History of Hickory Star

Hickory Star Marina 1947

Hickory Star Resort and Marina will be celebrating its 75th anniversary in a few years. The history of the marina goes back to 1947 and possibly further, but no one associated with the marina today can recall. Justin Noah is the current manager.

“I have a photo dated 1947,” said Noah. “The marina may date back before that but I can’t find any records or older photos.”

This history was told to me by people who were not there at the beginning, but who have gained their knowledge from stories passed down. If it differs from what our readers know, I apologize.

According to these folks, the history of the marina begins with a plot of land covered with hickory trees and next to a hunt club. When Norris Dam was formed much of the plot was submerged. My sources tell me that Walt Marshall owned the land and decided a marina could work in the area. So let’s start with how the name came to be.

Marshall had been cutting down trees all day when one of his sons arrived and asked what kind of trees they were. Marshall replied that they were hickory trees. While the son and father talked, the son looked out at the water and told his dad the cove looked like a star shape. Marshall agreed. A short time later, when Marshall was pushed to name the marina, he recalled the conversation with his son and decided on Hickory Star.

The amenities at the original marina consisted of a boat ramp, fishing and not much else.

“You could put your boat in and you could fish or swim in the lake. That was all there was to do,” said Denise Helms, a marina employee since 1986.

Two names that came up in conversations are Charlie Proffitt and Raymond Dukes. It appears Proffitt was a bit stingy. He would make a daily trip to the dock by “coasting” his truck down from his house above the marina. Rather than buy gas for his boat at the marina, he would carry a small jar of the fuel with him. He would spend all day, every day, roaming the dock store and fishing.

Dukes spent his days there as well, but was a land angler. He would often spend hours fishing in a squat position. He tried to catch fish with a net, but was caught and told he still needed a license, even though he wasn’t fishing in the normal sense.

The marina has been through numerous owners and renovators such as Bill Bradshaw, Reeder Equity, Bill Geary and others until the latest purchase in 2011. Timeshares were offered for a short period, but didn’t sell well.

Snacks and drinks were made available at the dock and eventually a restaurant was added close to the dock, but that eatery burned. Even with the dam, flooding would occur on occasion, bringing water onto the upper parking lot and into the dry storage shed that still stands.

Neither flood, nor fire, nor the blizzard of 1993 has been able to keep Hickory Star down for long. The marina has bounced back from every disaster. Linda Ball worked as secretary at the marina in the early 1980s. She recalls the blizzard of 1993.

“The storm was so bad boats were sunk and the dock was destroyed under the weight of the snow. That’s when we got the new dock.”

The building of the Olympic size pool was during Geary’s ownership. Many say the public pool is what turned the marina around and helped make it a popular vacation destination. Ball left the marina in 1999 without having ever taken a swim in the pool.

“I was always afraid the end of the pool would burst and carry us out to the lake,” she said. Fortunately, the pool has withstood the elements so far.

When the original restaurant burned, a new building soon went up on the hill above the dock, housing a larger restaurant and marina offices. An amazing chef and a few managers gave the food establishment a good run for a few years. Friday night catfish was a draw but even locals and vacationers couldn’t sustain the restaurant’s life. It soon closed and that section of the building is now rented out as an event venue.

The old town of Loyston, rumored as a ghost town, is submerged under a mile-wide section of Norris Lake just off the banks and past the marina.

“When the water is down far enough, which it hardly ever is, you can still see the foundations of Old Loyston,” said Helms.

Some say there was bootlegging in the area for a time, possibly run out of the restaurant. There are also tales of ghosts and haunting. These consisted of unusual noises, whispers, footsteps and loud banging, but no sightings. Well, there is a flooded town close by, so who knows? By the way, everyone agrees the rumors of sharks in Norris Lake were and are false.

These days, pool privileges are for guests only but there is still much to draw the public since Norris Lake is considered one of the best lakes in Tennessee for fishing and boating. There are campsites lakeside cabins and a nine-room inn. Water skiing is a popular sport on the lake and food is prepared in the dock store from Thursday through Sunday. Bait is available in the store along with other amenities. The marina boasts boat slips, buoy lines and houseboat slips, about 350 in all. Pontoon boats are available to rent.

The Parton brothers, David and Johnny, along with Dean Knuckles, purchased the marina in 2011 and renamed the facility Hickory Star Resort and Marina. The resort is now an upscale, year-round, family-friendly destination.

Hours and other information available at: https://www.hickorystar.com or by calling 865-992-5241.

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