Four centuries; four visionaries; four blocks

The Eastern Star meeting room at the Masonic Temple downtown. The Temple was built around an historic home of one of Knoxville's early luminaries.

The Eastern Star meeting room at the Masonic Temple downtown. The Temple was built around an historic home of one of Knoxville's early luminaries.

In the 18th century, the town of Knoxville was established. In the 19th century, it became a railroad town, among other things. In the 20th century, TVA made its headquarters here, changing the economy forever. And now, in the 21st century, creative developers are re-imagining just what downtown Knoxville can be.

Knox Heritage recently celebrated these landmark historical events with a four-block progressive party, one of the non-profit’s successful Summer Supper fundraisers. There were some surprises.

James White, the founder of Knoxville, is buried in the graveyard of First Presbyterian Church. Appropriately, that’s where our evening began.

We gathered in the cemetery. I recently have come to find that meeting in a cemetery tends to lead to an interesting event.

We gathered in the cemetery. I recently have come to find that meeting in a cemetery tends to lead to an interesting event.

Reverend Dr. William Pender, the pastor of First Presbyterian, points out James White's grave to City Councilman Duane Grieve and his wife, Marsha.

Reverend Dr. William Pender, the pastor of First Presbyterian, points out James White's grave to City Councilman Duane Grieve and his wife, Marsha. (I think I startled them when I took the picture.)

First Presbyterian Church is built on a turnip patch that was donated by James White. White also donated land for the establishment of what would later become the University of Tennessee.

Dawn Ford, standing of James White's grave, was one of the attendees.

Dawn Ford, standing on James White's grave, was one of the attendees.

Shortly, we headed across the street to The Glencoe where we had some refreshments such as those living in the 18th century may have had: ham and cheese biscuits, venison/blueberry sausage and moonshine punch.

The Glencoe, built in 1906.

The Glencoe, built in 1906.

One of our hosts, Karen Eberle, let us see her beautiful new condo at The Glencoe.

One of our hosts, Karen Eberle, let us see her beautiful new condo at The Glencoe.

Here's the bedroom. Very restful.

Here's the master bedroom. Very restful.

Eddie Mannis, the owner of Prestige Cleaners and the current deputy to Mayor Madeline Rogero, has purchased the penthouse at The Glencoe. He hasn't moved in yet, but he let us go see it. Here's the very cool view out his front window.

Eddie Mannis, the owner of Prestige Cleaners and the current deputy to Mayor Madeline Rogero, has purchased the penthouse at The Glencoe. He hasn't moved in yet, but he let us go see it. Here's the very cool view out his front window.

Here is Rusha Sams out on Eddie's porch.

Here is Rusha Sams out on Eddie's porch.

Those tasty morsels I described were being served in the condo of Bruce and Monique Anderson. (Click here for a previous post about their fun condo.)

Host Faris Eid pours moonshine into the punch! Whoo-hoo!

Host Faris Eid pours moonshine into the punch! Whoo-hoo!

Host Sam Maynard made the country ham and cheese biscuits. They were delicious.

Host Sam Maynard made the country ham and cheese biscuits. They were delicious.

Host Wayne Blasius poses with Kristin Grove in the Andersons' kitchen. Kristin lives at The Glencoe, too.

Host Wayne Blasius poses with Kristin Grove in the Andersons' kitchen. Kristin lives at The Glencoe, too.

Fred and Gina Buffum

Fred and Gina Buffum

Soon, it was time to move to the 19th century. We walked the four or so blocks to the Masonic Temple, located at 505 Locust Street. The Temple was actually built literally around the home of railroad tycoon Charles McClung McGhee.

The original house, built in 1872 for a young and wealthy McGhee and his family, was a two-story Italianate and was one of the finest homes in Knoxville. Designed by Joseph F. Baumann, a rising architect at the time, it was host in 1877 to President Rutherford B. Hayes and his wife when Hayes was on a trip through the South to try to reunite the country after the Civil War. McGhee died in the house in 1907.

In 1915, the Masonic Temple Association bought the house for $25,000 and hired A.B. Baumann, the younger brother of the home’s original designer, to encase the home into the temple and add a third floor which today houses a large meeting area.

A word about freemasonry. Freemasonry is the world’s oldest, largest and best-known men’s fraternity. It is based on the medieval stonemasons’ guilds who built the great castles and cathedrals of Europe. Modern Freemasons use the tools, traditions and terminologies of those stonemasons as allegories to building “temples in the hearts of men.” They are said to be a secret society, but the folks we met last month acted as if they were trying to “open up” the organization. They answered questions when asked, but we were too polite to ask the things many of us really wanted to know after reading “The DaVinci Code.” Knox Heritage was told they could not serve alcohol in the Temple, which was a little puzzling to me because my father is a Shriner and a Mason and, well, never mind . . .

The Masonic Temple

The Masonic Temple

Yep.

Yep.

These stairs are in the original house.

These stairs are in the original house.

Bruce Anderson takes a picture of a very interesting clock in the entry way.

Bruce Anderson takes a picture of a very interesting clock in the entry way.

Here's the clock's face.

Here's the clock's face.

Oysters were said to be a big 19th century delicacy. They were brought into Knoxville by rail. We were greeted by oyster shots at the Masonic Temple.

Oysters were said to be a big 19th century delicacy. They were brought into Knoxville by rail. We were greeted by oyster shots at the Masonic Temple.

This delicious appetizer was said to be "very 1800." It was a Johnny cake with apple-fennel salsa topped by smoked trout.

This tasty appetizer was said to be "very 1800." It was a Johnny cake with apple-fennel slaw topped by smoked trout.

Ed Bryson told us a little about the Masonic Temple.

Ed Bryson told us a little about the Masonic Temple.

Most of us never had been inside the building before.

Most of us never had been inside the building before.

Here's that big meeting room on the third floor.

Here's that big meeting room on the third floor.

In another room is a kind of throne.

In another room is a kind of throne.

In one room were several illuminated Masonic symbols. Weird.

In one room were several illuminated Masonic symbols. Odd.

Scott Bird of Moxley Carmichael, takes a closer look.

Scott Bird of Moxley Carmichael takes a closer look.

I'm not saying they are old fashioned or anything, but this is the TV in the ladies' lounge. (Someone said we should turn it on and see if The Ed Sullivan Show would be on!)

I'm not saying they are old fashioned or anything, but this is the TV in the ladies' lounge. (Someone said we should turn it on and see if The Ed Sullivan Show would be on!)

I really don't know what to say.

I really don't know what to say.

After that interesting interlude, we gathered outside to wait for instructions and directions to our next location – and dinner.

Jeannie Dulaney, left, and Rosa Mar, center, with Karen Eberle, sitting.

Jeannie Dulaney, left, and Rosa Mar, center, with Karen Eberle, sitting.

Gay and Bill Lyons

Gay and Bill Lyons

Then we were on the move -- to the historic YMCA.

Then we were on the move -- to the historic YMCA. And the 20th century.

The Lindsay Young Downtown YMCA was built in 1929 and completely renovated in 2008.

We were greeted with cold fruit soup.

We were greeted with cold fruit soup.

This sign came from the original YMCA in New York City.

This sign came from the original YMCA in New York City.

Mary Holbrook gave us some insights into TVA developer Benjamin H. Sprankle.

Mary Holbrook gave us some insights into TVA developer Benjamin H. Sprankle.

Waldorf salad was a mainstay of meals in the early 20th century, which was the time period for this stop.

Waldorf salad was a mainstay of meals in the early 20th century, which was the time period for this stop.

Roasted pork tenderloin was the main course.

Roasted pork tenderloin was the main course.

Side dishes included pickled okra, potato salad and corn pudding.

Side dishes included pickled okra, potato salad and corn pudding.

Two of our dinner table mates were Rusha and Bert Sams.

Two of our dinner tablemates were Rusha and Bert Sams.

I thought the centerpieces were pretty.

I thought the centerpieces were pretty.

Gay Lyons took a few moments to sign the Knox Heritage Summer Suppers Cookbook, which she authored.

Gay Lyons took a few moments to sign the Knox Heritage Summer Suppers Cookbook, which she authored.

The courtyard at the Y is being renovated for the use of the owners of 14 condo owners who reside in the stories on top of the Y itself.

The courtyard at the Y is being renovated for the use of the owners of 14 condos in the stories on top of the Y itself.

This lion fountain is a highlight.

This lion fountain is a highlight.

The final stop of the Summer Supper was for dessert at photographer John Black‘s studio in the Daylight Building. This was significant for several reasons. The Daylight Building, built by developer Benjamin Sprankle, was one of four buildings to house the original offices of the Tennessee Valley Authority after it was established by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1933. Speculation is that Sprankle himself was instrumental in convincing TVA to make Knoxville its headquarters rather than Muscle Shoals, Alabama, as was originally planned.

According to historian Jack Neely, Sprankle, from Altoona, Pennsylvania, moved to Knoxville in the 1880s just “because it looked like a city about to bloom – and because it was full of Republicans!” He was a very busy developer, building subdivisions in South Knoxville and Bearden, as well as office buildings and residences downtown.

We were joined for this part of our evening by Sprankle’s granddaughter, Emily Rose and her husband, Morton. According to Mary Holbrook, Morton Rose, who grew up on the so-called Rose Property on the bluffs in South Knoxville across from downtown, noticed the flooring when we all arrived at John Black’s studio. “We milled this wood,” he said, referring to the lumber mill his family owned. It used to stand where Holston Gases is located today.

Alan Carmichael relaxes at John Black's studio in the Daylight Building as we wait for everyone to arrive.

Alan Carmichael relaxes at John Black's studio in the Daylight Building as we wait for everyone to arrive.

Emily and Morton Rose

Emily and Morton Rose

Developer David Dewhirst represented the 21st century that night. He has restored many old buildings downtown, including the Daylight Building.

Developer David Dewhirst represented the 21st century that night. He has restored many old buildings downtown, including the Daylight Building.

David's beautiful wife, Tracy, left, with Sam Maynard and Gay Lyons in the background.

David's beautiful wife, Tracy, left, with Sam Maynard and Gay Lyons in the background.

The group listening to Dewhirst.

The group listening to Dewhirst.

Dewhirst was enchanted to meet Sprankle's granddaughter.

Dewhirst was enchanted to meet Sprankle's granddaughter.

Host Ann Bennett made some fantastic chocolate truffles for us.

Host Ann Bennett made some fantastic chocolate truffles for us.

Yum. Yum.

Yum. Yum.

Guests Michael Higdon and Scott Bird

Guests Michael Higdon and Scott Bird

Judith and Michael Foltz with Nora Robinson, right.

Judith and Michael Foltz with Nora Robinson, right.

Three hosts taking a well-deserved break: from left, Hollie Cook, Ghada Eid and Karen Eberle

Three hosts taking a well-deserved break: from left, Hollie Cook, Ghada Eid and Karen Eberle

At the end of the evening, some of us stopped by Peter Kern's Library in the Oliver Hotel for one last drink. Here are Sam Maynard and Judith Foltz. It was such an unusual and enlightening night.

At the end of the evening, some of us stopped by Peter Kern's Library in the Oliver Hotel for a nightcap. Here are Sam Maynard and Judith Foltz. It was such an unusual and enlightening night. And a great way to travel through four centuries!

Thanks again to the evening’s hosts: Monique and Bruce Anderson, Ann Bennett, Ellen and Wayne Blasius, Hollie Cook, Karen Eberle, Ghada and Faris Eid, Marianne Greene, Diane Gross, Mary and Dan Holbrook, Kathryn and Breese Johnson, Sam Maynard, Donna and Chuck Morris, Sue and Bob Murrian and Sheri and William Pender.

Click here for a great little story by WBIR about the history of the Masonic Temple.

Filed under: Downtown, Events, Food, Historic preservation, Knoxville. Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Four centuries; four visionaries; four blocks

  1. Wayne Blasius, on July 3rd, 2012 at 2:07 pm said:

    Great job, Cynthia. Thanks for your excellent account of a fun evening. I learned a few more things in your post! btw- those beautiful centerpieces were created by Ellen Blasius!

    WB

  2. Cynthia Moxley, on July 3rd, 2012 at 2:12 pm said:

    Thanks, Wayne! And thanks, too, for letting me know that Ellen did the flowers. I thought they were perfect!

  3. Cindy Hassil, on July 3rd, 2012 at 2:25 pm said:

    That was an amazing piece, Cynthia — really enjoyed reading it! Thanks!

  4. Cynthia Moxley, on July 3rd, 2012 at 2:46 pm said:

    Thanks, Cindy! I think you would enjoy these Summer Suppers. You should try to come to one or two.

  5. Cynthia Moxley, on July 3rd, 2012 at 3:38 pm said:

    I just got this great bit of information from my friend and history buff, Betsey Creekmore. Thought I should share it.

    Cynthia—great story—but James White was not so generous as to donate the land for Blount College:

    First Campus Site and Building: The site and building of Blount College, (the original name of The University of Tennessee) was on Knoxville’s Gay Street, where the Burwell Building and Tennessee Theater now stand. Completed and open by 1799, was a two-story, frame structure located on the entire block– four acres of land. The Trustees of the College had purchased the site from James White for $30.00. The deed is dated June 4, 1795.

    So Mr. White charged $30 for the four acres that started what would become UT. I stand corrected! Thanks, Betsey.

  6. Sue Murrian, on July 3rd, 2012 at 3:56 pm said:

    Just super photos! Thanks so much!

  7. Mary Holbrook, on July 3rd, 2012 at 4:03 pm said:

    Cynthia:

    Knox Heritage people love partying, but we also hope our members appreciate our 220 years of history and the beautiful places that remain here.

    We tried to both party and educate with this Summer Supper and you’ve convinced us that we succeeded.

    [I LOVED introducing David Dewhirst to Mrs. Rose!]

  8. Cynthia Moxley, on July 3rd, 2012 at 4:10 pm said:

    Sue: Thank you. And thank you for hosting. Mary: Making that introduction was a wonderful touch!

  9. Georgiana Vines, on July 3rd, 2012 at 10:18 pm said:

    So glad to catch up with this. I wanted to come but had a conflict.

  10. Barbara Tallent, on July 4th, 2012 at 9:49 am said:

    Cynthia your articles are always so enjoyable, thank you for sharing. They make me wish I’d been there!

  11. Cynthia Moxley, on July 5th, 2012 at 12:31 am said:

    Thanks, George and Barbara! Barbara, I think there still are some tickets available to a couple of Summer Suppers. The Mardi Gras one sounds like fun.

  12. Lynnda Tenpenny, on July 5th, 2012 at 12:10 pm said:

    Cynthia – I really enjoyed reading about the tour and the sites. The history of Knoxville (and our historical buildings) really is quite interesting.

  13. Pingback: Great Day for Berry Pickin’ : The Fruit and Berry Patch | Oh, the Places We See . . .

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