Renegade Ski Mountain Resort
Have you ever looked up to a mountainside with wonder, thinking of the things that have happened there? Who lived their first? What life was like there? Well this next locale certainly evokes all of those questions. The Cumberland Plateau is a treasure trove for historians like Amanda and I, its past echoing all the way back to the Woodland Native Americans where the Crab Orchard region was a palisade.
Up on a mountain top near Fairfield Glade, Tennessee a local banker of the area, named Millard Oakley and a physician named Richard Evans had a vision of building a Ski resort. With his associate Jim Wilson, plans grew and took shape for a resort upon Renegade Mountain. They formed a corporation called Renegade Resort and Vacation properties. Their goal was a first class ski resort on Renegade Mountain at neighboring Crab Orchard, Tn.
Now as you can imagine this was no easy feat, on top of a mountain in Tennesee. Building roads and ski lanes, lifts and etc. Lot's of determination and planning took place for this to happen. It was the early 1960's when they got started and in the winter of 1962 the owners had the chair lift fully functional. The first season was weak, and snowfall wasn't great for the resort. The snow making equipment was not that extensive at that time. They boasted, one chair lift, one J bar and two rope tows. A clubhouse was built and German food was being served year round'. People from Knoxville, Crossville, and Nashville alike were traveling to the area. There was a large ski school and practice slope. The main slope was 3,200 ft long with a total of four slopes in the 1970 season. It makes you wonder who inspired who. Were the creators of Ober Gatlinburg inspired by the grand ideas of Millard Oakley.
After some fly-by-night dealings and sketchiness, the community and resort were headed for the beginning of the end. At some point in 1971 a group called American recreational services took over the property. The club was 36,000 sq ft and boast the lounge from New York's St Moritz Hotel. A lawsuit was filed in late 71' and that was it for Renegade Mountain until 1980. Four new owners would actually carry out the original plans and build the 18hole golf course, finish the club house and olympic swimming pool. They also invested over 3 million dollars into the reparations of the roads.
New snow machines were purchased for use on the site, and an expanded ski program was created. New all weather tennis courts and condominums were built. 1983 Peter Schuster and Harold Dude from Hamburg, Germany took over the Renegade Mountain Ski Resort. Peter was involved in a bad Polo accident and was killed in early 80s. He was eventually replaced by his brother. Some additional bad investments went down and money was lost to investors in Florida, putting the property at risk. In 1986 the ownership shifted and the property was renamed Cumberland Gardens. The property was then taken over by Hans Seivert an ex WWII Nazi Pilot. Even more roads were built, and the golf course was under constant construction until Hans passed away in 1991.
One of the main common factors for the demise of the property was the warm weather in the winters.
They had great snow making equipment but you can't make snow in warm weather and that is that. On top of the bad habit of poor management.
An Ancient Cherokee Native American burial ground sits among it's summit and the Trail of the Tears starts near it's base, it is no overstep to say that Renegade Mountain has a ton of history. The 36,000 sq ft lodge was destroyed by arson fire in 2001. People have blamed everything from bad management, to bad weather for the failure of the Renegade Mountain but when asking local real estate experts they claim that infrastructure costs on the mountain are simply too high to support the price that developers can expect to charge for their lots. At 2,500 ft high, it is one of the highest peaks in the state outside of the Smoky Mountains.
By 1990 DG Bank of Frankfurt Germany owned the resort and was making an attempt to operate both the slopes and the golf course. They invested heavily into the project however, 2008 was the last year the golf course was operational due to the rising costs of keeping up with the grading issues and drainage.
Shallow soil layer makes the ground unsuitable for septic systems. Finally around the year 2000 the German bank sold 3,000 acres of the formerly 6,000 acre resort for $3.5million to a group that includes some of the current investors. Security has been let go, and their post sits abandoned at the front of the resort. The last plans to be brought to the attention of the present day owners was one to re-open 9holes of the 18 hole course for golfing. But that hasn't seemed to come to fruition.
To add to the mystery and turmoil of this area, a horrifically superfluous murder was committed on it's grounds. On September 12, 2013 Jacob Bennett, 26; had shot and killed 4 young people, Rikki Jacobsen, 22; her nephew Dominic Davis 17;and their friends Steven Presley, 17; and John Lajeunese,16. They were found on the roadside of Renegade Mountain Rd in their vehicle dead by a neighboring resident. Jacob Bennett and his girlfriend Brittany Lina Yvonn Moser, 25, have been charged with four counts of felony murder along side Jacob Bennett.
This property has been through some repeated tough times. Although very little research has been done there, Archaeologists have studied the furs, burials and tools left behind and found that the way they were left seems to give the idea of a people at war. Later in history, the year 1794 showed Renegade mountain much blood shed for soldiers, in the Skirmish of Crab Orchard. The land was then used as a source of entertainment, however all that remains are the rusted steel posts of the chair lift, a haunting deteriorating water tower and an overgrown golf course. Is it the land that is tainted? Is this community forever to be doomed? All I know is, I will most certainly be back to explore the nature trails, golf course and the swimming pool complex soon.