Shoebox Collections


We hope you enjoy this monthly sampler from Knoxville History Project’s "Knoxville Shoebox" collection. We are always on the lookout for old family and personal pictures--especially when there’s something distinctly Knoxvillian about them. Our goal is to help fill in the many gaps in the photographic record of our city’s past.

If you have interesting old photographs of your own, from any era, we’d love to hear from you. You show us the photograph, we copy it and give the original back to you. We preserve and archive the image and make it available for researchers of the future, always crediting your contribution. Sharing is easy—and we’ll do our best to make your images immortal!

Please contact Paul James at the Knoxville History Project at 865.337.7723 or Learn more at

First Baptist Church

Rev. W.E. Parry, pastor of the People’s Tabernacle on South Central Street, took this photograph of First Baptist Church in 1935. Designed by Dougherty and Gardner of Nashville in 1924, the church once caught the attention of New Yorker architecture critic Brendan Gill, who compared it to the work of Christopher Wren. Its steeple once held the antenna for one of Knoxville's first radio stations, WFBC, a religious station. Opera star Mary Costa began her singing career as a girl in the choir in this church in the 1940s. Back then, Main was a two-way street. Shared by Walt Parry.

Baum’s Home of Flowers, 1918

This photograph from Baum’s Home of Flowers in Bearden looks west across a field of regal lilies in 1918. Soon after, the company moved from its original location at Fountain City. Founded by Karl Baum, the son of a German immigrant who came to Knoxville by way of the European community in Wartburg, established a longstanding retail presence on Gay Street at Church Avenue while steadily building the Bearden plant (where Baum Drive is now) that ultimately claimed to be the largest greenhouse facility in the southeast. Shared by Charles Baum.   

Gay Street at Church Avenue

This vintage postcard looks north along Gay Street past the intersection of Church Avenue in the early 1950s. Baum’s florist shop, a longstanding retail presence, is on the left. On the right is the stylishly streamlined Knoxville Utility Board building, on the former site of the Knoxville Power and Light Company. The building was redesigned in 1964 with a square corner. But a 2017 redesign by Sanders Pace for Tombras revealed, for a few weeks, its original curved steel interior structure. Shared by Alec Riedl.

Downtown Fire Department

In 1977, the City Fire Department moved into a new facility on the corner of Locust Street and Summit Hill Drive. The new location was several blocks west of its previous spot on Commerce Avenue, which was demolished to make way for Summit Hill Drive itself. The view past the mid-70s’ Chrysler looks east along Summer Place towards Walnut Street where we can see what appears to be a paint store (later demolished for Market Square parking garage) and behind it the tops of several buildings on the west side of Market Square. Shared by Capt. D.J. Corcoran, City Fire Department. 

A Knoxville Christmas

This 70-page collection of remarkable stories by Jack Neely documents Knoxville’s rich and often surprising celebration of the Christmas season since the 1800s. From Dickens and dolls, to parades and pageants. From glittering lights to dragon balloons, to the first municipal Christmas Tree. A Knoxville Christmas is published by the Knoxville History Project and is available at, as well as Union Ave Books. $10.95.

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