If you've driven Soco Road from Maggie Valley to Cherokee you cant help but to have noticed a sign proclaiming "The Most Photographed View in the Smokies" which points to an impressive observation tower. Soco Crafts was started in 1947 and offered visitors handmade crafts and souvenirs. Over 40 years after opening the observation tower was added in 1988 to allow guest to view the amazing panorama from it's decks. The tower served as a water tower for the town of Hazelwood before being moved to it's current home. Next time you are in the area be sure to pay the folks at Soco Crafts a visit and take in the view!
Jennie Reninger truly was a remarkable woman! In her 94 years she was a rancher, real estate broker, world traveler, founder / director of a bank, newspaper reporter, tour director and in later life she became the Good Will Ambassador and Official Greeter in Maggie Valley, North Carolina. She and her family lost everything in the great depression and lived in a one-room shack. Jennie went to work for a newspaper where she wrote a very popular column titled "The Tattletale". During the 1930's Jennie invested part of her wages in cattle and for two years rode alone from daylight to after dark tending to them. If you would like to read more about the amazing Miss Jennie just click here to read an article from the October 7, 1984 Spartanburg Herald Journal.
Not so long ago if you took a drive along Maggie Valley's Fie Top Road (the road to Cataloochee Ski Area and Smokey Shadows Lodge) you couldn't help but notice that a little bit of Japan had been transplanted to the roadside.
Geisha Gardens was a tea room, gift shop and bonsai garden operated by our dear friends Hal and Jinny Jenkins. Visitors came from all over the world to stroll the gardens and enjoy the restaurant which offered such delights as "The Glorious Geisha Burger" and "The Chunky China Dog" as well as authentic Japanese foods cooked on hibachis. The gardens were gorgeous with huge lanterns, pools, Japanese style bridges, a gentle stream and if you were lucky you would see the occasional peacock! (see the photos below) Hal, Jinny and Geisha Gardens are gone now but their spirit lives on in our memories and the stories we share. Joey, Brenda and several of the current Joey's staff are happy to have called them friends. If you'd like to read an article we found about Geisha Gardens in the Miami News from 1965, just click here.