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Cumberland's Iron Horse

  • photo
    The facade of the Princess Theatre in Harriman is part of the restoration that is preserving history in the Roane County area.
    Photo by Tim Barber.
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Thanks to the Cumberland Plateau and Watts Bar Lake, Mother Nature gifted Rockwood with natural charm in spades, but visitors likely will find themselves drawn in as much by the small-town appeal as the spectacular vistas.

Rockwood's historic downtown is under the stewardship of a non-profit organization that trumpets new arrivals even as it strives to preserve links to the town's roots as an iron mining community.

-- Compiled by staff writer Casey Phillips

BEST THING TO DO

Bluegrass Bonanza -- Every Friday night at 6:30, Yonder Hollow Productions (319 W. Rockwood St.) serves up a heaping helping of authentic old-time, classic country and bluegrass played by local performers.

• he show is held in a historic downtown theater that seats 150, but performances also can be heard via a radio broadcast on WYHN, 580-AM.

• Particularly adventurous guests can venture out onto the hardwood to clog along during the show.

• Admission is $11. Reserve tickets in advance for an extra $2 at 865-250-6718.

Source: RoaneAlliance.org

THIS TOWN'S CHOO-CHOO

Classic Appeal -- Rockwood is an antiquer's heaven. The city features more than 10,000 square feet of antique shops, many in the historic downtown district.

• Three of these shops -- O' Those Were the Days (224 W. Rockwood St.), Found (235 W. Rockwood St.) and Garden Center Antique Mall (239 W. Rockwood St.) -- are listed on the Great American Antique Trail.

• If your taste buds prefer older times, too, belly up to the counter at Live & Let Live Drugstore (225 W. Rockwood St.) and order a drink from an old-fashioned soda fountain.

Source: AmericanAntiqueTrail.com

BEST PLACE IN TOWN TO EAT AND WHY

Down Home, Downtown -- Rockwood Street Grill (215 W. Rockwood St.) sits in the heart of downtown, but the combination of a cheap menu of southern style cooking served with equally southern hospitality attracts hungry patrons from all over.

• Patrons waiting on a to-go order can enjoy a free cup of coffee or sweet tea.

• For a non-fried favorite, try the barbecued ribs or a charbroiled steak.

Source: Urbanspoon.com, RockwoodStreetGrill.com

Bonds of iron

• Population: 5,562

• Biggest employers: Albahealth, Capstan Tennessee and Chase Instruments Corp.

• Landmarks or geographic features: Rockwood stretches along I-40 at the base of Walden Ridge and is hemmed in to the south by Watts Bar Lake.

• Date founded: 1868

• History: Rockwood was once the location of a Cherokee village. After the Civil War, a Union general noticed deposits of iron. He purchased 728 acres of land and in 1868 constructed a furnace, around which the town developed.

• Most famous residents: Actress Megan Fox, Basketball Hall of Fame inductee C.M. Newton and author Christian H. Cooper.

• Unique tradition: Rockwood's annual Christmas Tour of Homes features some residences in the Kingston Avenue Historic District, where many of the city's first homes were built on land that wasn't owned by the Roane Iron Company.

• Unique characteristic: The town is named for W.O. Rockwood, who was the first president of the then-newly formed Roane Iron Company, which also established a community church, commissary and school.

Source: RockwoodTn.org, U.S. Census Bureau, Rockwood2000.com

BEST KEPT SECRET

Mountain Sparkle -- Open the doors on the riotously colorful, glitter-coated interior of Glitterville (220 S. Kingston Ave.), an internationally renowned home and holiday crafting and decoration company.

The storefront, opened by Rockwood resident Stephen Brown, is situated right next to Junior's Restaurant, where comfort food has been served for decades and touted by numerous national publications and TV programs.

When he's not abroad, business owner Brown -- the self-proclaimed Mayor of Glitterville -- greets customers with a smile.

Source: Glitterville.com