Tennessee School for the Deaf / Old City Hall (70)


601 West Summit Hill Drive

This Greek Revival building is the best remaining example of that architectural style in Knox County. When built in 1848, this building housed the “Deaf & Dumb Asylum,” an unfortunately termed institution later known as the Tennessee School for the Deaf. Despite its name, which took on negative connotations only later, it was the pride of antebellum Knoxville. Its construction marked the first statewide status Knoxville had earned since capital days (Knoxville’s tiny university was still only a regional institution), and it was in those early years one of the first 10 schools for the deaf in America.

The cornerstone was laid in May 1848 and constructed as an addition to the east wing, which was completed in 1846. A wing was added to the west side in 1853. These buildings were used by the Confederate Army as a hospital from June 1861, until Knoxville was occupied by the Union Army in September 1863. The Union also used these buildings as a hospital until September 1865.

An addition at the northern end of the building, made in 1874, was designed by architect A. C. Bruce in the Italianate style. A chapel and auditorium were added at the north end of the west wing in 1879, and an additional enlargement on the north in 1904–1905, was designed by Baumann Brothers. This addition included the center dormers on the west and expanded the depth of the building from three to six bays. The second classroom building was completed in 1891 and is a freestanding structure. Another freestanding structure was completed in 1899 as a hospital for the complex, and is Neoclassical in style and set on a partial basement.

In September 1922, the grounds and buildings were sold to the City of Knoxville for $400,000 and became the new City Hall with the formal opening held on February 10, 1925. A circa 1930 city plan called for demolishing the buildings, to be replaced with modern government buildings. Instead, the buildings served as Knoxville’s City Hall for more than 50 years until the new City-County Building was completed in 1979. It was purchased years later by Lincoln Memorial University for use as a law school campus.

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