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. Since 1987, 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 concluded in 2021, also includes several 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. A large-scale mural on the side of The Pines Downtown, a historic theater recently turned family entertainment venue, showcases five of the famous singers who performed at The Pines Theater during its heyday. Seth Bishop also created this mural which includes Roy Acuff, Archie Campbell, Dolly Parton, June Carter Cash, and Chet Atkins.
Several new sculptures can also be found in downtown, including The Tracks of Time, a sculpture made using railroad tracks unearthed from downtown Sevierville’s streets during construction and commemorating the train that ran through Sevierville from 1910 to 1961. Bertie the Bird Dog has also found a furever home on Court Avenue and helps share the early twentieth century story of Dr. Massey and his bird dog, Bertie, who delivered his bank deposits to Sevier County bank and returned with the deposit slip every day for nearly a decade.
“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.
Trotter’s Whole Hog BBQ has set out to define East Tennessee Whole Hog BBQ. With a laid back, counter-service style dining room and self-serve beer taps, this eatery sources local whole hogs and slow smokes them daily for tender pulled pork and ribs. Chicken and house made smoked sausage are also on the menu – as is old-fashioned banana pudding.
Enjoy a trifecta of cool and delicious eateries and bars at The Central Hotel, a boutique hotel located in a former bank building (which just so happens to be in the same location as the original historic Central Hotel). Sip ethically sourced, locally roasted coffee at Honeybee Coffee Co on the ground floor of the hotel. Then grab a seat for lunch at Seasons 101 where award-winning Chef Deron Little’s menu reflects the freshest ingredients available in each season. On Thursday and Friday evenings, make plans to enjoy a cocktail and sunset mountain views at 101 Sky Lounge , on the roof of The Central Hotel.
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 , 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.
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), D Garden Floratique (an award-winning florist and interior design firm located inside an old hardware store), and Jolene’s on Bruce St. (a trendy boutique inspired by the shop owner’s love for Dolly).
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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