Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Oliver Springs

Oliver Springs is a small town that lies just across Black Oak Ridge from the town of Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Like many small towns in Appalachia, recent history has not been kind to the downtown area. Yet underneath the apparent decline of the downtown area lies a rich history. The mineral springs from which the name derives attracted settlement, first by Native Americans who were replaced by Europeans before 1800. Richard Oliver, the town's  first postmaster, established his home as an inn and the springs as a tourist attraction. By the 1890s Oliver Springs had become a popular resort with a modern, 150-room hotel. When the hotel burned in 1905, the town covered up the springs rather than to rebuild. By then the economy had shifted to coal mining on nearby Windrock Mountain, where coal was mined well past the mid twentieth century. Today the Windrock coal lands are a 72,000-acre off-road vehicle recreation area and businesses thrive along the Tri-County Boulevard bypass.

The town has an active historical organization which is preserving and promoting not only the downtown, but also the many Victorian  homes, churches, and public buildings. The former railroad depot has been preserved and now serves as the town library.

Olga Coal, which appears on the building in the picture at the top of the page, was a real company, but it never operated in Tennessee. The sign was painted for the filming of October Sky, a 1999 film based on NASA engineer Homer Hickam's account of growing up in a mining town, Coalwood, West Virginia. Oliver Springs, Petros, and Lake City, Tennessee, all were used in scenes to represent Coalwood in the 1950s.

1 comment:

  1. Thank goodness they have a good active historical organization.