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Shoebox Collection

The Knoxville History Project Continues Its Series on Little-Known Photographs Submitted by Locals

If you have interesting old photographs of your own, from any era, we’d love to hear from you. We preserve and archive the image and make it available for researchers of the future, always crediting your contribution.

Please contact Paul James at the Knoxville History Project at (865) 337-7723
or Paul@KnoxHistoryProject.org. Learn more at knoxvillehistoryproject.org/knoxville-shoebox/

Downtown Knoxville

A brand-new 126-page photographic book, out now, chronicles the story of downtown Knoxville, site of the city’s most memorable stories and legends, through a fascinating collection of 180 vintage photos, maps, and illustrations from local archives and collections. It’s available for $23.99 at knoxvillehistoryproject.org and local book shops and gift stores, including the Museum of East Tennessee History and Union Ave Books. 

Around 1925, crowds awaited the next sensation at the popular two-balcony Bijou Theatre built in 1909 and known for vaudeville shows and performances by the local Peruchi Players.

The Daily Sentinel

Established in 1886, the Daily Sentinel, whose offices were on Reservoir Street (later Commerce Avenue near modern-day Summit Hill Drive), went on to become one of the city’s most durable businesses. By 1893, its name changed to the Knoxville Sentinel and continued that way until 1926 when it merged with the Knoxville News, becoming the Knoxville News-Sentinel. In this 1889 photograph, the conspicuously casual staff include, at left, a typesetter with ink-stained apron. (McClung Historical Collection, Thompson Photograph Collection.) 

Fire Chief Boyd

In 1900, the same year that he became chief of the Fire Department, Sam Boyd (1865-1929) proudly shows two large horses named Ned and George. Boyd served as chief for 29 years before he died of a heart attack while battling a raging fire at the Knoxville Business College on Church Avenue, close to First Presbyterian Church. Boyd is the only Knoxville Fire chief who has died in service. (McClung Historical Collection.)

L&N Station

The L&N’s (Louisville and Nashville) Railroad’s passenger station, finished in 1905, and designed to look just a little fancier than the Southern station a few blocks away, is described in James Agee’s Pulitzer-winning novel A Death in the Family, set in 1916. In this circa 1920s shot, friendly-looking staff at the station’s Crescent News Lunch Room, associated with a nearby news stand, offer pastries on the marble-top counter, a very fancy coffee machine, and a variety of bottled drinks. Despite the “lunch” in its name, the café was open from 5 a.m. until 11 p.m.

Street Performer

In Knoxville, country music started on the streets, and street performers, many of them blind, offered a soundtrack for a walk around downtown Knoxville. In 1936, an unidentified guitarist plays and sings, with a tin cup lashed to the neck of his guitar, as his female associate holds out another cup, in hopes of a stranger’s buffalo nickel or Mercury dime. (McClung Historical Collection, Roger H. Howell Photo Collection.)

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