Here lies the original homestead of James White, a Captain of the Revolutionary War, which officially represents the birthplace of Knoxville.
After serving in the North Carolina militia, James White settled in this area on a 1,000-acre tract of land near the fork of the Holston and French Broad rivers. White built, around 1785, what would become within a decade, the settlement’s first permanent structure, a two-story log cabin. About 100 settlers joined White living among several structures within a courtyard all enclosed by a stockade fence to keep out wild animals and anyone else.
Today, the fort is furnished with original artifacts and tools from the period, providing a glimpse into the daily existence of early East Tennessee settlers at the time that the city of Knoxville began.
A tour of James White’s Fort includes the original two-story Main House with its adjoining kitchen. A smokehouse, a guest house, and cabins used by blacksmiths, spinners, and weavers, recreate those frontier days.
There is another layer of history surrounding the original fort. It was actually situated a few hundred yards north of here, roughly where the State Street Garage now stands adjacent to First Presbyterian Church. There is an historical marker close to that spot on the corner of State Street at Church Avenue referencing James White’s Mill.
During the 1950s, it was discovered that the timbers belonging to the original James White cabin, before the era of historic preservation, were part of a house on Woodlawn Pike in South Knoxville. The City Association of Women’s Clubs led efforts to acquire that property and reconstruct the cabin and fort on East Hill Avenue adjacent to the City’s new Civic Coliseum and Auditorium which opened in 1961. In fact, the venue’s proper name is the General James White Memorial Civic Auditorium and Coliseum. The James White Fort we know today as was opened to the public in 1970 and as a semi-reconstruction is worthy of listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
During the calendar year, James White’s Fort offers educational field trips to school groups, and a selection of programs for the general public including spinning, herbs, open hearth cooking, blacksmith demonstrations, and special seasonal events.
Located at: 205 East Hill Avenue, Knoxville, TN 37915. Admission Charge.
Visit James White’s Fort’s officially website to learn more about this fascinating historical treasure.
“Unlock Knoxville’s Past” and explore all the HISTORIC HOMES OF KNOXVILLE! Combo passes are available at all locations.