Pittman Center (population 500) borders the Great Smokey Mountains National Park, on the eastern edge of Tennessee. Before the advent of the first newly-American settlers, the land was in use by the Cherokee Tribe as hunting grounds. However, in 1785, following a number of battles between settlers and the Cherokee, the Cherokee signed the Treaty of Dumplin, ceding the area (now known as Sevier County) to the newly-established American government. The first documented American settler in the area was a Revolutionary War veteran named Frederick Emert, and the land around what would become Pittman Center became known as Emert’s Cove, due to the cove formed by the topography of the region. Emert’s Cove remained fairly small—a few other settlers and their families arrived soon after Emert, and their descendants make up a good portion of the population of Pittman Center today.

Pittman Center evolved from the recognition by Rev. Dr. John Burnett, a Methodist minister and physician, that the area was in severe need of an educational facility. He was given the task of building it after appealing to the local Methodist Episcopal Church. He was assisted in spearheading this project by his friend Rev. Eli Pittman from upstate New York. Land was purchased at the convergence of the Little Pigeon River and Webb Creek, and the Pittman Community Center was founded. The campus grew into a small town, which continued even after the Community Center ceased operating in 1963. The townspeople asked for a charter in 1972, and were granted one in 1974. Pittman Center covers almost all of the land of Emert’s Cove.

Located near Gatlinburg, Pittman Center shares with it the status of a gateway community for the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. Indeed, Pittman Center’s motto is “Maintaining Our Mountain Heritage.” Correspondingly, much of Pittman Center’s preservation efforts focus on mountain living. Historic buildings of note include the City Hall (listed on the National Register of Historic Places), the Emert’s Cove Covered Bridge, and the Buckhorn Inn. Pittman Center is also home to the Greenbrier entrance to the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. Its location on the Little Pigeon River, and proximity to the river’s Noisy Falls, make it a prime location for scenic hiking, fishing, and other river activities. All of these things are detailed in the Sunnyside Trail brochure, created by a state-wide collaborative effort and distributed throughout eastern Tennessee.

Pittman Center holds an annual Heritage Day Festival on the third Saturday of September. Historic records and books are put on display in the City Hall building, along with information on genealogical history. Historians are available to assist in tracing genealogies and with history research, while outside, musicians play a variety of music, including traditional mountain tunes. Other heritage activities, including dancing and storytelling, play a large role, and local artisans set up a handmade craft market. Local nonprofits participate with fund-raising activities as well. In 2010, Pittman Center added a new feature to the festival—a cemetery walk, with local citizens taking on the roles (and costumes) of historic figures to explain the history of the town to the growing number of visitors.

Designated a Preserve America Community in May 2011.


For more information

Town of Pittman Center History

Glenn Cardwell Heritage Musuem