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Knoxville Botanical Gardens

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Explore East Knoxville Through a Historic Driving Tour

The mission of the Knoxville History Project (KHP) is to research, preserve, and promote the history and culture of Knoxville, Tennessee. Through research and engaging programs, KHP tells the city’s stories, focusing on those that have not been previously told, and those that connect the city to the world. KHP’s stories, programs, and publications educate and help residents and visitors understand the city’s past and its complicated but dynamic heritage, and also to inspire an appreciation for the city’s culture.

Learning about a city’s history makes one more aware of its geography and its buildings, leading to a better sense of place. KHP’s downloadable driving tours of Near-West, North, East, and South Knoxville provide opportunities for residents to discover and appreciate the many historical landmarks found throughout Knoxville that can be seen easily from a vehicle or explored on foot.

The 8.2-mile-long tour of East Knoxville starts at Caswell Park off Magnolia Avenue, makes a short loop around Parkridge, heads east along Magnolia towards Chilhowee Park, taking in Burlington with its unique Speedway Circle. The tour proceeds over to the Knoxville Botanical Gardens and Arboretum via MLK Jr. Avenue, and finally meanders toward downtown via Dandridge Ave and MLK Boulevard, concluding close to where the tour began on Magnolia Avenue. 

Parkridge, once part of Park City, existed as an incorporated community from 1907 to 1917. The neighborhood is known for its late Victorian architecture, especially that of George Barber, who was a partner in the original development of the neighborhood. Perhaps the best-known architect ever to live in Knoxville, Barber lived in several different places in his favorite neighborhood, but he's most associated with the colorful house at 1635 Washington Ave. on the corner at Monroe. 

Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum’s history dates back to the 1780s when it became Revolutionary War veteran David Howell's farm and orchard. It constituted the origins of the durable Howell Nursery, which started as a business in the 1870s and served as a prolific source of trees and ornamental plants for the region until it closed in 2002. It is now a 47-acre public garden run by the nonprofit KBGA and notable for its encyclopedic array of trees and shrubs and for some unusual original buildings, like the circular stone huts, and the “Secret Garden,” inspired by the children’s book written by Frances Hodgson Burnett. 

Haley Heritage Square in Morningside Park, off Dandridge Avenue, is home to a large monument to Roots author Alex Haley, who spent his later years in Knoxville. When it was installed in 1998, the creation by California sculptor Tina Allen was reportedly the largest statue of an African American in the world. A rarity for most artworks, it was designed so that children can climb on it. Across the street from the statue is the Italianate-style Mabry-Hazen House, built in 1858 and where three generations of the same family resided.

Also nearby on Dandridge Avenue is the Beck Cultural Exchange Center, which has operated as an extensive library and museum for African American history and culture since 1975. It’s the final home of James and Ethel Beck, who were an inspiring couple to Knoxville's African American community for much of the 20th century. James Beck was the state's first black postal clerk, and was the leading founder of Knoxville's chapter of the NAACP; Ethel, a former tennis champ, was founder of an orphanage for Black children. (Photo by KHP.)

Download driving tours at

Learn more at Donations to support they work of the Knoxville History Project, an educational nonprofit, are always welcome and appreciated. 

  • Alex Haley monument
  • Becky Cultural Exchange Center
  • Knoxville Botanical Gardens
  • Parkridge