There are few things sadder than an abandoned amusement park. Photographer Jordan Liles came across this site in Gatlinburg, Tenn., while exploring the remains of the nearby Wonderland Hotel and documented his find through photographs and video.
On a walk up a hill, the Tennessee native-turned-Brooklynite followed a rusty, rotting chair lift. Liles discovered that the airborne seats (probably for taking visitors up the mountain to enjoy the view) were part of the Fun Mountain theme park, which was built in the 1990s. It struggled financially and shut down in 2000.
"From 2001 to 2008, the rides just sat there, rotting," Liles explained to Yahoo in an email. Most of the rides were sold at auction in 2008 to carnivals and collectors.
Just before the equipment was dismantled, photographer Brandy Amos captured images of the ghostly park. The local had grown up nearby, and wanted to "record it with my lens before it was scattered to the winds," Amos told Yahoo by email. Images include a halted Ferris wheel, stalled bumper cars, a grounded Tilt-A-Whirl, and a carousel that looks as if it's just waiting for some children to hop on.
Now, since those were carted away, only the lonely chair lift (Gatlinburg's longest, according to an old ad) remains, along with the outlines of destroyed buildings and an empty pool.
As the photos and video show, the yellow metal chairs hanging from wires make for an eerie viewing experience. Not surprisingly, much of the ride appears to be in serious disrepair. At some points, the chairs, high above street level, disappear into the overgrown tree branches that surround them.
This area has been a tourist attraction for decades, Liles noted. "On the same property the Mountain View Hotel was built in the 1920s. It kicked off the tourism boom in Gatlinburg," he told Yahoo.
The hotel, a grand building pictured in historical photos, closed in the 1980s and was demolished in the 1990s after almost being saved with a proposal to use it for the town's chamber of commerce. When that didn't happen, Fun Mountain theme park entered the scene.
Although the family-owned theme park never caught on, it might have been an impossible task to compete with Dolly Parton's popular Dollywood, located the next town over.
Despite the area's tourism draw, the property has yet to be used since the park was sold off for parts. "The land right now is abandoned," Liles said.
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