Thursday June 30 from 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
At the Foundry at World’s Fair Park
For 35 years, Steve Cotham served as the manager of the Calvin M. McClung Historical Collection at the Knox County Public Library before retiring in late 2021. During his tenure, he transformed the region’s most valuable research library, greatly expanding the collection’s offerings, introducing a digital catalogue and a tech-trained staff, enhancing its art collection, and incorporating the Tennessee Archive of Moving Image and Sound.
In 1999, Steve was appointed by Knox County Commission to serve as the Knox County Historian. He served as founding editor of the East Tennessee Historical Society’s genealogical publication, Tennessee Ancestors. And for the East Tennessee Historical Society, he was guest curator for two exhibitions, “Louis E. Jones–Artist of the Smokies,” in 2001, and “Mountain Splendor: Art and Artists of the Great Smoky Mountains, 1850-1950,” in 2009. In 2006, he produced a photographic book, The Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Steve served on the Knoxville History Project Board of Directors for five years.
Please RSVP to Paul James at 865-337-7723 or email email@example.com
There is no fee to attend. However, we will connect you with a table host and encourage you to make a donation in the amount of your choosing in honor of Steve Cotham and to support the work of KHP. Pre-registration is required.
Donate at any time at knoxvillehistoryproject.org/khp-donations/
The Knoxville History Project has published a new book for Arcadia Publishing’s popular Images of America series.
Downtown Knoxville highlights the visual history of the city’s iconic downtown core through 180 photographs, maps and illustration, many from the McClung Historical Collection and other local sources. The book features well-known classics that you will be familiar with as well as numerous photographs that are rarely seen, and as far as we know, have never been previously published. From the postcolonial years through the Civil War and onward to Knoxville’s emergence as an industrial city, downtown is where everything happened, the setting of the city’s most memorable stories and legends.
A 126-page book, Downtown Knoxville is now available for $23.99 through our online store and also locally at the Museum of East Tennessee History, Union Ave Books, and other select gift shops.
On the cover: Around 1925, crowds await the next sensation at the Bijou Theatre, known for vaudeville shows and dramatic performances by the local Peruchi Players. Across the street, the Cumberland Hotel, right, hosted a piano and phonograph store. Originally known as Schubert’s the well-known Victorian-era hostelry burned down in a fatal fire in early 1945. But the acoustically near-perfect 1909 Bijou thrives today as one of downtown’s liveliest attractions. (McClung Historical Collection, Thompson Photograph Collection.)
What can you expect from the Knoxville History Project this year?
We’ll start the year by publishing a new book, Downtown Knoxville, on January 24 featuring classic photographs and some you may have never seen before. We’ll also begin research for a community history of South Knoxville; extend the new podcast series, Knoxville Chronicles; and join other partners across town to not only celebrate, but also attempt to understand the lasting impact of the city’s biggest cultural event to date, the 1982 World’s Fair, which opened 40 years ago next May.
In addition, we have now just secured funding to produce a printed booklet to serve as a self-guided Downtown Literary Walking Tour.
Learn more about our work in 2022 in this PDF: KHP Priorities 2022.
Make a donation to support KHP’s work here.
While 2021 has been a challenge for us all, we can look back on the past 12 months with pride in numerous accomplishments. Please click on the PDF link below for our 2021 report.
Please stay in touch and let us know if you have a question about our work. We truly appreciate your support. Thank you.
Knoxville History Project 2021 Year in Review
Jack Neely, Paul James, and Nicole Stahl
KHP has produced a new book about the Women’s Suffrage movement in Knoxville, a readable guide to the major people and places involved in the fight for women’s rights. “A Fair Shake” is a motto of Knoxville’s leading suffragist, Lizzie Crozier French. Illustrated with dozens of photographs, the book includes short bios of her and her several colleagues, as well as descriptions of landmarks strongly associated with suffrage, many of them long gone, but some still there. The 100-page book’s principal author is our partner Laura Still, who has been telling many of these stories for a couple of years now, through the “Misbehaving Women” option of her Knoxville Walking Tours. The book also includes a book-ready version of Jack Neely’s tale of “Anderson, Harris, and Wade,” Knoxville’s own three legislators whose suffrage votes in 1920 counted as much as the suddenly famous Harry Burn’s did.
Available for $10.95 plus tax and shipping via KHP’s online store.
Two years ago, the Tennessee Valley Fair celebrated its 100th Fair with extraordinary high-wire motorcycle acts, historical exhibits, and special programs, plus all the regular fun and educational activities that we’re all accustomed to: the poultry and cattle barns, tractor pulls and the Demolition Derby, the concerts, robotics competitions, Lego-making, painting, crafts, photography, and beauty pageants. And on top of all that, all the fun of the Midway.
Knoxville documentarians, Pete Carty and Noble Robinette, with the help of the Knoxville History Project, Tennessee Valley Fair staff, Eric Dawson with Tennessee Archive of Moving Image and Sound (part of McClung Historical Collection, Knox County Public Library), and numerous volunteers helped capture the anniversary on film. Revisit the 100th Fair with us here and go and experience the 101st Fair this weekend before it ends on Sunday. We look forward to seeing you next year too!
May 1, 2022, will mark the 40th anniversary of the Knoxville International Energy Exposition, more commonly known as the World’s Fair. The Knoxville History Project will be partnering with individuals and organizations throughout the city to inform and educate the public as to the history of the Fair, its impact since 1982, and its ongoing legacy.
Through a grant from Humanities Tennessee, KHP will be partnering with the University of Tennessee History Department, WUOT Radio, and the East Tennessee Historical Society to research and publish a short booklet on the Fair and support other programming, including lectures, podcasts, and more.
Do you Have Photographs of the 1982 World’s Fair?
As part of the ongoing Knoxville Shoebox initiative, KHP is appealing to members of the public to share photographs, printed materials, and other ephemera to help fill in the many gaps in the photographic record of our city’s past, and create a new digital collection based on the World’s Fair.
If you have interesting old photographs from the World’s Fair we’d love to hear from you. You show us the photograph, we copy it and give the original back to you. Or you can email us high resolution scans if you have that capability. We will preserve and archive the images and make them available for researchers of the future, always crediting your contribution.
Here is just a short list of the priority images we are seeking:
Please contact Paul James at the Knoxville History Project at 865-337-7723 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn more at knoxvillehistoryproject.org/knoxville-shoebox/
Welcome to Knoxville Chronicles, a podcast series produced by the Knoxville History Project highlighting some of the most interesting of the city’s old stories of the city that still have relevance today.
The pilot episode, The Printer’s Devil, written and narrated by Jack Neely, tells the story of Adolph Ochs, a kid who was scared of a graveyard while he learned the ropes of of newspaper publishing here in Knoxville as a Printer’s Devil. The lad went on to become the founder of a major American institution, a cultural leader who changed a whole profession, established a landmark, and introduced a new way of celebrating a holiday. The story connects Knoxville in post-Civil War Tennessee to booming, electric New York in the 20th century. Length: 18.38 mins.
Find more Podcasts and audio dialogues here.
If you would like to help fund more Podcasts, please contact Paul James, Director of Publishing & Development, at email@example.com
For half a century, Dr. Charles Faulkner has used archeology combined with in-depth research to bring out some of the untold stories of Knoxville: of James White’s forgotten final home; of Blount Mansion’s complicated legacy; of the tragedy at Cavett Station; of architectural landmark Ramsey House, of several other sites of log cabins or potter’s shops, often finding surprises beneath our feet.
His wife, graphic artist Terry Faulkner, has worked wonders with the more modern history of Bearden, their longtime home, both in written research and installation of appealing stone markers noting the unique neighborhood’s best stories.
Working together in recent years, the Faulkners have added much to what we know of the once-formidable Union Fort Sanders, the site of the worst loss of life in Knoxville history; finding some of its secrets still lying beneath the houses and streets of an equally historic neighborhood, they’ve raised intriguing questions about the site.
KHP recognizes Charles and Terry upon their recent work, co-writing Rediscovering Fort Sanders: The American Civil War and Its Impact on Knoxville’s Cultural Landscape, published by UT Press.
WATCH THE SHORT TRIBUTE FILM HERE.
Thanks to everyone who supported us on this event. It’s not too late to contribute to our goal of $20,000. Please make a donation here.
Thank you to our sponsors for underwriting the costs of this event:
Knoxville Archeological Sponsors
Bob and Lynne Davis
Merikay Waldvogel and Jerry Ledbetter
Bearden History Sponsors
KNOXVILLE LEGENDS: EXPLORING THE CITY’S COUNTRY MUSIC HERITAGE
New Downtown Audio Tour Now Available
Experience Knoxville in a new way on a walking tour that looks at the city’s deep and dynamic heritage in the development of American country music.
Discover new stories about the talented musicians and songwriters who were born here or used the city as a springboard to fame, in Nashville and beyond. Some just came to play, while others left their mark in memorable ways. We’ll meet the truly famous, like Dolly Parton, Hank Williams, and Elvis Presley, but also the more obscure performers and songwriters such as Charlie Oaks and Arthur Q. Smith.
Along the way, we’ll show you the spots where:
• The little-known teenage singer Dolly Parton “fell in love with her audience”
• Hank Williams spent his final evening
• The RCA discovered a regional phenomenon known as Elvis Presley
• Arthur Q. Smith sold songs to pay for his bar bill
• The brand-new bluegrass duo Flatt & Scruggs recorded their first records
Plus, we’ll weave in interesting facts and tales from Knoxville’s history and culture along the way, too.
The tour is the perfect primer to Knoxville’s Country Music roots. Jack Neely, a longtime newspaper journalist and author of more than 10 books on Knoxville’s lesser-known history is your guide on this hour-long walk.
Cost is $5.99 to downtown the tour and then you can take it as many times as you like. The Voicemap app must be downloaded to enjoy the tour.
If you share our love of Knoxville history and wish to help fund current and future efforts to educate and inspire residents and visitors to understand and enjoy the city’s sense of culture, we invite you to support our work.
Simple Ways to support KHP’s mission:
Become a Friend of KHP: Donate $50 or more per year and receive our monthly exclusive email stories written by Jack Neely through the Scruffy Citizen. Donate $100 or more per year and receive a copy of our annual printed story collection in the fall. Its easy to donate online here.
Sponsor a Zoom Talk: Donate $100 and help underwrite the cost of our free programming during the pandemic and beyond. We’ll feature your name or your business on promotions and on a special slide at the beginning and end of the presentation.
Purchase Books or Merchandise: All sales help fund KHP’s work. You can find all of our publications, postcards, playing cards, and special bundles in our online shop.
For more information, please visit our KHP Contributions page or contact Paul James, Director of Publishing & Development at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the KHP office at 865-337-7723.
Donations may be mailed to: Knoxville History Project, 516 West Vine Avenue, #8, Knoxville TN 37902.
In collaboration with Beck Cultural Exchange Center, KHP is proud to announce the release of a new children’s book based on the unpublished work of African American teacher and artist Ruth Cobb Brice.
This 48-page, full-color trade paperback book is now available only from KHP and Beck Cultural Exchange Center. Price is $9.99 plus tax.
The book features a foreword by Beck executive director Rev. Reneé Kesler with biographical contributions by Jack Neely.
Find a copy in our online shop.
WEEKLY ZOOMS CONTINUE THROUGHOUT THE PANDEMIC
Since May 2020, KHP has been engaging the general public through educational weekly talks on Zoom. Primarily hosted by Jack Neely, we’ve also welcomed numerous guest presenters, including Becky Hancock, Laura Still, Paul Brown, Rev. Renee Kesler, and our fellow historians over at Blount Mansion.
The response has been overwhelmingly encouraging. By the end of 2020, more than 1,500 viewers had joined us directly, and many more have been watching our recorded versions here.
KHP plans to continue to offer these engaging social activities where folks can listen, watch, and also participate in virtual discussions and Q&As.
Heklp fund these free programs by sponsoring a talk. Please call Paul James at 865-337-7723 or email email@example.com us if you would like to become a sponsor.
Register for our talks on the Events page.
What our viewers are saying:
“I’ve lived in Knoxville for 7-1/2 years, and KHP makes me feel more Knoxvillian every week.” – Deanne Charlton
“Bob and I want to thank you for the tremendous job you have done to continue to promote the history of Knoxville during this COVID-19 pandemic. Jack, Paul and Nicole have spent many hours providing informative programs weekly over Zoom to keep us connected as our monthly in person meetings have changed into weekly Zoom meetings. You don’t know how much we look forward to and appreciate these informative programs while sheltering in place. Please keep up the excellent work you are doing. Thanks again!” – Linda Wimbrow
“Throughout this summer, and the limitations imposed by COVID-19, my wife Diane Fox and I have greatly enjoyed attending the Knoxville History Project’s series of Zoom presentations. History is storytelling, and when told well, connects our present to the past in ways that inform, enlighten and enrich. Each week offers new, beautifully illustrated talks covering a range of topics, from architecture and art, the history of the suffragettes to our cultural diversity. We are so fortunate have KHP enrich our lives.” – Beauvais Lyons
“Thank you for the wonderful online lectures and slides that you are providing during this Civid-19 chapter of our lives in Knoxville and around the world. Each week the lectures have offered a refreshing opportunity to be transported to other times to feel our roots, to gain greater insights about how we got here, and hopefully move forward positively by learning from the past. It is not only a weekly escape from the news of our times, but also an anchor that holds us steady in knowing we will move past this adversity and thrive once again, just like those who came before us. I look forward to this shared online experience each week, and come away inspired and comforted.” – Sue Renfro
“I woke up this morning thinking about what I have learned through the Knoxville History Project’s Zoom talks about Knoxville’s African American community. When I was a kid in Knoxville in the 40’s/50’s/60’s Knoxville was segregated, as were my all-white schools. The only way I ever saw any Black persons was going to a downtown parade where Austin High School band participated, or sometimes there were Smithwood African-Americans on the “This section reserved for colored people” back seat of the Knoxville Transit Lines. Through the Knoxville History Project I have learned there were African American persons on Knoxville City Council in the late 1800’s, and about the African American churches in the community, about an African American business man-developer, about the African American schools in town, and the Black communities near the brick factory and elsewhere. And I have learned about African American musicians who either lived in Knoxville or performed there. The Knoxville History Project is a vital factor in realizing that Black lives mattered in Knoxville, even through many of us living there were not aware of who our fellow residents and the contributions they made to our lives.” – Walter Parry
Celebrate the centennial of the passing of the 19th Amendment and the history of woman’s suffrage in Knoxville through stories and a walking tour brought to you by the Knoxville History Project. Quick Links:
KHP’s first community history: Historic Bearden: The 200-Year Story of Knoxville’s Fourth Creek Valley, a rich and colorful book is now available on our online store and at several local retailers including Union Ave Books (downtown), and throughout the Bearden area at Bennett Gallery, Long’s Drug Store, Calloways Lamp & Shade, Mayo’s, and Bobby Todd Antiques.
This 200-page, fully illustrated book has been researched and written by Jack Neely with the help of Paul James, editor and photo researcher.
Price: $24.95 plus tax
Please visit our Historic Bearden page for further details.
Special thanks to everyone who helped with this project including our sponsors, Phillip Lawson, Pilot Flying J, and The Bearden Village Council, and all the individual supporters who contributed to our Bearden Bundle campaign.
Join KPH during the pandemic “lockdown” for a weekly virtual talk and slideshow every Thursday at 6:00 pm. Recent topics have included:
Register for the weekly talk on our Events page and the zoom link will be automatically emailed to you.
The Knoxville History Project is seeking community support to fund research and production of a new engaging “Downtown Literary Guide” to increase awareness for the city’s rich literary heritage.
“A city’s literary history often forms a big part of a city’s public persona. In America as in much of the world, the cities that matter are the ones that have attracted authors to use them as settings. Dozens of major cities offer guidebooks to newcomers interested in exploring that heritage. In some cases, visitors may already be familiar with the author’s work, or, at least, have heard the author’s name. That in of itself can offer a point of access to an otherwise unfamiliar city.” – Jack Neely
Researched and published by the Knoxville History Project, using images, quotations, and brief bios, the Knoxville literary guide will offer a gateway to Knoxville’s literary heritage and to the city’s appeal. The guide will highlight works by important Knoxville authors, including James Agee, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Nikki Giovanni, Cormac McCarthy, George Washington Harris, David Madden, and others.
This signature project will be designed by the award-winning team at Robin Easter Design to complement KHP partner Knox Heritage’s highly popular “Historic Downtown Walking Tour” of historic buildings.
The format will be a tall 4.24” x 11” 28-page two-tone booklet with a print run of 10,000 booklets.
Learn more here: KHP Knoxville Literary Guide
Please contact Paul James at firstname.lastname@example.org
Jack’s new book, six years in the making, beautifully written and tastefully designed by Robin Easter Design, is actually his longest book.
“The Old City’s history is a story of intersections. Near the spot where Jackson and Central cross, Knoxville’s rail-based economy boomed. Saloons and “resorts” (aka brothels) flourished while reformers fought poverty and plague. Immigrants built lasting legacies. Black businesses thrived. Music of all sorts-folk, jazz, country, rock ‘n’ roll- has always played and important role.”
Hardcover edition. 350 pages. Illustrated throughout. $39.99.
Now available to purchase through KHP’s Online Store or pick up a signed copy at several upcoming book-signing events where Jack will also be speaking. The first one will be on September 19th at 6:30pm at Maple Hall on Gay Street. Check our EVENTS page for all dates and times and other related programs.
This September, KHP received a grant to allow us to install what will be our 19th Downtown Art Wrap through a special Arts Builds Communities program awarded by the State of Tennessee and managed locally by the Arts and Cultural Alliance.
The new art wrap will be an abstract painting by Carl Sublett, one of the famous Knoxville Seven artists, whose work can be viewed at the Knoxville Museum of Art’s ongoing exhibition, HIGHER GROUND: A Century of the Visual Arts in East Tennessee. The new art wrap will be placed at the intersection of Henley Street and W. Church Avenue.
The grant requires KHP to raise matching funds on a 1:1 basis. If you would like to sponsor a new art wrap or contribute with others to make this happen, please call 865-337-7723 or email email@example.com Thank you.
LONG TABLE DINNER TO BENEFIT KHP
The Knoxville History Project is thrilled to be chosen as the beneficiary organization for the 5th Long Table Dinner to be held in the Old City on Sunday, October 6, 2019 at 5:00 pm.
According to Molly King, owner of Molly Jo Events, and mastermind of this wonderful event, “The Long Table Dinner is an extraordinary collaboration of Chefs, Artisans, and Makers working together to raise money for local non-profits. Our ever-evolving collective of restaurants, bars, brewers, distillers, musicians, and artists produces one of Knoxville’s must-attend events in the heart of the Old City. This twice-yearly event is a fundraiser for a different non-profit on each occasion.”
Proceeds from the Long Table Dinner will provide a huge boost to KHP’s mission of researching and promoting the history and culture of Knoxville.
$140 per person. Tickets are available at Brownpapertickets.com
Gold Level Sponsor:
100% of sponsorship donations go directly to KHP since event expenses come out of ticket sales. Learn more about sponsorship levels: Long Table Sponsorships
If you would like to become a sponsor of this event, or learn more about supporting the Knoxville History Project, please contact Paul James, Development Director at 865-337-7723 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read about KHP’s “Latest News and Community Impacts – Summer 2019: KHP Latest News & Community Impact
NEW!!! – HISTORIC KNOXVILLE:
The Curious Visitor’s Guide to its Stories and Places
The Knoxville History Project’s new book, written by Jack Neely, is a comprehensive and engaging 200-page guide for both visitors and residents offers a wide-ranging guided tour to scores of places and institutions relevant to the city’s little know but endlessly fascinating history.
Knoxville will just come alive after you’ve read this book and explored some fascinating places!
Available from KHP and local book shops and retailers. Price: 24.95
Learn more on the HISTORIC KNOXVILLE GUIDE page.
Expanding every month, Downtown Art Wraps engage the public to discover the city’s rich artistic heritage by showcasing some of the important artwork made by Knoxville artists from the past. View the wraps on an interactive map and learn more on our Downtown Art Wraps page.
Most of us have a shoe box filled with old photos, clippings, and assorted memorabilia from our own lives and families.
You might have something in there that has distinct local importance and would also enhance KHP’s ability to tell a more comprehensive story of this special town. Old family photos might show interesting scenes or buildings. Posters and photos from musical shows here in Knoxville also have fascinating stories to tell, especially when coupled with others.
Learn how you can help KHP and enrich local history on our Knoxville Shoe Box page.
The Knoxville History Project is proud to partner with author and historian, Laura Still, and Knoxville Walking Tours to expand the offerings of quality, educational, and fun historical tours around Knoxville.
To help you understand what Laura brings to your historical experience and what inspired her to move into this field, we sat down with Laura to find out what inspired these talks and what you might expect by joining her on a tour.
Read the full Q & A with Laura here.
A portion of the proceeds from all downtown tours supports the Knoxville History Project.
A NEW PUBLICATION FOR LATE 2019: HISTORIC BEARDEN
Bearden is one of Knoxville’s oldest and best-known communities, with an economically and racially diverse background and deep roots in the 19th century. However, to date, except for some short monographs and personal memoirs, it has never been the subject of a comprehensive history, description, or overview in book form.
A new full-color historical guidebook, to be written by Jack Neely, and designed by the awarding winning team at Robin Easter Design, will be released towards the end of 2019 by the Knoxville History Project.
For more information on this project please click here for KHP’s Historic Bearden book page which also contains links to our community history and oral history pages.
MAKING KHP PUBLICATIONS AVAILABLE TO THE PUBLIC
Thanks to generous funding from the Friends of the Knox County Public Library, KHP has been able to make a number of its publications available to readers through the library system. Special hardbound copies of the following titles are now available to check out at the Downtown Lawson McGhee Library and branch libraries:
HISTORIC KNOXVILLE PLAYING CARDS
KHP is proud to showcase a new set of illustrated playing cards designed by the talented Tara Guin.
Playing with this sumptuous set will inspire you to learn a thing or two about some truly interesting, creative, successful, and altogether quirky and unforgettable characters from Knoxville’s past featured on the face cards. Meet the face cards on our Historic Knoxville Playing Cards page.
2019 WORK PLAN
For an overview of KHP’s core programs and priority projects in 2019 click here.
KNOXVILLE’S NATIONAL CEMETERY: A SHORT HISTORY
For Memorial Day Weekend 2018, KHP completed the first-ever published history of Knoxville’s National Cemetery.
A solemn destination, National Cemetery which lies adjacent to Old Gray Cemetery off Broadway, is the resting places of more than 9,000 American soldiers from every major war in the last 155 years and, in some cases, their close families. It’s so well kept, white stones in green grass, it doesn’t look very old, but it may be Knoxville’s best-preserved artifact of the Civil War. It was founded in September, 1863, when the Union-held city was anticipating a Confederate siege.
The Union monument, one of the largest in the South outside of battlefield memorial parks, has an extraordinary story behind it– about why it looks very different in old photographs. It also holds the simple grave of an especially well-known general who’s memorialized much more extravagantly elsewhere in town.
Learn more about the National Cemetery and other noteworthy cemeteries on our Historic Cemeteries page through the Knoxville History Portal.
If you want to hear an unusual take on Knoxville’s history and culture, try Walk with Me.
This creation of musician, filmmaker, and former television host Bob Deck, through his company, Wide Lens, along with singer/songwriter/poet R.B. Morris. The newest ones, about the Tennessee and Bijou Theatres, the Knoxville Museum of Art, St. John’s Episcopal Church, and the Jig & Reel– all venues used in the recent Big Ears festival– include some historical context provided by the Knoxville History Project. It’s an interesting idea, and we hope to participate in more projects like it in the future. Go to WALK WITH ME