Knoxville Tennessee

We love taking driving tours of new cities we visit and this past weekend was no exception. We prefer driving around over seeing the normal tourist places sometimes so we can get a better idea of the history of the area.

Here’s some highlights from our three hour tour:

Knox County Health Department

Stands in the footprint of the old 1902 Knoxville General Hospital. Knoxville’s first public hospital, it had 285 beds, which some taxpayers complained was too many until the New Market Train Wreck of 1904. More than 100 of those injured were brought here.

Happy Holler

The “dip” in the road became known as Happy Holler in 1910. According to the story, the name was inspired by an Irishman named Kavenaugh, who noticed that many farmers coming to market in their mule cart would break down at the bottom of the hill, get stuck in the mud, or break an axel. It seemed to him a perfect place for a saloon, which he established in 1885.

The Original Freezo

Been doing business since the 1950s, and even though it has never offered indoor seating, it’s one of Knoxville’s oldest restaurants

Rankin Restaurant

Knoxville’s oldest restaurant in continuous operation. Opened in 1947 by Harry Regas and was taken over by the Rankin family in 1954. It’s only open for breakfast and lunch.

Charlie’s Pie Shop

Charlie Martin was a baker originally from Chattanooga, who in 1945 built this art deco building for his small factory. At one point him and his staff of 22 was producing thousands of pies every day until 1973.

Kroger’s (ok, this is an odd one)

Built in the 1950’s on what was a pocket African American community called Mucktown. This Kroger’s is now the oldest in Knoxville and has developed a reputation for attracting eccentrics.

Old Knoxville High School and Doughboy Statue

Built in 1910, it was a public high school for white students from all over town (schools for black students were downtown or east of town and no longer exist). Some of he most notable alumni are James Agee, Oscar winner Patricia Neal, and American actor and singer, John Cullum. The auditorium was used for numerous public speaker , including Socialist presidential candidate Norma Thomas, who denounced the New Deal here in 1934.

The “Doughboy Statue” in front honors soldiers lost in World War I. General John J “Black Jack” Pershing himself was on hand for its unveiling in 1922.

The building is now used as luxury senior apartments.

Birthplace of Mountain Dew

Located at 1921 Magnolia Avenue, this is the former home of Hartman Beverage, owned and operated by Barney and Ally Hartman. Here in 1948 the brothers created and trademarked the soft drink Mountain Dew as clear lemon-lime flavored drink. The first franchise for Mountain Dew’s issued in 1954 to Charlie Gorden’s Tri-City Beverage of Johnson City Tennessee. In 1958 Tri-City Plant Manager, Bill Bridforth, developed a new citrus-lemonade flavor for Mountain Dew, which is the taste of Mountain Dew today.

Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken

Our dinner stop on the way home. Not sure how “world” famous they are, but they do have 31 locations throughout the country. It’s spicy (it has a kick) so beware.

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