Peter Kern Bakery & Confectionery (49)


1 Market Square

Built by German-born baker Peter Kern (1835-1907) in 1876, and perhaps the first major building designed by a local professional architect (Joseph Baumann), the Italianate Commercial-style Kern building served a complex variety of purposes and quickly became the center of social life in Knoxville.

It housed Kern’s own elaborate emporium, which included a bakery and candy factory, and also his soda fountain and his luxurious “ice-cream saloon.” On the top floor were the headquarters of the Oddfellows organization, whose rooms sometimes functioned as auditoriums and ballrooms.

Kern, a major figure in Victorian Knoxville, promoted holidays in the previously unfestive city – he also sold toys and fireworks – and became the city’s last foreign-born mayor, serving from 1890 to 1891. After his death, the business focused on baking bread, and, in 1931, the company left the building for a larger factory in South Knoxville.

Much of the building was redeveloped as the St. Oliver Hotel in the early 1980s; its best-known regular guest was actress Patricia Neal, but author Elizabeth Gilbert completed her extremely popular memoir Eat, Pray, Love, while she was staying here in early 2005.

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