About The Purchase

Science Center
Field Station of the Appalachian Highlands Science Learning Center in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

NPS Photo by Susan Sachs

McNeil/Gilmore Family
The McNeil-Gilmore family donated 535 acres at The Purchase to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Photo by Don McGowan

The Appalachian Highland Science Learning Center is based on 535 acres in Haywood County, North Carolina, known as "The Purchase", and contiguous with the rest of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The parcel includes the 5,086 foot elevation Purchase Knob, a historic cabin, and two buildings which contain offices, laboratory space, a 50-person classroom, and housing for up to eight visiting scientists.

The buildings and land were donated in 2000 by Kathryn McNeil and Voit Gilmore, who had owned the property since 1964, and had built a summer home upon it. This represents the largest donation of land since GSMNP came into existence. Since then, the park has averaged about 5,000 visiting scientists, students and teachers each year. Everyday, the staff and program participants thank the family for their generous gift.

In 2001, The Purchase became the home of one of five initial Learning Centers created by Congress to support research in the National Parks and to transmit the information generated to the public. At present, there are 17 learning centers nationwide. To learn more about Research Learning Centers visit the NPS website.


Last updated: December 8, 2020

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