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McGhee Tyson Airport

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Knoxville Shoebox Postcards

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 facilitating these Knoxville Shoebox additions.

Gay Street at Union Avenue

The intersection of Gay Street and Union Avenue, looking north, has been a much-photographed spot over the years. Captured here sometime in the first decade of the 20th century, horse and carriage drivers are vying for space with a relatively new mode of transport, the electric streetcar. Soon, the emergence of the automobile would be another gamechanger. When it opened in 1905, Miller’s (left of center) became the city’s largest department store, while the building on the far left is old East Tennessee Savings Bank building that had been on that spot for about 20 years. In the 1930s, inspired by the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, it became Park National Bank. The Miller’s building still stands today as an office building, while the Park National Bank building was rebuilt in 1974 and is occupied by the Embassy Suites hotel. (Shared by Charles D. Susano, Jr.)

Brookside Cotton Mills

Built in 1885 alongside Second Creek and the Southern Railroad in north Knoxville, Brookside Cotton Mills was one of Knoxville’s more picturesque factories. The textile mill specialized in weaving cotton and produced specialty fabrics such as corduroy and velvet on its 1,300-plus looms. Brookside became one of Knoxville’s biggest industrial plants with over 1,000 workers, producing more than 15 million yards of cloth annually. Many of the workers, more than half of them women, lived within walking distance of the factory in a new community that grew up around Central Street known as Happy Holler. Future Hollywood director Clarence Brown grew up in the neighborhood as his father served in senior management positions at Brookside for more than 20 years. Clarence Brown would go on to direct 50 films, some starring the likes of Greta Garbo, Clark Gable, and Joan Crawford. (Shared by Charles D. Susano, Jr.)


McGhee Tyson Airport

Knoxville’s first municipal airport originally came into being in 1929 when the city took over operations at Bearden Field on Sutherland in West Knoxville. Within a few years, it became clear that a larger space was needed to meet the growing demand for commercial air traffic. The airport moved to its much larger present location across the Blount County line in 1937. Efforts to rename it Great Smoky Mountains Airport, in honor of the new national park opened nearby in 1934, were abandoned shortly after it re-opened partly because of certain conditions relating to land parcels donated by the Tyson family to the City of Knoxville. (Shared by Charles D. Susano, Jr.)


James Park House

Still standing today, the James Park House, at Cumberland Avenue and Walnut Street, is one of the city’s oldest buildings. Foundations were originally begun by John Sevier, the state’s first governor, but it wasn’t fully completed until 1812 by Irishman James Park. Later, Park served as Mayor of Knoxville, first in 1818 and again in 1824. Because it had to go around the Park House, Walnut Street was for many years known as Crooked Street. In the early 20th century, the house served as the first headquarters of the Red Cross, and during World War I, first aid supplies and clothes for overseas soldiers were made there. In 2007, Gulf and Ohio Railways completely renovated the house and still maintains its headquarters in the house. (Shared by Dave Parmalee.)

About KHP

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.

  • Brookside Mills
  • Gay St. at Union Ave.
  • Historic Knoxville
  • James Park House
  • McGhee Tyson Airport