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Knoxville Shoebox Collection

New Vintage Postcards Highlight the History of Knoxville Places and Events

At the nonprofit Knoxville History Project, we are always on the lookout for old images for our Knoxville Shoebox digital collection. If you have interesting photographs, postcards, or brochures, from any era, we’d love to hear from you so we can preserve the visual history of Knoxville and make it available for researchers of the future.

This month, we highlight four postcards donated to KHP by Knoxville postcard collector Alec Riedl.

Moses School

The Moses School in Mechanicsville is an impressive brick building dating to 1916 and named for New Hampshire native Col. John L. Moses (1822-1887), an attorney, journalist, and civic and Baptist church leader. In addition to the school, Mechanicsville still presents traces of Moses’ influence, as some of the older streets are named for members of his family. The building is an enlargement of the Mechanicsville School, a school for white children in an era when race-mixing in the classroom was illegal in Tennessee. It’s been closed as a public school for many years but has been used for a variety of purposes since then: police training center, performance space, and most recently Emerald Academy, a public free charter school run in conjunction with the faith-based Emerald Foundation. It’s one of the older school buildings in Knoxville.

Mount Le Conte

This picturesque view of Mount Le Conte in the Smokies was likely produced in the 1930s when the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was a new tourist destination. Although unofficially opened to visitors by 1930, the park officially opened in 1934 and was famously dedicated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on September 2, 1940. The hand-tinted photograph is credited to Thompson Co., aka Thompson Brothers. That firm was originally established by commercial photographer James E. (Jim) Thompson who began trips into the Smokies to capture wildflowers and landscapes with his camera lens around 1915, and his younger brother, Robin, who specialized in aerial photography. Almost a decade later, Jim’s photographs swayed Park Commissioners who were so impressed with Thompson’s images that they quickly visited the Smokies and soon after recommended it to become a national park.

Shields-Watkins Field

Established in 1921, Shields-Watkins Field is the nucleus of Neyland Stadium, home of Tennessee Vols Football. In the days before generous funding for athletics, the field was built by volunteer effort, enlisting students, engineering faculty, and other fans. Originally it was used for baseball, football, and track events, and occasionally high-school tournaments. The field was named in honor of a major donor to the effort, prominent banker and UT trustee W.S. Shields and his wife, Alice Watkins Shields. During Coach Robert Neyland’s extraordinary era, the stands’ capacity rose from 3,200, when the stadium was little more than bleachers, to over 46,000, when it was a proper masonry stadium built in a horseshoe shape, with the northern end open. Later improvements dramatically increased seating capacity to serve a crowd of over 102,000 fans today.

 

Andrew Johnson Hotel Swimming Pool

This undated postcard shows an illustration of something that’s elusive in local photographic archives: the outdoor swimming pool at the Andrew Johnson Hotel on the 900 block of Gay Street. It originally opened as the Tennessee Terrace in 1928 but changed its name soon after to honor the 17th U.S. President who was experiencing a new phase of historical esteem. This 17-story hotel (then the tallest building in East Tennessee) attracted tourists heading south to visit the new Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Perhaps inspired by hotels in New York, the Andrew Johnson also hosted live radio programming in studios on its roof.

ABOUT KHP

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 inspire an appreciation for the city’s culture.

Donations to support the work of the Knoxville History Project, an educational nonprofit, are always welcome and appreciated. KHP’s best-seller, Historic Knoxville: The Curious Visitor’s Guide and the latest collection of stories, Knoxville Lives V, is available at KnoxvilleHistoryProject.org, East Tennessee History Center and Union Ave Books.

Contact us at (865) 337-7723 or email Paul@KnoxHistoryProject.org.

This new story collection features essays on Marshall Carlos, the mid-1800s Spanish-speaking police chief, Hollywood director Clarence Brown who earned two engineering degrees from UT, the Trythall brothers, modern classical composer-musicians, the Knoxville communists of the 1930s who made national headlines, and a brutal murder in South Knoxville in 1893.

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