Andrew Johnson Hotel (32)

417 South Gay Street

Planning for the hotel began in 1918, but construction was not completed until 1928. The hotel was designed by Knoxville architects Baumann & Baumann. It was originally to be named Tennessee Terrace but was changed to honor President Andrew Johnson. From 1928 to 1978, the Andrew Johnson Hotel was the city’s tallest structure and was the cornerstone of the downtown skyline. It hosted such noteworthy guests as Amelia Earhart; Duke Ellington; Sergei Rachmaninoff; and Hank Williams, Sr. who spent some of his final hours in the hotel; as well as Jean-Paul Sartre, who is known to have written one essay, about American Cities, for the French press in 1945, while staying here as part of a wartime press junket.

Throughout much of the 1930s, WNOX broadcasted from the Andrew Johnson Hotel’s 17th floor. The station’s popular show Mid-Day Merry-Go-Round was broadcast here. Listeners in downtown Knoxville frequented the hotel to see the show’s broadcast. By the late 1930s, the station was drawing some 1,000 fans each day, flooding the hotel’s elevators. After guests began to complain, the hotel management asked the station to move out.

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