EXPLORE NEW DOWNTOWN SEVIERVILLE, TENNESSEE
Beautiful renovations enliven historic Smoky Mountain city.
What’s old is new again in historic downtown Sevierville, Tennessee. From the sidewalks to the rooftops, recent renovations have improved the look and feel of Dolly Parton’s hometown, simultaneously restoring its original charm while adding modern amenities. Come pose for selfies by new murals, bite into local flavor at new restaurants, shop unique stores, check into a luxurious hotel, and enjoy the surrounding natural beauty of the Smoky Mountains and the Little Pigeon River.
Stroll along Bruce Street and Court Avenue to experience the most dramatic changes. “It’s a complete downtown renovation,” says Bryon Fortner, public works director for Sevierville. “The overall look is early 1900s style.” Sidewalks were widened, benches added, electrical lines moved underground, fiber internet installed, utility lines replaced, and new trees, flowers, streetlights, and bike racks added.
Physical changes have made historic downtown Sevierville more pedestrian friendly. Come walk around discovering the eclectic mix of established and new businesses. “There are neat places that you can’t experience anywhere else,” says Austin Williams, who chairs the board of the Sevierville Commons Association and is a developer who owns several buildings downtown. “It’s quaint, local, and historic with a different style and pace than anywhere else in Sevier County. More restaurants, retailers, and different businesses that are unique and authentic to downtown Sevierville will continue to open.”
As ever, the iconic standout of the Sevierville skyline is the Sevier County Courthouse, which was designed in the Beaux Arts style and built in 1896, the same year that the state of Tennessee celebrated its centennial. In 1976 it became the first courthouse in the state to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places. For more than 30 years a statue of Dolly Parton has adorned its front lawn, a tribute to the superstar by her hometown community.
The city’s $7.5 million streetscape project, which began in May 2019, also includes two new murals that bring fresh color to downtown. Painted on one side of an old brick alley is a mural by Seth Bishop and Ben Harrison of Smoky Mountain Mural Company. The nostalgic piece depicts a young blonde child enjoying a burger at Red’s Café, a former Sevierville eatery that was a favorite of young Dolly Parton. Across the street is the Wings of Wander mural by Sevierville artist Pinkie Mistry. Featuring a monarch butterfly, it brightens downtown, nods to Dolly Parton’s hit song “Love is Like a Butterfly,” and serves as a colorful backdrop for an Instagram photo. Several additional works of art will be added, including a sculpture made using railroad tracks unearthed during construction. New stainless steel rails are embedded in Bruce Street to commemorate the train that ran from 1910 to 1961.
“Five businesses will soon have new signage and renovated façades,” says Williams. “One particular brick building had been covered up with stucco in the 1970s. The goal is to go back to the original look of a historic downtown building.”
“There’s a lot of interest in the new restaurants,” says Fortner. Among them, Graze Burgers is best-known for its grass-fed beef burgers, though its hot dogs, soups, salads, milkshakes, and other options are equally hard to resist. The casual place occupies a building that served as Sevierville’s post office in the 1920s and 1930s. “Horse-drawn buggies used to pull down the alleyway,” says Williams. Now with a patio out back, “instead of pulling mail in and out of the windows, it’s burgers and hot dogs. It’s a way to commemorate the past.” Live musical performances are staged on Fridays and Saturdays, adding to downtown’s lively vibe.
The Appalachian , a new fine dining restaurant, opened in early 2021. It is helmed by Chef David Rule, who opened The Walnut Kitchen and worked at Aubrey’s Restaurant Group, Dancing Bear Lodge, and Blackberry Farm. The restaurant focuses on traditional hearth cooked Appalachian dishes with a modern twist.
For handcrafted coffee drinks and baked treats, head to Honeybee Coffee inside Central Hotel, a historic boutique hotel on East Main Street and a member of the Ascend Hotel Collection by Choice Hotels. Built in the late 1800s as Central Hotel, the original frame building burned to the ground in 1923 and was rebuilt in 1924. In 1968 the hotel was purchased and razed by Sevier County Bank and the main branch was erected on that site. Today, 101 East Main Street has come full circle as the mid-century bank has been transformed back into an elegant hotel bearing the name of the original property, even while the bank vault remains on the main floor. A new restaurant and rooftop bar will open at the hotel in the coming months.
Popular retailers that remain downtown include Ronel Raicsics Designs (a bespoke jewelry gallery), The Cherry Pit Quilt Shop (that sells everything needed to make a quilt), Beauty & The Beast Bridal Boutique (where you can get clothing and rings for your special day—and even elope, since an ordained officiant is on-site), D Garden Floratique (an award-winning florist and interior design firm located inside an old hardware store), and Mountain Zen Yoga Studio (which offers group sessions and private lessons).
Delve into the history of downtown by taking the self-guided Historic Sevierville Walking Tour. Forty points of interest – from jail bar grates to notable homes – make up the tour and additional historical signage throughout downtown add to the fun. Walking tour brochures are available free of charge from the kiosk in front of the Dolly Parton statue located at 125 Court Avenue or online .
With so much to see and do downtown Sevierville, plan to stay awhile. And you’ll want to return again and again, since there’s more to come, including new developments near the river, more parking, and residential condos—great news, in case you decide that you never want to leave this friendly community in the Smoky Mountains.
When the stories start with, "I had the best time ever...," you know you've visited Sevierville, Tennessee.
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