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Ayres Hall

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Shoebox Collection

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

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.

Market House

This rare photograph by artist Joe Parrott Sr. was taken from his studio window around 1939, showing a busy day on Union Avenue in front of the old Market House. The large building to the left of the Market House is the former Kern’s Emporium, used at this time, on the ground floor at least, by Cole’s Drugs. Behind it is the Roxy Theatre, the burlesque theater and movie house that closed in 1959. Parrott was a well-known illustrator who designed lobby displays for the Tennessee Theatre when it opened in 1928. He served as president of the Knoxville Camera Club in 1940. (Shared by Joe Parrott Jr who still has the 4x5 Graflex camera used by his father on this shot.)

Fireproof Storage

Nicholson Construction took this construction photograph before completion of the Fireproof Storage Company building in October 1923. Located on E. Jackson Avenue and S. Humes Street, adjacent to the Southern Railroad and close to Cripple Creek (now First Creek), for many years, this area formed the core of the meatpacking district with the associated East Tennessee Stockyards. Close by, the Bottom was a poor and predominantly African American neighborhood that flooded frequently. This building, renovated, still stands today and is an immediate neighbor to the construction site of the new baseball stadium site. (Shared by Ed Nicholson.)

Ayres Hall

Construction of Ayres Hall on the Hill at the University of Tennessee nears completion in this 1921 photograph. The building was designed by Chicago architect Grant Miller and although it has been called Collegiate Gothic due to its stone arches and gargoyles, architecture students argue that its perfect symmetry makes it more akin to Elizabethan Revival. The building’s checkerboard motif can be found mirrored in Neyland Stadium’s end zones. Ayres Hall is named former UT President, Brown Ayres (1856-1919), a former Tulane professor who had been well known in New Orleans as a scientist and demonstrator of new electrical marvels, and who introduced radio technology to Knoxville when he conducted a demonstration here during a visit in 1902. He died in office as this project began. (Shared by Ed Nicholson.)

KUB Building

Here is the Knoxville Utilities Building (KUB) on the corner of Gay Street and W. Church Avenue not long after a new facade was added in 1951. An expansion and a further makeover was completed in 1964. Used for than three decades as a furniture store, this building became home to Knoxville Power and Light Company in 1916. It was here that many Knoxvillians were first introduced to modern electrical appliances through its window displays. The Tennessee Valley Authority held offices here in the 1930s before KUB was established in 1939 to manage water and electric services for Knoxville residents.  The current owner, the advertising firm Tombras, radically designed the building in 2018. (Shared by Ed Nicholson.)

Look for Historic Knoxville: The Curious Visitor’s Guide, a 200-page, full-color, book offering a wide-ranging tour of scores of places and institutions relevant to the city’s often little known but endlessly fascinating history. All of Knoxville’s historic homes are included, along with the city’s museums and historical collections, historic downtown buildings, churches, statues, and a couple of suggested literary walks. User-friendly maps enable readers to explore Knoxville’s other historic landscapes including notable neighborhoods, parks, cemeteries, UT campus, and Civil War sites.


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 also include 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.

To get in touch, please contact us at (865) 337-7723 or Learn more at

  • Ayres Hall
  • Fireproof Storage
  • KUB
  • Market House