Erin Presbyterian Church, November 30, 2017
Contents: Murder’s Hollow, Dead Man’s Curve, , Bearden Hill, Griffith’s Hill, Alambra Court, Wayside Inn, Weston Fulton Mansion, Railroads, Bearden Boundaries, Baum’s House of Flowers, Erin Prebyterian Church, Race Relations, Deane Hill, Bearden Miscellaneous
MURDERER’S HOLLOW, DEAD MAN’S CURVE
Pat Wallin: I just wanted to tell everybody, that Keith Stump, who is member here at Erin (Presbyterian Church) and is the county map guru, put together this a (see attached) map showing the area around Murderer’s Hollow and Dead Man’s Curve.
Neely: Is that the same place, by the way? Murderer’s Hollow and Dead Man’s Curve?
Wallin: Yeah. And a lot of people don’t realize, what Keith did was to put what’s old in black and then what’s new is in white. So you can see that Kingston Pike, which we know as Kingston Pike going over the Bearden Hill, but originally it did not. It veered off at Deane Hill and then came and curved around Lockett and then went back to Kingston Pike. That’s the old Kingston Pike that you knew in the 1870’s, and so you see Dead Man’s Curve here, which Mr. Prater told us about. People couldn’t stop with this big curve, and probably that’s where the murders occurred because you couldn’t see back or forward.
BEARDEN HILL – GRIFFITH’S HILL
Howard Claiborne: I’m 93 years old. I was named after the grandson Marcus Bearden. I remember the Lindbergh kidnapping. I remember the Hindenburg burning. I remember that the airport was on Sutherland Avenue. I have seen an airplane land on this very spot 100 times. (Erin Presbyterian Church area on Bearden Hill.) I was born in Bearden and lived there all my life and Bearden Hill was called Griffith’s Hill.
There was not a single building from Papermill Road, all the way around “dead man’s curve” down Lockett Road all the way to the “donut place”.
Mr. Griffith owned an airplane, he owned a coal mine in Kentucky. I was about 4 or 5 years old, in preschool (circa 1928), and every time I heard that airplane come in I would run up and watch it. And it would land right here on this very spot, right here. I would run alongside that airplane, up to the hangar and I would just touch — I was an aviation enthusiast — and I would just touch the airplane.
I mowed the Albers drugstore (lawn), it ran from Kingston Pike at Highland Memorial Cemetery, all the way to Sutherland Avenue. I mowed the lawn with a push mower (laughter). It took me all day, and I mowed it for a quarter. I drank four Pepsi Colas and ended up with a nickel. (laughter) I knew Mr. Fooshee well – a very good friend of mine.
Neely: I appreciate that. Did you say an airplane landed right here?
Claiborne: Right on this very spot, right here. Bearden Hill was a field from Papermill Road all the way around Dead Man’s Curve all the way to the “donut place”. It was a grassy field. And I have seen that airplane land here a hundred times at least.
Neely: So it was just one plane that landed here but the main airstrip was over on Sutherland.
Claiborne: I have seen four tri-motor airplanes land on Sutherland Avenue airport.
ALHAMBRA COURT, WAYSIDE INN
Janie Hall: My father, my grandfather was the one who, I guess after the Civil War, they were Democrats, so they moved away from Knoxville, which was Republican. They moved down to Atlanta, and he became co-owner of the Atlanta Oak Flooring Company.
Neely: Now this was your Fooshee family?
Hall: Right, he and his wife, Elizabeth, had two twin boys. My father was one of those twin boys and he’s the one who ran Alhambra Court and that started out as their home. They came back to Knoxville and the boys went to UT. The twins, they weren’t identical.
The Alhambra, the way it got the name Alhambra is when they wanted to build a house, they bought the land, the plans of the building they were building for was called the Alhambra. And it had terraces, it was brick, had six bedrooms, and had three bathrooms, it was a big house and a lot of room inside but it had terraces going out from the upstairs a couple of places, and downstairs, and so it did look exotic. And so during the depression they were trying to make some extra money, and there was a garage, also a bedroom upstairs above the garage, so they rented that out as a bed and breakfast and they cooked breakfast. That’s how Alhambra got started, as a bed and breakfast.
And then my father, who was not an architect, he didn’t study architecture, he was a history major, but he decided since the Art Deco style during the ‘30’s was so popular that he would make the edges round, round the steps and the sides of the windows were round. And he designed all of those cottages, and they would build a few cottages, and it was so successful that they would build some more, and they had 38 rooms, and they always had the best, you know, the best blankets, the best everything, and they never got to have color TVs.
You mentioned the Way Side Inn, my mother and father, that’s where they did their courting and they did a little dancing, you know, they had music there, and that’s where they lived.
Neely: And it’s interesting that the Way Side Inn, they modified over the years to have that rounded corner and those wind-tunnel design, and I wonder if that was influenced from your family, but it began to have that Art Deco look, which it still has, Naples still has that. (Note: The Way Side Inn on Kingston Pike was originally built around 1926. Following a fire in 1948, it was rebuilt but became a restaurant in the mid-1950s, first named Alberti’s and in 1978 became Naples)
Hall: And it was really fun. I grew up there, we had a house a fourth of a mile away in Westwood, and it was a great place to be. Then my uncle built Terrace View. And it did have color TVs! (laughter).
WESTON FULTON MANSION
Neely: That architectural style, it’s fascinating how architectural styles, in the 1920’s, and you see it, you may remember the Westcliff – Fulton Mansion on Lyons View that was torn down in the 1960’s, but it was this really exotic mansion and the guard house is still there on Lyons View, not very far from Lakeshore. But it was built to look like something from Hollywood, like a Douglas Fairbanks movie set, it had towers and it was a gorgeous, interesting, unique old place.
Unknown male: Hey Jack, remembering had the observation tower and also Weston Fulton had a spotlight there that he would shine over to Highland Cemetery on his son’s grave. This was before my time, but I’ve heard… was that true?
Neely: That’s the story I’ve heard for a long time, too. I just know that the Weston family says that’s not true. It’s interesting that that tower – you certainly could see Highland Memorial Cemetery where his son was buried. His son was killed in a car wreck in the 1920’s, and he gave UT his former mansion in memory of his son. And it was actually torn down about two years ago for the new student center. That was the original Fulton house on Volunteer Blvd. then I guess it was on Temple.
The Fulton gravesite is one of the more lovely grave sites in Highland Cemetery. Highland is worth a walk-around – lots of interesting people buried there.
Howard Claiborne: My daddy was a carpenter and he worked from week to week, and he would come home and he’d come by the Spanish Gardens and get hamburgers and bring them home. I knew the man who ran it well, Clarence. I knew the man who ran the Wayside Inn. His name was Bob Green.
I lived on Lyons View Pike for 37 years. I knew W.M. Fulton well. He was a good friend of mine.
My father-in-law had a grocery store on Lyons View Pike. And Mr. Fulton would come down and eat sardines in the stock room. (laughter) And I’ve eaten sardines with him dozens of times.
He did have a spotlight that shined on it. I knew his wife very well. I knew his son. I knew his daughter. His daughter was an actress and went to New York.
Neely: Barbara….that’s right
Claiborne: She married and then came back and Mr. Fulton gave them the corner lot there across from my house. They built that insurance company there. And had a son, Bob, who lived in Westmoreland Heights. Barbara, Gene, and they had a son who got killed. He was coming down Kingston Pike and where Kingston, there at Howard Henderson Hospital, where it narrows, and he hit a concrete marker there, and killed him. But the Spanish Garden was notorious at lettin’ us go in there.
Voice: Where was it?
Claiborne: It was next door to Naples, right there on Kingston Pike. And talking aout the Pike Theater – Walter Morris was a member there in church that built the theater. I remember when it was built. He was a good friend of mine. I’m a cabinet maker, I’m a wood worker, I did work for his concession stand. I made that baptismal font, I made the lectern, I made flower stands, I made the first pulpit, and the second pulpit. (at Erin Presbyterian).
Unknown: I do remember when St. Mary’s took it over. They had a neon cross on top of the tower.
Neely: For some reason they had nuns or nurses living in the mansion after the Fulton family left.
Robin Hill: My name is Robin Hill and I’m a transplant from Alabama, here. I worked for the L&N Railroad, and on my sixth move with the L & N Railroad, they told me one day, on Friday, that I had to be in Knoxville on Monday morning. So I put everything in my ’51 Chevrolet and drove up here and I kept, for some reason I always wondered where Knoxville was. And I was on the L&N Railroad, and when I topped Bearden Hill, then I saw Knoxville and then I thought well there it is. And I had a really great time. I was only 26 years old at the time, and everybody else I knew was 26 years old and members at First Presbyterian Church, and we had a really good time and if we wanted to see a risqué movie we generally went to the Pike, movies that you couldn’t play downtown.
I will say that one time a friend of mine in Atlanta wanted to know about an old railroad that was an old railroad that was sited in Knoxville. It was called the Black Diamond. Can you find some data on that for me? (KHP has not been able to determine much detail on the Black Diamond to date)
One of the things that intrigued me was that where the McGhee Tyson airport later was, in the paper it was said that piece of land between Sutherland and Kingston Pike, was an assembling area for the Tennessee contingent that was being formed. It was a cantonment.
Neely: Knoxville was a big training area for the Spanish-American war. I’ve heard of Camp Poland, which I’ve always pictured on the North side of town but I don’t doubt there was another one on the West side as well.
Hill: Well, surely somebody has some very old pictures like the ones Jim Thompson took that showed the 1898 encampment and the Alhambra, and what that cantonment looked like and that would be something really interesting to have and if anybody in the world has some of those pictures to look at.
Jack Neely: Here’s a contentious question – where are the boundaries of Bearden, as far as you are concerned? I remember talking to people who now, I guess, would be over, who would say that people never considered anything East of Homberg Place, Bearden. What do you all think today, or historically?
Does Bearden have boundaries?
Male 1: One boundary was right here at the plumbing company, Ferguson. The other one was right across the street from Naples. I remember, they had a sign – “Bearden Unincorporated”
Neely: Of the Bearden town, they had a sign there?
Male 1: They had a sign there. And I remember asking my daddy what does Bearden, what does “unincorporated” mean? And he explained to me.
Neely: Thanks. I don’t know if the moving of Bearden High changed peoples’ concept of that, or what. Any other discussion of what is Bearden? I think the concept has changed a little bit today, and a lot of people today would consider Western Plaza as part of Bearden.
Male 2: I have read in various newspapers that technically that their city limits was at Carr Street and ran down Sutherland Avenue to approximately Forrest Park Drive, and took a southwestern turn, diagonal at Carr Street and that Bearden started at the city limits, but from newspaper accounts of about the 30’s.
Jack: Yes. And I guess you wouldn’t have Bearden back then, when any, some of it was considered Knoxville, and Bearden was a separate place from Knoxville.
Male: Bearden was the first train stop. And a depot. Very busy.
Neely: Yes, you’re right. Does anybody remember, ever, did the train ever stop in the lifetime of anybody?
Male: Only the local train.
Neely: Do you know when it stopped? When they stopped having passengers get on at Bearden?
Male: I don’t remember a date, no, but the station master was a good friend of mine. And they let us play there all the time. Until they rolled a casket out on the dock, and then we scattered! (laughter)
Neely: What do you think, about Bearden, should be most obvious to visitors? What would you like people to know about Bearden when they arrive here, whether passing here, or moving here, or whatever? What is it about the community that may not be obvious, maybe surprising that you think people should know?
Sherry (Wallace) Barry: I was in real estate for about 18 years, and when I would help people coming in….When I was working with out of town people moving to Knoxville, the one thing I told them about the Bearden area is that within a five-mile radius, you have just about everything you need. And, it’s done well. It’s not a grocery store that you have to go to two or three different stores. Especially right now, with the stores that have chosen to locate in the Bearden area, Whole Foods from the West (Western part of the US) and Earth Fare. Those are the community stores that cared about what they sold. And they chose the Bearden area. So, I think the uniqueness of Bearden is that, depending on what you want, you can find anything within a five-mile radius, and quality.
BAUM’S HOUSE OF FLOWERS
Steve Corbin: Does anybody remember the greenhouses – Baum’s Flowers, where they grew flowers, and they had a smoke stack.
I wondered if anybody remembered all the 13 acres of greenhouses off of Deane Hill Drive and Northshore. We sold some property to the Catholic Church, there, and it butted up against Westmoreland. But it was, we grew flowers and had green houses. Later on it had a restaurant there – the bottom part… Baum Florist shop. The hail storm in ‘62 that kinda wiped us out.
Agnes Kirby: My name is Agnes Kirby, and we moved out of Jefferson County and Mr. Baum wanted my father to mow his farm, his farm over there and more farm than greenhouse. We moved to one of his little houses, and it was right there on the curve, there was a curve that came around this way and went this way. And on that curve was the tourist court. I’m sure all the people remember it as a tourist court.
We lived in that little tiny house right down the road. And when the big house came available, over on Northshore Drive, where the Catholic Church is now, we moved to there, over there, and I walked from that house all the way thru Bearden. I had my Freshman class. And I graduated from Bearden High School in, I don’t remember what year. (laughter).
I still have my class ring with me, but yes, I graduated from Bearden High School. And I married a Kirby. Now, of course, a lot of people knew the Kirby’s and the big brick house on Weisgarber, I guess it is where Grandma and Grandpa Kirby lived.
And then we lived, Mr. Kirby and, my husband and I lived up on, Kirby what was it, Baum Drive. Anyway, I moved, after Mr. Kirby and I were married in 1954, and he passed away in 2013. But it was a great life. And it was, because, I used to be able to stand on the railroad track as a child and pick the roses, where people would throw the rose clippings over on the railroad and they would bloom and I would get my pick of roses that I liked off of that railroad track.
It was a delightful time. And I have been attending Erin Presbyterian Church, in the old church……. And I’ve been a member here since my husband and I was married in 1954.
Keith Stump: Yea, I’m Keith Stump and I’m Director of the Knoxville KGIS and you mentioned the Baum’s Greenhouse. We just released a 1953 aerial photo. We’re trying to take these old aerial photos city’s history and we’re trying to get a matching point. And we just added a 1953 version and I think you can see the greenhouses really well on that, from the air, from the top down, and so obviously this is a photo and he’s got one here, that you can also see, it’s a very fascinating photo, the aerial photos. This is from the www.kgis.org web site.
ERIN PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
Howard Claiborne: I remember every minister that has ever preached at Erin Church. The first regular minister was Preacher Cresswell. He was a very dear friend of mine. I knew him from the time I was born until the time I went to the air corps. I knew he had a brother. They were (unintelligible) bachelors. And I remember it well because he had a brother named Greg (?) and I don’t know a lot of the others, but I used to hang out there, because we’d all walk by the swimming pool, the old swimming hole by Lyons View Pike, there and they had a dam, and we’d swim and come back and stop by Preacher Cresswell’s house and he told us all these Bible stories about Samson and Delilah and all of that, and I remember one of them was named Will A. Cresswell and he was a bachelor and I was just a child but I remember him well. And we got to talking and I realized that he wouldn’t have any kind of cousins, an aunt, an uncle or nephew, or any of those, and I had cousins by the dozens, and uncles and aunts. I said “Will, don’t it bother you being a bachelor.” And he studied a minute and he said, “Well, not really.” He says, “You know my daddy was a bachelor.” (LOTS of laughter.)
Neely: How well have race relations been in Bearden? I’ve interviewed people through the years that live in that pocket of Bearden between Lyons View and Kingston Pike, like that fellow who was the last projectionist at the Gem Theater downtown, and still lives there. Homer Fowler is his name. And Clifford Curry, a famous soul singer from the 1960’s who grew up in Bearden. Do you all have any stories about the black/white community getting along, or not getting along?
David Myers: Jack, I went to Bearden High School in 1967, graduated in ’67. We integrated, I think it was my Sophomore year. And I think we were all most very proud of how that situation was handled. I think everyone had a great experience there. I know that Ronnie Davis was one of my classmates. Actually his grandson, Todd Kelly, Jr., plays football for UT. I think a lot of you might recognize that name. I know Ronnie has been very active there in the Lyons View community, I know his family goes back a long way. But I’d just say that in terms of Bearden High School integrating in the mid 60’s, I think it was a wonderful experience. I mean, some people may have a different perspective, but I just don’t remember any negative incidents at all.
Male: What was the history background of Deane Hill Community Club and was that considered the edge of Bearden or is that too far west?
Neely: I guess by the strictest standards that’s too far west. But I think the idea of Bearden is fluid and has moved some over the years. And I think Bearden is a good deal bigger than it used to be. Jack Comer was in charge of Deane Hill Country Club up on the hill. The hill’s almost gone now. It wasn’t really the hill, it used to be a bigger hill than it is today. But I believe it was established in 1940’s. Does anybody know that for sure?
Robin Hill At least in my recollection of the Deane Hill Country Club, when I moved here, It’s where we all went after the movie, or something like that. And you had a membership. It was like $25, or something. And they served liquor. And it was a Country Club. But it was where everybody would gather after an event downtown. You couldn’t buy liquor anywhere else except for Cherokee.
Neely: And they had a golf course, and a swimming pool, but they also had what was like a night club, an old fashioned night club.
Male: Yeah, it definitely was a night club.
Jack Neely: But they had some really great shows there. It’s amazing, that the famous Dorsey Brothers, who had split up famously and acrimoniously back in the 1930’s, had their big reunion, unexpected surprise reunion, there in 1953, thanks to Jack Comer and his connections. He brought Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey there together…..it was the Tommy Dorsey Show, and then Jimmy Dorsey showed up unexpectedly and started playing with his brother Tommy. And they went from there and had a national TV show for a couple of years.
Robin Hill: What was the name of Jack’s restaurant that was over there…
Jack Neely: Jack Comer was quite connected. He had Comer’s Pool Hall downtown, and he had lots of connections all over town. It’s amazing at the performers that showed up here, often without much advertising, at Deane Hill Country Club over the years.
Robin Hill: This is sort of a personal question, but right there where Earth Fare is, right next door to it is a really peculiar-looking two-story building and it’s got an antique store in it now. And, I’ve tried my best to find out who built that and what it was before it was an antique store.
Neely: That’s a great question. I know the one you’re talking about. Someone once called it Robbie’s Roost.
Female: That was upstairs. It was a florist, Vester’s Florist was up there.
Neely: Was that what it was built for?
David Myers: It was actually built in the 30’s. It was the White Dot Cafe, White Dot Cafe Restaurant or something like that.
Tim Burns: There’s a Facebook page called “Bearden Past and Present” and we had that thing pop up. It was expanded, I believe in 1938. It was a smaller building originally, and then they expanded it to the two-story structure, but most people remember it as Vester’s Florist. But between the White Dot and Vester’s, there was kind of a pattern of businesses there.
Neely: Tim Burns has been in charge of keeping the Tennessee Theatre running for a few decades, I’m not sure, about 38 years, and he knows that place better than anybody else.
Jane Lockett Bryson: I’m Jane Lockett Bryson, and my great uncle, Albert Lockett owned the house that was up on the hill. It was a brick rancher. He had three boys. I was hoping Ken, my distant cousin, would be here to check this story, but he’s not, but anyway they are the reason it’s called Lockett Road. And the reason this is Albunda is because Uncle Albert “made fun” (?) That’s how that street got its name.
Female: Does anybody remember the log cabin that was the Stansberry’s on Northshore?
Neely: The log cabin was the Stansberry’s home? Where was it, now, on Northshore?
Female: It’s where the cathedral is now. That’s where they lived. And that’s where I went to Girl Scouts.
Thanks to everyone who participated. Several names on the audio files were hard to decipher. If you recognize your contributions, please contact KHP at 865-337-7723.
Special thanks to Erin Presbyterian Church, and Sherry Wallace Barry for transcribing the original transcripts.