Chilhowee Park Neighborhood
A History of the Chilhowee Park Neighborhood
In the early 1900s the Chilhowee Park Historic District was home to prominent Knoxvillians that established themselves during the rapid economic growth of Knoxville. In the 1920s, as newer automobile suburbs like Holston Hills, Sequoyah Hills and Westmoreland began to attract those people to newer neighborhoods, blue collar workers in the Standard Knitting Mills Co. and Southern Railway, and workers from the city’s expanding retail and service sectors moved into the neighborhood. Streetcar lines were the major form of transportation for these workers, not only to and from work, but also to the central core of Knoxville. In 1904, the City Directory listed the neighborhood as having 112 residents. Chilhowee Park continued to experience growth in the number of residents from the 1920s through the 1940s as industry continued to prosper and expand in the area. Southern Railway employees became the most numerous home owners during this time in Chilhowee Park. Knoxville was home of one of the largest regional offices for the both the Southern Railroad and the Louisville and Nashville Railroad; these railroads employed hundreds of Knoxvillians during the first half of the 20th century.
In addition to the proximity of industry, Chilhowee Park also experienced growth as a result of its location on the streetcar line and adjacent to the popular Lake Ottossee (Chilhowee Park). The first electric street car in Knoxville made its opening run on May 1, 1890 the developing Chilhowee Park area. The Park Avenue Streetcar Line operated down what is Magnolia Avenue today. A procession of streetcars would carry Knoxville’s leading citizens to Lake Ottossee (now Chilhowee Park) for lighthearted recreational activities. East Fifth Avenue also housed a streetcar line that ran from Chilhowee Park through Park City to downtown Knoxville. The lines allowed this first and second ring of suburbs, Park City Historic District and Chilhowee Park Historic District, to be connected to downtown and other parts of the city.
Previous names of the Chilhowee Park facility were Lake Ottossee and Beaman’s Park. The name was changed to Chilhowee Park during the late 1890s. Established in the mid 1880s by the Knoxville Railway and Lighting Company, Chilhowee Park shifted into an amusement park during this time. It was where Knoxvillians came for swimming and other recreation. In 1899, the Commercial Club, a local businessman’s organization, having already established several fall carnivals, began to plan an exposition at Chilhowee Park. Building with meetings beginning in 1909. The Appalachian Exposition was held from September 12 to October 12, 1910, and then again the following year. The National Conservation Exposition was held at the park in 1913. The Appalachian Exposition attracted important guests and speakers to include Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft. Booker T. Washington attended the Conservation Exposition in 1913. The Exposition attracted visitors from many states who came to see not only the exhibits, but also the first airplane and Zeppelin demonstrations flights ever given in East Tennessee. Perhaps the greatest attendance occurred when former president Theodore Roosevelt addressed a huge crowd. The success of the 1910 event gave rise to a second exposition, held the following year. Again the crowds came, and the occasion was considered especially successful when President Taft viewed the exhibits and remarked that he did not see why all the people of the section were not millionaires.
The expositions proved to establish an interest in the neighborhood beside the Park. While a large amount of residents in Chilhowee Park were blue collar, the neighborhood did have a handful of established families calling the area home. During the first quarter of the 20th century, a few prominent Knoxville families moved into the neighborhood, mainly in the blocks east of the 3100 block of Woodbine Avenue. The new ring of automobile suburbs eventually attracted these families.
The rapid growth of Chilhowee Park did not go unnoticed by the administration of Knoxville. The area, including Jefferson, Woodbine and East Fifth Avenues, was annexed in 1917 and referred to as the Tenth Ward. Continuing growth and construction continued throughout the mid-20th century.
By the 1940s, industries such as Standard Knitting Mills, Southern Railway, and the new Levi-Strauss factory to the north of the area were major employers. All of these industries began to experience economic downturn in the mid 1950s. By 1960, the neighborhood was undergoing major social, economic, and physical change. New residents displaced by urban renewal in other parts of Knoxville moved to the Chilhowee Park neighborhood, and the socio-economic character of the population continued to change. The construction of I-40 East, the widening of Cherry Street to the west, and the continued development of the Knoxville Zoo to the north of the neighborhood separated it physically from neighboring historic areas.
Today, the Chilhowee Park Neighborhood has an established and active neighborhood association. An enhanced awareness in historic architecture and the preservation of significant structures is apparent throughout the neighborhood. The initial efforts at neighborhood rehabilitation foretell the continued improvement and, most significantly, the survival of this wonderful neighborhood.
Within the boundaries of the Chilhowee Park are architecturally and historically significant structures that reflect an important portion of Knoxville’s streetcar suburbanization. The neighborhood’s structures represent the growth of the middle/upper class in Knoxville the economic growth and development of the city during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
415 N. Castle Street was built in 1917 by prominent Knoxville lawyer Arthur E. Mitchell. Mitchell lived on N. Castle until 1933 when he moved to fashionable Sequoyah Hills in west Knoxville. Mitchell began his practice of law in Knoxville in 1911. Before being admitted to the Tennessee bar, and in the early years of his practice, Mitchell made was also the coach of the Maryville College football team. (Knoxville Journal 1/10/1956) During August of 1934 Mitchell was elected to his first term as a Chancellor of the Knox County Chancery Court. Mitchell was reelected August 1942 for a second term and became the only man who had been reelected to the office of Chancellor since it was originated in 1854. In 1933 Frank A. Tucker and his wife Elizabeth moved into the house until the mid 1950s. Tucker was treasurer of Security Mills and later in 1943 became President of J. Allen Smith & Company, the makers of Whilte Lily Flour
417 N. Castle Street was built in 1917 by Alfred N. Shearman. Shearman lived on N. Castle for 25 years. He was the leading pioneer of the concrete pipe industry in the South. Shearman owned and operated Shearman Concrete Pipe Co. in Knoxville. His products were shipped from Knoxville into all of the southern states east of the Mississippi River. Shearman was so successful that by 1925 he owned and operated plants in Knoxville, Atlanta, Jacksonville, Little Rock, Dallas, and Barton, Florida.
3118 Woodbine Avenue was built in 1922 by John L. Kennedy Sr., a prominent Gay Street shoe merchant and outstanding area golfer. Kennedy lived in the house for 40 years. In addition to his prominence in the business community, he was from an Irish Catholic family and was an acting member of the Church of the Immaculate Conception. Kennedy was an acting partner in Kennedy-Gillespie Shoe Store and was known around Knoxville as a champion golfer at Holston Hills Country Club.
3106 Woodbine Avenue was built in 1922 by Robert W. Peery, vice-president of a local Knoxville bank. He only lived in the house for four years, when Chas F. Gallagher, manager of F.W. Woolworth Company, moved into the house and lived there until 1935. The house then welcomed new owners every 10 to 15 years, mostly local blue collar workers from Standard Knitting and the L & N Railroad.
3101 Woodbine Avenue was built in 1928. Its most prominent owner was William S. McCarty who lived in the house with his family from 1945 until 1977. McCarty established McCarty Mortuary in 1928. It was said at his death in 1991 that he was the oldest funeral director in the state of Tennessee in terms of continued service. McCarty was active in the Chilhowee Park Historic Neighborhood, not only living in the area but setting up is his mortuary nearby in 1928.
3301 Woodbine Avenue was built in 1930. The first owner, Walter C. Rector, only lived in the house for three years. Rector, a prominent lawyer, sold the house to Claude S. LaRue in 1934. LaRue joined Sterchi-Brothers Store Inc. in 1933 and served as secretary, treasurer, vice-present, and vice-chair of the Board of Directors. LaRue revised the capital structure of the company by installing a credit and collection policy that strengthened its financial structure. He also made vast improvements in the many phases of accounting, finance, and control of the company. He was largely responsible for the listing of Sterchi stock on the New York Stock Exchange. LaRue, like Rector, only lived in the house for three years. Bernard F. Hartman, owner of the Pepsi Bottling Company in Knoxville, was the next owner, living in the house from 1937 until 1939. From 1940 until 1973, three families lived in the house, including an assistant manager of a grocery store and a TVA employee. In 1974, Ralph H. Boston moved into the house and still owns the house today. Boston has lived in Knoxville since 1968 and was a general partner in the ownership of WKXT-TV, Channel 8 in Knoxville. Until the age of 29, Boston competed successfully in a variety of track and field competitions, capped by the Olympic Games. He won a Gold medal in 1960 for the long jump, a silver medal in 1964, and a bronze in 1968. Inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame in 1985, Boston held many prominent positions in Knoxville. Boston worked as an account executive in management for South Central Bell, program coordinator in the city’s community and economic development department, and director of city parks and recreation. He was also the assistant dean of students at the University of Tennessee for seven years.
714 N. Beaman was built in 1930 by Abe Schwartz, manager and owner of a ladies clothing store named “The Vogue” in popular Market Square. Schwartz lived in the home with his family until 1966. Schwartz also operated other clothing stores around the South. He was involved may aspects of the city; Deane Hill Country Club, Elks, and Heska Amuna Synagogue. The house saw a new owner in 1967, but three years later a new owner moved in and has been living in the house ever since.
3120 Woodbine Avenue was built in 1939. Leslie C. Gaskins, a music executive with G & G Music Company lived in the house until 1941. That year the house began to acquire association with a nationally known soft drink, when it was sold to Aloysius (Alley) A. Hartman, Vice-President of Hartman Beverage Company. Hartman and his brother became owners and operators of their very own Orange Crush and beer franchise. When the Hartmans later acquired the Pepsi-Cola franchise in 1935, they dropped the beer distribution. Before moving to Knoxville, the brothers lived in Atlanta and were avid whiskey drinkers. They found a good chaser for the drink, National Set Up, a soft drink that tasted like 7UP and had gained a lot of popularity in the southern states. When the brothers moved to Knoxville, they opened their plant on Magnolia Avenue. One of the first orders of business at the new plant was to duplicate their favorite mixer, Natural Set Up. Outside the industry the common name for the class of drink that tastes like ‘7UP’ is a lemon-lime drink. Inside the industry the drink is called a lithiated-lemon and was very easily duplicated. (Bridgeforth, 17) As suspected the brothers came up with their own lemon-lime drink with help from their plant foreman/advertising manager, Servais Schneide. Servais, who had spent time in the mountains of East Tennessee, may have been the first to jokingly call the new mixer ‘Mountain Dew’ (mountain dew is the hillbilly name for homemade whiskey or moonshine). The name was very popular and soon everyone was talking about the Hartman’s home-brewed Mountain Dew. The brothers soon started looking at the commercial appeal of the new mixer, and thought that if they themselves enjoyed the taste enough to copy it from Natural Set Up so might the East Tennessee public. The brothers filed for a trademark on the Mountain Dew design and name on October 12, 1948, but the registration was not officially accepted and published until May 5, 1953, almost five year after the first request. The drink had very little success in the 1940s and early 50s. Orders were put on hold and bottling the drink was limited. In 1954, Ally issued his first Mountain Dew franchise to Tri-City Beverage in Johnson City, Tennessee. In 1957 Ally, along with three other Pepsi-Cola bottlers, each invested in the Tip Corporation, which owned the trademark on Mountain Dew. Ally also used his Mountain Dew registration as part of his buy-in to Tip. Then, in 1960, Ally sold his portion of the company and his rights to Mountain Dew back to Tip.
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