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First it was Coal Creek. Then the Tennessee town in Anderson County became the more stylish “Lake City”—a nod to being a gateway to Norris Lake, built by the Tennessee Valley Authority in the 1930s.
Splashy? Yes. But business began drying up by the early 2000s. And that’s when city leaders, in 2014, agreed to change “Lake City” to “Rocky Top.”
Yep, good ol’ Rocky Top. Just like the classic country song.
Police cars now say Rocky Top. And so does the handsome Rocky Top City Hall.
Even so, the post office for zip code 37769 still says “Lake City.” And so do some businesses in town. “I think you’ll have some people hang on to the Lake City name,” says Stephanie Wells, the director of the Anderson County Tourism Council.
Recently-opened businesses include the Coal Creek Smokehouse, specializing in pulled pork and candied bacon. For the record, though, it is called “Coal Creek.”
“It’s kind of a unique name,” says co-owner and cook John Dougherty, 48. “And, that’s a conversation that I have every day almost, ‘Why is it called Coal Creek?’”
The answer lies at the Coal Creek Miners Museum at Rocky Top.
“In 1868, there was nothing here,” says Charles “Boomer” Winfrey, 69, the museum’s treasurer. “Then the railroad was completed out from Knoxville. And they opened up a coal mine at the base of Vowell Mountain.”
The town of Coal Creek “opened up like a Wild West boom town,” Winfrey says. “Even when I was growing up, in the 1950s, you had a coal tipple right in the middle of town.”