A challenging undertaking.
Kudos to the masterminds behind the Knoxville History Project, a site I follow to learn more about our most recent adopted hometown. From the KHP I learned about a handful of driving tours….and with Tony not-quite-up-to-hiking-tempo when we undertook this tour a month-ish ago, this was an excellent way to GET. OUT. OF. THE. HOUSE.
But, phew, the route was not without its challenges. Obviously there needs to be a driver; and the remaining cast should include a narrator and a navigator. With just two of us this meant Tony was both narrator and navigator, so there was plenty of backtracking as he was reading about the historic sights while I motored right on past.
We began on Fifth Avenue, a fashionable address in the late 19th/early 20th centuries. This is The Lucerne, now condominiums. Once upon a gentler time a street car ran through this area; later, the wretchedness that is I-40 sliced up the neighborhood, and most of Knoxville, if truth be told.
Rowhouses along North Gay Street.
A retro sign.
The First Christian Church, notable for its columns. It is no longer a church but a music venue, I think. Would be kind of cool if it could become like Union Gospel Tabernacle in Nashville, now the Ryman Auditorium and The Mother Church of Country Music. Like the Knoxville Opry, perhaps.
Moving along, more or less around the corner is Emory Place. It was intended to be an 1800’s “suburban” Knoxville market because the downtown Market Square was “traffic-choked,” which cracks me up envisioning horse-drawn buggies trying to cut one another off for a hitching post. We think it is a lovely hipster mixed-used development, something we desperately need in our stuffy bedroom community to the west.
Around Emory Place businesses had popped up, with some of the buildings now being restored and the area becoming more vibrant. This one is the former Walla Walla Chewing Gum Factory, which manufactured the chicle for 1942 K-rations.
Adjacent to Emory Place is St. John’s Lutheran, Knoxville’s first English Lutheran Church. This takes us back to Europe. I opted for a vintage postcard just because I liked it more than the snap into the sun that I took. The church really hasn’t changed much.
Across from the church is the Old Grey Cemetery, Knoxville’s second oldest cemetery and home to many of Knoxville’s notables. The cemetery is dog-friendly (What?) so revisiting is on the to-do list for a more thorough stroll.
Adjacent to the Old Grey is the Knoxville National Cemetery, also worth more time.
From here we reached the northern boundary of the old “downtown.” This intersection was significant because, at this edge of then-Knoxville there were few police and so assorted and sundry activities like cockfighting and gambling could proceed relatively uninterrupted.
The lounge is a Knoxville landmark at the old boundary dating to 1939. Now it serves hipster bar snacks. It sits now in the quite popular “4th and Gill” neighborhood filled with breweries and boutique shops frequented by, well, the hipsters that are renovating the gorgeous homes nearby. We very much wanted to live in this neighborhood for its walkability, but homes were practically selling before they were listed and there were no listings when I was house-hunting, alas.
Serene Manor, once a segregated nursing home. A bit of an usual name for a building that looks like a sanitarium, don’t you think?
The old Sears, Roebuck & Co, circa 1948 was built just outside of the downtown. In 1949 Maybelle Carter, her teenage daughter June Carter (who would go on to marry Johnny Cash), and the little-known guitarist Chet Atkins spent an afternoon here signing records. Now it is a dreary government building, I think.
Holy Ghost, the second Catholic Church built in Knoxville; its cornerstone was laid on St. Patrick’s Day to reflect the sizable Irish population of 1908.
Adjacent to Holy Ghost is the first church built for the Irish population, that has served both the religious and the secular since. Rather interestingly, it was recently home to the Ruthenian Orthodox, a refugee group I learned about during one of the many Great War exhibits in Austria. Talk about an obscure connection.
Speaking of the Irish, “according to a plausible story, the name was inspired by the fact that an Irishman named Kavanaugh noticed how many farmers coming to market in a mule cart would break down at the bottom of the hill, get stuck in mud or break an axle. It seemed to him a perfect place for a saloon, and he established one in Happy Holler there in 1885.” (credit: Knoxville History Project)
Barely a dip in the road now, but the name remains.
Doing business since the 1950’s (if you could not tell by the architecture style), The Original Freezo is one of Knoxville’s oldest restaurants. The oldest Knoxville restaurant is nearby, dating to 1953. I suppose we should drop in for some of their good old fashioned comfort food.
About my favorite subject. Driving just the first half of this tour took much longer than we anticipated, so we decided to save the second half for the following weekend and backtracked to the awesome-looking Schulz Brau for a late lunch, excited for the Schnitzel on their menu!
A Bavarian Biergarten!
Tony hobbled over to a table while I went inside to order two Schnitzel mit Pommes. But it was not to be. Because of a staffing shortage the menu was reduced to Brats, Käsekrainer, and Pretzels.