Friday, February 20, 2009

THE ALCOA CLUB HOUSE ON CHILLHOWEE

click pictures to enlarge No, there aren't any picture's of country club's on this blog. However; I did hear of one that used to reside across Chillhowee Lake that was owned and operated by the Alcoa Company back in the eighties. For the past four years I have been stopping my boats at a little boat ramp on the upper end of Chillhowee Lake. There has been a chain across the ramp every time I was there. This ramp was located at the end of a strip of land that extended out into the lake. It is a very pretty place. Investigation has uncovered that that boat ramp was actually a ferry landing. I also noticed a concrete wall with a slot about twenty feet wide on the bank across the lake opposite this ferry landing. Just below that wall was the landing for the ferry on that side of the lake. Recently I put the pieces of this puzzle together. Back in the day; this was the Tennessee River before the dam was installed. Alcoa built an elaborate club house across the river where they would entertain wealthy business folks from all over. To the right of the club house was a private trout lake that Alcoa had built for the enjoyment of their guests. This was a first class operation. And an expensive one. Someone must have done the math at some point in the mid eighties because the club house was dynamited into oblivian leaving no trace. The trout lake is still there, and it's beautiful. The concrete wall was built to shore up the wall of the lake (embankment) and provide a spill way. Currently, the waters of Chillhowee flow up and through the wall, but just barely as you can see by the photos. It was a long paddle journey to get to the site, but I had time to veer off the lake and explore an unknown stream. A friend of mine knows the man who actually ran the lodge. The following are his own words written to me about the subject. I have omitted sentenses stating names: The lodge was named Scona Lodge. Pronounced “Secona.” It’s an Indian name meaning “across the river.” The lodge was built in 1933 and closed by Alcoa, in about 1987. It was torn down only about 5 years ago, the furniture, photos, trap shooting guns, etc, all sold at auction. The demolition was a below grade demolition, so that nothing remains. There was an old slate spring house on the property prior to the lodge’s construction; it was left and can be seen today. That swampy area you talk about, with the concrete structure with a gap in the middle big enough for a canoe, was a dam to hold back a trout pond for the guests to fish in. The gap must have let the current flow through. My friend, Harold, built a gate out of hanging chains which kept the trout inside. They could have pushed through or around the chains, but didn’t. The ferry landed below Calderwood Dam, and ran on cables across the lake. Above Calderwood, about “two city blocks above the dam” on the west side, was a dammed up creek called “first creek,” (being the first creek above the dam). That small dam was concrete over earth. It held back the creek, the water being used for a drinking water supply for the lodge and the dam, and a small village. The lodge was four rooms. There were four cottages in addition. Each room was named after a tree species, and was finished in the wood of that species. The walnut room had walnut walls, trim and floors of walnut. The water is crystal clear. This is water from a cold mountain stream. This is a peaceful, rather shallow stream that narrows more and more the further I paddled into the mountain. I went as far as I could go up stream and turned the ship around and got down to serious business. I headed for the main lake. The wind really picked up and started pushing the canoe to the left. It was a new experience to buck against the wind and associated waves. I rounded a bend in the lake and the wind was blocked by the mountain. See how calm the water is in the photo above compared to the picture above it. Eventually the familier little shack appeared with its associated ferry ramp I sharply turned the canoe toward the far bank of the lake and paddled hard toward the concrete wall I spoke of earlier. It was hard to hold the course toward the opening in the concrete. The wind was really difficult to deal with. I could have hit the opening but the wind would have put too much speed to the boat as it was hitting me from the rear driving the canoe forward at a speed I wasn't comfortable with. The lake for the country club lays directly behind that slot. I elected to beach the boat on the shoreline of the lake. The water was so rough; I pulled the canoe entirely out of the water. Above is another shot of the slot in the wall. It would have been fun to shoot through that slot. But if I missed; oh boy! If you look at the bottom of that opening, you'll see a concrete ledge running under the surface of the water. It's only a couple inches under water. I'm glad I beached the boat. The canoe would have hit that hard. The trout lake behind the notch in the concrete is beautiful. I walked along a path that must have guided feet around the club house grounds. This place must have been of fair size. I didn't have time to walk the whole thing. It was getting late and I had a two hour paddle ahead of me in wind. Incidently; there was absolutely no trace of the club house to be found. Amazing! It was time to go. I will return to this place and do a more thorough inspection when it is warmer. 40 degrees in this wind is not really comfortable. Off across the lake I go.