February 6, 1796, 225 years ago, the Constitutional Convention for the State of Tennessee met in Knoxville to adopt the document that would give birth to the 16th state in the Union: Tennessee. Fifty-five statesmen from the territory gathered in Knoxville to sign the document that would be sent to the United States Congress. These men met at David Henley's headquarters, located on the southwest corner of the intersection of Gay Street and Church Avenue, what was then the northern fringe of Knoxville. Such a monumental event must surely be commemorated by a monument or, more likely, a museum recreating the scene. What if I told you that the birthplace of the State of Tennessee is marked by a couple of Ford F-150's, some Toyotas, a Honda or two, a pretty nice Range Rover, and a small booth with a sign that says "Pay Here in Advance." If you're a longtime reader of this blog, then this comes as no surprise. That's right folks, we the people of Knoxville paved over this significant, historic site and put up a parking lot. Welcome to the 700 block, the largest surface parking lot in downtown Knoxville and the largest Gap of Gay Street.
|The 700 block of Gay Street, West Side, looking northwest. Pryor-Brown garage and General Building in background.|
|The 700 Block of Gay Street, West Side, looking southwest. Howard Baker Federal Courthouse in background.|
|The 700 block of Gay Street, West Side, looking southeast. 700 block, East Side in back ground.|
The 700 block is one of the oldest in town. It is within the bounds of the original city plan laid out by James White in 1791. The earliest photo we have of the 700 block (or Gay Street for that matter) is this shot from 1869.
|700 Block, 1869.|
The commercial district of Knoxville basically ended at the current 600 block. Only one building in the photo remains standing today, the one on the right (east side) with the sign that says T.M. Schleier's Picture Gallery. That's the Deadrick Block, which currently houses Knoxville Soap, Candles, & Gifts. In 1869, the west side of the block housed an ironworks, a couple of real estate companies, a ladies' clothing store, and a boot shop.
725-723 S. Gay Street
Back to 1796. When the delegates to the constitutional convention arrived in Knoxville, the closest lodging to Henley's headquarters was Stone's Tavern. Captain John Stone, a Revolutionary War veteran who served under John Sevier, opened his tavern on the northwest corner of Gay Street and Cumberland Avenue in 1791. Mr. Stone was German and was known for his courteous hospitality. The tavern was a large log structure, the largest of the five lodgings in Knoxville at the time. It consisted of multiple buildings (the main lodge, stables, outhouses, gardens, etc.) and occupied nearly half of the block. Stone's was the first meeting place of the Knox County Court in 1792. Both the first and second legislative council of the territory met here. Stone's Tavern operated for many years, with a more permanent structure taking place of the original log building in 1854. It became the Globe in the mid 1880s.
In the 1880's, new owners remodeled the building and the Globe became Shubert's Hotel, a name it would keep for roughly 20 years.
|A rendering of Schubert's Hotel from Souvenir Knoxville 1889.|
Schubert's was known as the best place to eat in the city during those years. It was one of the first places one could get oysters and, for that reason, people flocked to it. Soon, most pubs in Knoxville began having oysters shipped daily from the Chesapeake Bay and oysters became the most popular pub fare in town. The hotel was described as having an elegant barroom, a spacious ballroom, and a commodious lobby with a large, open fireplace. Rooms had impressively high ceilings.
|From Handbook of Knoxville, 1892.|
By 1895, the Schubert Hotel received a refreshing and was known as the New Schubert Hotel. In 1900, the hotel was known as the Hotel Flanders and, by 1905, the Cumberland Hotel. The building did a brief stint as the Appalachian Hotel in the 1910's, before becoming the Cumberland again by 1920.
|The Cumberland Hotel, 1930s. The 700 Block, West Side, looking northwest. |
|Closeup on the entrance to the Cumberland Hotel. |
|Looking south down Gay Street, the Cumberland Hotel at right and the Bijou just beyond.|
The 1930's were not kind to the Cumberland. As other hotels rose to prominence, this one began to fade. Eventually the dining room shut down and by 1945 the Cumberland was renting rooms by the month.
|The Cumberland, 1936.|
|Bill's Auto Parts in the corner of the Cumberland Hotel, 1920's.|
|Inside of Bill's Auto at the Cumberland Hotel|
|The East Tennessee Music Company, 1932|
|721-719 S. Gay Street, 1936, General Electric's Electric Home Servant Store|
|717 S. Gay Street circa 1930.|
|715 S. Gay Street, circa 1930|
|713 S. Gay St., late 1920s, housing the Saunders Rental Car System and Branson Studios|
|711 S. Gay Street, late 1920s, housing the Knoxville Office Furniture Co. and ABC Bible Class and Club Rooms.|
|Heller Bros. Whiskies, touting their impressive mail order business. |
Image found on http://pre-prowhiskeymen.blogspot.com/.
In 1915, the spot was occupied by C.E. Hatton Confectionery. 1920 brought Schaad and Gibbs grocers. 1925 was Love Brothers Confectioners. In 1935, the building was occupied by Locletti's Confectioners. That business remained in the spot for nearly 30 years, being replaced by 1965 with a beer bar. By 1975, the building had been razed and the spot was subsumed into the Allright Parking lot.
|709 S. Gay Street, showing its tall, ornate windows.|
|707 S. Gay Street, circa 1925, with Doll and Co. Office Supply. |
|The Grand Theatre, opening night, September 5, 1910|
Photo from http://cinematreasures.org/
|A vestige of the Grand, after the theater's demise. This was located under the front gable of the building.|
|705 and 703 S. Gay St. operating as Hertz, Yellow Drivurself Co. Note the recessed, theater style entrance and the medallion from the Grand beneath the gable.|
|"Our cars are not painted yellow"|
Hertz remained at this location until around 1970. By 1975, the lawyers had moved into the building. 705 was occupied by Johnson, Monceret, Stewart, Moore, and Waggoner in 1980. That firm became Johnson and Johnson, Stephanie Gamucheau, Arthur Monceret, Lawyers by 1985. Ray Cate, Walter Johnson, and WM Cremins, Lawyers were there in 1990, and by 1995, 705 was vacant. 703 was occupied by Leibowitz, Watson, Kressin, Stivers, and Erickson in 1980. That firm was Leibowitz and Associates by 1885. 703 was vacant by 1995. The building came down after a fire next door in 1996.
|The Knaffl Madonna, Joseph Knaffl's baby daughter standing in for baby Jesus.|
|The 700 Block with the Bijou up front and the Cumberland Hotel just behind. The Pryor Brown Garage is under construction at top left. Circa 1928.|
|700 Block, closer, 1928|
|Construction on the 700 block, 1920s|
|A crowd gathers outside the Knoxville Sentinel, 1920s. Knaffl Building at right, Cumberland Hotel at left.|
|700 Block circa 1935|
|Closer up on the 700 Block|
|700 Block 1936|
|Aerial shot, looking north|
|Looking north, labeled|
|Aerial shot looking east|
|Looking east, labeled|
|1985, Note the Federal Gov't building on the corner. 717 and 715 are there. 713, 711, and 709 are gone. 707, 705, 703, and 701 (Knaffl) are there.|
|1995, the Federal Gov't building is gone. 717 and 715 are gone. 707, 705, 703, and 701 are still standing, but not for long.|
|2018, only the Pryor Brown Garage is left.|