L&N Station (59)

L&N-Passanger-Station-A&A-2008-#5

401 Henley Street

The Louisville & Nashville Passenger Station in Knoxville was built in 1905, and the Chateauesque-style building was designed under the guidance of L&N’s Chief Engineer Richard Montfort, who also was the architect of Nashville’s Union Station. The passenger station for the L&N Railroad was deliberately a little grander in style than the existing Southern terminal a few blocks away. The construction was reported to have cost $107,061 at the time. The building faced Asylum Avenue (now Western Avenue). The Knoxville station’s opening in May 1905 coincided with the railway’s completion of its through lines from Louisville and Cincinnati to Atlanta.

The Knoxville L&N Passenger terminal was one of Knoxville’s most ornate public spaces, prominently featuring stained glass windows and tile flooring laid in oriental carpet patterns. The Ladies’ Waiting Room featured its own entrance and fireplace and was furnished in massive oak pieces that included a library table, writing desks, and rocking chairs.

The building is described in detail in James Agee’s Pulitzer-winning novel, A Death In the Family, which is set ca. 1915–1916. It was just a few years old when it served as a setting for a few scenes in that autobiographical novel. It later welcomed the young Estes Kefauver to town – the influential future senator recalled his shiny clothes startled the fellow students sent to meet him – and had some celebrity turns, as when John Barrymore arrived for a performance, around 1940, and drew a crowd.

The Railway’s passenger service ended with the last run of the Flamingo on March 7, 1968. Empty for some years, it was renovated for the 1982 World’s Fair and was often crowded with visitors dining at its popular restaurants. Today, it houses a Knox County STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) Academy.

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