Clingmans Dome Restoration: What’s it all about?

June 17, 2016

For the last few weeks, we’ve been pushing you all to vote for Clingmans Dome in a grant competition hosted by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, American Express, and National Geographic.

But what exactly are you voting for? And why is it so important?


Clingmans Dome construction 1First, a little history.

Clingmans Dome Observation Tower was completed in 1959. It was designed by Bebb and Olson from Knoxville, TN and was constructed by W.C. Norris from Waynesville, NC.

It was built as a “Mission 66” project. During the late 1950s and early 60s, the National Park Service was looking ahead to its 50th birthday in 1966 and wanted to celebrate with some amazing new features and buildings. In the Smokies, Clingmans Dome Observation Tower and Sugarlands Visitor Center near Gatlinburg were among the projects.

Since its construction, the observation tower has been standing tall atop the highest point in the Smokies, straddling the North Carolina/Tennessee state line.

Clingmans Dome construction 2

But for all that time on top of the mountain, it’s also been battling the elements. Wind and rain and snow and ice and sun. Hot and cold and hot again for decades. Weather and time have started to take their toll on the tower and its age is beginning to show. Some of the hand rails have started to rust and there are a few areas of exposed steel on the walkway. The biggest issue is the foundation. While the structure is still safe for visitors, there has been some settling in the concrete foundation, up to 4 inches in some spots. This puts an uneven force on the tower and could lead to bigger problems in the future. Issues like this, plus some of the more cosmetic work, are problems we need to get ahead of to prevent larger, more costly repairs down the road.

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That brings us to this awesome grant opportunity. Through the National Trust for Historic Preservation, American Express has offered up $2 million for preservation projects in national parks across the country. 20 parks are competing for a share of the loot, and the Park’s request for Clingmans Dome is $250,000. This amount would let us take care of the much needed repairs to the tower foundation, walkways, hand rails, and flagstones on the terrace.

So we really need your vote! This is an important project for (literally) millions of people. As America’s most-visited national park, the Smokies hosts for the 10 million visitors a year, many of whom have made the drive up to Clingmans Dome and have enjoyed (or huffed and puffed, like me) the trek up to the tower itself. With 360-degree views for 100+ miles on a clear day, this is a place where memories are made. From marriage proposals and a resting place for AT thru-hikers to epic sunrises and sunsets, Clingmans Dome is a truly special place. Now, it needs a little love.

Photo by Simon Whitehurst,, courtesy of GSMA

Photo by Simon Whitehurst, courtesy of GSMA

So here’s how you can help:

1: VOTE! Vote every day at VoteYourPark.org through July 5th. All you need is an email address and it’s totally free to vote. Plus, each day after you submit your vote, you can enter a sweepstakes to win a trip for 2 to Yellowstone!

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2: SHARE! We need your vote, but we also need your friend’s vote. And your mom’s vote. And your neighbors’ votes, and your mail man’s vote, and you get the idea. We need everyone to vote every day so we can stay in the running and unlock our share of the funding.

So click these big icons below to share our campaign on Facebook and Twitter.

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Thanks so much for all your help to get us this far. We appreciate the support and we are SO excited to put this money to good use — we just need to finish strong first!

Photo by Jim K.

Photo by Jim K.