An exterior view of the historic John Oliver cabin in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
June 30, 2022

One of the most fascinating historical structures you’ll discover in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the John Oliver Cabin, which happens to be the first historic relic along Cades Cove Loop Road! This building is thought to be the oldest human structure in the park and dates back to the early 1820s, so be sure to include a visit on your sightseeing itinerary in the Smokies! Here are the top 4 things to know about the John Oliver Cabin on Cades Cove Loop Road:

1. The Structure is Not Actually John Oliver’s Cabin

The most surprising thing about the structure located on Cades Cove Loop Road is that it wasn’t actually Oliver’s cabin! The building was constructed as a more substantial replacement for the first crude shelter that John Oliver built for himself and his wife Lucretia when they arrived in Cades Cove in the fall of 1818. However, it was designated as a honeymoon cabin for their son to use whenever he got married. John Oliver’s actual cabin stood about 50 yards back from the cabin that is now identified as the original!

2. The Cabin Features a Unique Construction

John Oliver Cabin

Another thing to know about the John Oliver Cabin is that it is held together entirely by gravity and notched corners, meaning there are no pegs or nails to hold it together! That was quite an impressive feat of engineering for the time, especially since it is estimated that the cabin was built in the 1850s. The Olivers had expanded the cabin over the years, but now it is all that remains of their homestead. It is thought that the park removed all of the additions to restore the cabin to its original appearance, which is not an uncommon practice.

3. The Cabin is Easily Accessible

One of the things that makes the cabin such a popular destination in the Smokies is that it is easily accessible from Cades Cove Loop Road. This historic structure is an easy 5 minute walk from the parking area, which is located immediately past Sparks Lane. Since the cabin is open to the public, you can see it for yourself and imagine what it was like living in Cades Cove in the early to mid 1800s! Allow about 45 minutes to see the cabin and explore the interior, which also allows time to chat with the volunteers who are sometimes available to answer questions.

4. John Oliver Fought to Keep the Cabin

An exterior view of the historic John Oliver cabin in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

An interesting tidbit about the John Oliver Cabin is that he fought to keep the cabin when efforts to establish the Great Smoky Mountains National Park required the residents of Cades Cove to sell their land. While some complied, others such as Oliver fought back to retain the property that he had worked so hard to build. He went to court a few times before eventually losing his case and was compensated for the land. So the cabin is not only one of the oldest structures in the park, but also one of the most recently vacated!

Now that you know more about the John Oliver Cabin, learn about some of the other fascinating things you can find in Cades Cove! We look forward to seeing you in the Smokies!