Tennessee June 08, 2017
Why Everyone Should Visit The Smallest City In Tennessee
Nashville just recently overtook Memphis as the largest city in Tennessee, making headlines across the state. But what about the opposite side of the spectrum, the tiniest town in Tennessee? There are quite a few that run neck-and-neck when it comes to population size, but the sweet town of Oakdale stood out as not only a sweet place to live, but a darling place to visit.
Oakdale, Tennessee is the quintessential East Tennessee railroad town. Located on the Emory River in East Tennessee, about an hour West of Knoxville, Oakdale was originally called Honeycutt after its first settler, Allen Honeycutt.
Oakdale was founded in the late 1800s when the Cincinnati Southern Railway built a rail yard there to modify steam-powered locomotives that couldn't handle the steep grades to the North.
By the early 1900s, the town was booming, complete with a bank, a drugstore, five general stores, three schools, and six secret societies(!). At the height of its boom, the town boasted a population of 3500 people, much more than the town's current population of about 200.
One of the most famous features of the town was the Babahatchie Inn - a hotel built along the banks of the river that runs through the town. The inn was later converted to a 1500-bed YMCA (one of the largest in the nation at the time), but it has since been destroyed. Oakdale's most iconic building now is the Old Methodist Church that still overlooks the river from the west bank.
With the advent of the diesel locomotive, the town's train yard was no longer needed for trains to be able to traverse the difficult tracks outside of town. The town has steadily declined in population since, but the memories remain and can be seen by visitors who know what they're looking for.
Just upstream from Oakdale is the often overlooked Lone Mountain State Forest. This park owned by the State of Tennessee features over 15 miles of back-country hiking trails, including one that leads to Coyote Point, an overlook that offers stunning, 20-mile views.
Probably the best hidden gem in Oakdale is Wendell's Market and Deli. It's hidden because you may not think about stopping at this gas station deli, but trust us, you'll be glad you did. Wendell has been serving up great sandwiches (try the Philly Cheesesteak) and ice cream for years.
Pretty neat, wouldn’t you say? Have you ever visited?