive director of the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center, welcomed folks to the Sunshine Rest Cottage tribute and dedication. He thanked Addison West for his tenacity in working to make the plaque a reality. “He has been working on this five years,” Patterson said. “This would not be happening today if it were not for him.”

David Caldwell of Caldwell Fence Co., said West, a retired City of Alcoa employee with ties to the community, approached him about helping with the project. Caldwell provided the fence that lines the front of the property’s parking area. “We were glad to get to help,” he said.

Gordon Wright Sr. said the Blount County Highway Department paved the area in front of the chimney and new monument. “In my opinion, it is a very important piece of history that was in danger of being lost and forgotten,” Wright said.

County Mayor Ed Mitchell praised those who worked to honor the Sunshine community’s past. “This is another example of what the people of Blount County are all about, preserving the history of this county,” he said.

Storey is proud of her community. “Sunshine was the oldest resort area in the state of Tennessee. We love it. It is THE place to be,” Storey said. “We have the best neighbors and the best people. I think its history should definitely be preserved for future generations. Sunshine is precious to me.”

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