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Williams Bluff

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Knoxville Shoebox Postcard Collection

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. Old family photos might show interesting scenes or buildings. Posters and photos from musical shows also have fascinating stories to tell. We are interested in all eras, especially more recent decades not yet covered by local archives and collections – and images of South Knoxville for our current book research. Please email us at

Special thanks to Bearden resident Alec Riedl for sharing these old Knoxville postcards with us.

A Fair Shake

Published by the Knoxville History Project, A Fair Shake by local historian (and KHP partner) Laura Still is a handy guide to the major people and places involved in the fight for women’s rights. The title was a motto of Knoxville’s leading suffragist, Lizzie Crozier French. Illustrated with dozens of photographs, the book includes short bios of French and colleagues, as well as descriptions of landmarks strongly associated with suffrage, many of them long gone, but some still there. Laura Still is the owner and chief guide for Knoxville Walking Tours. Learn more at

Residence of L.D. Tyson

Still standing adjacent to Hodges Library on the University of Tennessee campus, the Tyson House was originally built for Lt. Lawrence Davis Tyson (1861-1929), a young cavalry officer who had served in the U.S. Army out west against Geronimo’s Apaches. Tyson married a Knoxville heiress, Bettie McGhee, and earned a transfer to Knoxville to lead the university’s military science program. He spent the rest of his life as a Knoxville businessman, lawyer, and ultimately a politician, but rejoined the army during major conflicts such as the Spanish-American War and World War I where he was promoted to brigadier general. The Tysons moved into this house in the 1890s. In 1908, they employed aging architect George Barber, whose famous Victorian designs were out of style, to rebuild the exterior to look neoclassical. Today, the house, with the interior remarkably intact, serves as the Tyson Alumni Center.

Williams Bluff

Williams Bluff, about a mile and a half east of downtown, is an old name for the high ground near where Williams Creek enters the Tennessee River. Both are likely named after Col. John Williams (1778-1837), a former U.S. senator and ambassador whose residence still stands on Dandridge Avenue. Williams was an outspoken opponent of several of the policies of Andrew Jackson. He was also great-great-grandfather of the playwright Tennessee Williams, who visited his house (near here on Dandridge Avenue) more than once. The view here looks toward Col. Perez Dickinson’s Island Home estate, circa 1890s. The actual island, which today serves the Downtown Airport, is known as Dickinson Island, but was previously known as Williams Island, once owned by the Williams family.  

Aerial View of Downtown

This aerial postcard of downtown Knoxville taken by Thompson Brothers is dated 1919. That firm was established by prolific photographer Jim Thomson in 1902, whose majestic prints of the Smokies helped the area be selected to become a new national park in the 1920s. However, aerial images such as these though would have been taken by his brother, Robin Thompson, who joined the business after World War I. Robin had trained at the United States School of Aerial Photography at Rochester, New York. Notably missing to modern eyes is the Henley Bridge, which wasn’t completed until 1932, and built to connect Knoxville with a new highway (later named Chapman Highway) that would take locals and tourists to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Clinch Avenue Viaduct

The YWCA building on the corner of Clinch Avenue and Walnut Street was completed in 1925, replacing a former doctor’s house, which originally served as the organization’s headquarters. According to research by historian Laura Still, a cornerstone was laid containing a history of the local YWCA, related newspaper articles, a pamphlet about the proposed Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a list of 300 building workers, and on the top, an open Bible. An inscription still clearly visible from the sidewalk near the front entrance reads, “DEDICATED TO THE GLORY OF GOD AND THE SERVICE OF WOMANHOOD, 1925.” The building’s star turn came in 1999, when its lobby (standing in for a hotel in Indianapolis) appeared in the major motion picture October Sky, starring a young Jake Gyllenhaal.

The mission of the Knoxville History Project (KHP) is to research, preserve, and promote the history and culture of Knoxville, Tennessee. Donations to support the work of the Knoxville History Project, an educational nonprofit, are always welcome and appreciated. KHP’s publications include Historic Knoxville: The Curious Visitor’s Guide and Historic Bearden: The 200-year story of Knoxville’s Fourth Creek Valley, and numerous story collections including the “Knoxville Lives” series. Copies are available at and local bookstores, including Union Ave Books.

  • Aerial View of Dowtown
  • Clinch Avenue Viaduct
  • Residence of LD Tyson
  • Williams Bluff