Walnut Room this way

Walnut Room this way

Sunday, August 30, 2015

From Charles McClung McGhee Victorian Mansion to the Masonic Temple: Architects Joseph F. Baumann and A. B. Baumann

Public domain image retrieved from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:McGhee_House.jpg
 Architect Joseph F. Baumann designed the Victorian mansion for industrialist and financier Charles McClung McGhee in Knoxville in 1872.  McGhee was the director of the East Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia Railway and responsible for much of Tennesee's railway construction.  His many contributions to Knoxville include the Lawson McGhee Library in 1885, which ultimately became the Knox County Public Library system.  McGhee lived in the house until his death in 1907.
Public domain image retrieved from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Knoxville_Masonic_Temple.JPG
 The next phase of the home's history came in 1915 when the Masons bought the house for $25,000 and hired architect A. B. Baumann to remodel and alter it to a "monumental classical structure" more fitting with their purpose.  It was indeed a radical departure from McGhee's mansion, and only some of the interior original details remain.  Constructed at the same time was Kendrick Place next door, then known as Masonic Court due to its proximity. 
 I confess to liking the 1915 remodeling much more than the original, which is just too ornamental for my tastes.  However, the subsequent remodel destroyed most of the things that made the 1915 version so striking--removal of the beautiful pent roof and the enclosure of the portico.  The pent roof broke up the large expanse of the facade above the flat roof of the portico and helped define the revision.  Now, it just looks out of proportion.  At least one of the octagonal features from the original design was retained, and is visible to the left rear of the house.
 Kendrick Place next door was constructed at the same time as the remodel of McGhee's Victorian home, and was originally known as Masonic Court, due to the location.  Kendrick Place was renovated by downtown Knoxville revivalist Kristopher Kendrick, credited with taking the visionary lead to revitalize the urban core of the city.

Inside of Knoxville took a look inside in 2011, and while you might enjoy his take on the revision, he also provides some interior photographs of both the original interior details, and a few of the "mixed with 1970s decor: cheap paneling and drop-tile ceilings" that apparently came about more recently.  I suspect that most renovations that remove significant architectural features do so on the basis of need for more space (e.g., enclose a porch and portico to create additional interior rooms) and ease of upkeep (remove a pent roof because it reduces the upkeep on an upper story which is probably hard to access).  That doesn't remove the fact that the building is not very attractive in the current evolution, but it might help explain it.  In its next life, it will probably be renovated into urban loft-style living for Knoxville residents who can pay anywhere from $280,000-$300,000 or more to live in this currently highly desirable neighborhood, which is in my opinion, better than tearing it down and building a new structure.

Sources: KnoxHeritage.org Downtown Walking Tour; Just exactly what is inside that Masonic Temple?, Inside of Knoxville: Your Urban Connection; Elena Irish Zimmerman, 1998, Knoxville, Tennessee, Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing)

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Mt Pleasant Grille, formerly known as Barnes Drugs, Wright's Pharmacy, Lumpy's and Pearl's Palace

 This building has quite a history since it was rebuilt in 1911 following the "Opera House Fire" in the original building located on this site, which was built prior to 1899.  The First National Bank Building to the right was erected next to the former building in 1909, and re-built, along with the pharmacy building, in 1911 (mtpleasantgrille.com/history).  The bank currently serves as the Phosphate Museum, paying tribute to Mt. Pleasant's long history in phosphate mining.  The pharmacy was home to Barnes Drugs and Wright's Pharmacy 1911-1962, and other businesses were located in parts of the building throughout the years.
 In the 1980s, pharmacist Lumpkin renovated the building to open "Lumpy's Malt Shop" and in 1995 remodeled it to resemble a 1950s restaurant, albeit one with dropped ceilings of acoustic tile.

It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2003 as part of the Mt. Pleasant Historic Commercial District (Davis, Hankins, & Van West, 2003).  In 2006, the building was purchased by Jim Barrier and he spent the next two years renovating, restoring, and remodeling the building into an upscale eatery and nighttime entertainment venue.
 While ripping out those acoustic tiles in the dropped ceiling, look what was discovered, albeit in some pretty sad shape and a shocking shade of blue.
The restoration/renovation/remodel won and award for historic building preservation, but I cannot find where I put that information about the award. 

Not only was it a pleasant place to stop and have lunch on the way back to Mississippi, the food was delicious.  I had the fried catfish plate with collard greens, black-eyed peas, and cornbread.  Yum.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Cameron Street School Complex in Canton

The Nichols Elementary School building in Canton was constructed in 1927 (Jennifer Baughn, 2010, Rosenwald Schools in Mississippi, Mississippi History Now: An online publication of the Mississippi Historical Society).  The plan was known as Rosenburg's T-plan, and was constructed for 7 teachers.  The T-plan had an auditorium extending from the back side of the building, and tall windows along the sides to ensure sufficient lighting and cross-ventilation.
The Canton Consolidated School cost a total of $25,000.  Of that, $1500 was supplied by the black community, $21,800 by the public, and $1700 by Rosenwald funding (Fisk University Rosenwald Fund Card File Database).
...building facades were as simple as possible.  (History of the Rosenwald School Program, National Trust for Historic Preservation)
In 1935, bonds were approved by Canton voters to supplement Public Works Administration funds for a new white junior high school and an elementary building for black children (Bonds approved for school at Canton, Biloxi Daily Herald, December 11, 1935, p. 2).  The bonds passed by a vote of 507 to 111 for $80,000 school bonds to be supplemented by $65,000 PWA funds. 
Cameron Street High School complex contained a c. 1910 2 story high school for black students which is no longer extant (MDAH/HRI).  Records indicate a 2 story building for elementary students was completed in 1937 by architects N. W. Overstreet and A. H. Town, built by J. R. Flint Construction Company.  I surmised that it was this building, but it is located behind a locked and gated area and there was no access so I am unable to confirm.  However, it is the only 2 story building in the Cameron Street complex.  Report # 5 Status of completed non-federal allotted projects Mississippi, dated January 3, 1940, indicates funds for $66,690 were provided to Canton school 11/17/1936, contract awarded 2/15/1937, and construction completed 11/01/1937 (Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works Projects Division, p. 105).  This tallies with the dates for the PWA additions to the Canton High School, and the amount awarded by PWA.

While it is possible that those funds of $66, 690 represent the $65,000 initially sought, and that some of the funds were put toward the construction of this school--built in the same year--there is no documentation I have located that supports that.  Architects for the two schools were Overstreet and Town, and thus, it seems reasonable to me that the funds could have been awarded to complete both projects.  However, only the additions to the Canton High School are documented to have been constructed with PWA funds.

In 1958, the A. M. Rogers High School for black students was dedicated, and
Madison County had a new Negro high school today--the largest Negro school in the state--and Mississippi had a symbol of its hope of remaining in the public school business.  White leaders have said that with the recent Supreme Court decisions that state's only hope of retaining public schools in through [sic] a system of voluntary segregation.  The gleaming new structure dedicated Sunday is an example of the state's chief means of keeping Negroes in their own schools--building good new schools for them.  But the Mississippi NAACP said 'Negro citizens will not accept as satisfactory this frantic makeshift school program which is designed as an answer to the Supreme Court decision on integration.  (State's largest negro school dedicated at Canton; for 1,500, Greenville Delta Democrat Times, October 27, 1958, p. 2).
It was named for A. M. Rogers, who served as principal of the high school for 25 years.  The NAACP issued a statement that the school
has the striking resemblance of an auction barn...is inadequate to provide for each child the maximum educational opportunity that this day and age demand. (NAACP Assails new Negro school at Canton, Hattiesburg American, October 27, 1958, p. 1)
The organization further charged that the new junior-senior high school at Canton was ill-equipped and overtaxed (NAACP claims Canton school is inadequate, Biloxi Daily Herald, October 29, 1958, p. 11).  By January 1959, the issue had apparently resulted in a probe by the Madison County Grand Jury over the claim made by Medgar Evers, field secretary for the NAACP that the new half-million dollar school was overcrowded and poorly equipped; Evers stated the grand jury "approves of second class citizenship for Negroes" (NAACP leader raps jury report, Biloxi Daily Herald, January 8, 1959, p. 16).
The NAACP considers anything less than equal rights for the races as second class citizenship.  The grand jury said the school was a magnificent physical plant run efficiently.  The school could handle 25 per cent more students than the average daily attendance, the jury added.  Evers said the jury failed to point out that the county uses secondhand and overcrowded school buses and pays Negro drivers half what white drivers receive. (NAACP leader)
Fast forward six years.  The Hattiesburg American reported, in response to black students attempting to enroll in the "white" public high school:
Canton schools are not under any federal court order to desegregate as are four other schools systems in this state. (Canton again turns away Negro youths, September 8, 1964, p. 1)
The former high school is now the McNeal elementary school.  Ironically, a bond went once again before the voters to build a new school, following charges that the building is overcrowded and  inadequate to meet the needs of the students due to poor equipment (Kate Rogers, February 2, 2015, Schools seek $33M bond issue to improve elementary buildings, The Clarion Ledger).  Bid date for demolition of the McNeal elementary school is out for bid, due by September 3.  The demolition will remove the existing school building and foundations, site pavements, utilities, and other site elements (Dale Partners, Architecture).  

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Cheoah Dam

 Cheoah Dam development began with planning in 1915, and the building of a railroad extension to the dam site.  Concrete work on the dam began March 1917 and April 6, 1919, the powerhouse began operation (J. S. Barrett, History of Tapoco.)
 1919 Stats: 225 ft. dam was the highest overflow dam; turbines were the largest; 150,000 volt transmission line was the highest voltage and the longest span for a transmission line--5010 feet across the river below Cheoah Dam (Barrett).

 The community was originally called Cheoah, but renamed Tapoco to "avoid confusion with Cheoah on Sweetwater Creek."  Tapoco combined the first two letters of Tallassee Power Company.  By 1919, Tapoco had a population of around 2,000.
 Cheoah Dam is one of four hydroelectric dams that make up Alcoa Power Generating Inc.'s Tapoco Project.  The impetus behind the hydroelectric operations was aluminum.  Alcoa, Inc. created the plan to develop the Little Tennessee watershed in 1910 (City of Alcoa-tn.gov). 
 The dam was used in the movie The Fugitive, starring Harrison Ford, as the scene where Dr. Richard Kimble jumps from the dam following his escape after the bus bound for prison is hit by a train.
In 2010, Alcoa began a modernization project at a cost of $110 million, planned to increase "efficiency and energy output and increase the life of the dam by at least another 40-50 years" (Alcoa kicks-off Cheoah Dam modernization project, August 27, 2010, Alcoa.com).

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Deals Gap on the Tail of the Dragon

 As posted yesterday, the Tail of the Dragon is an 11 mile stretch of US 129 that runs from Tennessee to North Carolina, through the Smoky Mountains.  Deals Gap is a motel/pub and grill/store "Motorcycle Resort" that serves the motorcycle-riding public and is located at Deals Gap, North Carolina.  We concluded our drive of the dragon's tail by stopping at the Gap for a quick pit stop.

 As noted yesterday, the myths abound, and there are tales of scores of riders killed every year, although other sources indicate it is only one or two--not minimizing the one or two, but it is a far cry from 20-30.  According to the Blount County Rescue Squad, there is an average of 1400 vehicles per day, and an average of 2.5 deaths per year.


Next up, we'll mosey on down some more twisty turns to Cheoah Dam on the Little Tennessee River.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Tail of the Dragon

 One of the things R wanted to do was drive the Tail of the Dragon in the Smoky Mountains, so that was destination number 1 after arriving in Townsend on Sunday evening of the 2nd.  We had "breakfast" at almost noon Monday and then drove up the Foothills Parkway.

The Dragon's Tail is a favorite destination of motorcyclists who want to drive the series of switchbacks and curves--allegedly 318 of them in 11 miles.  It carries a lot of legends, myths, and half-truths, like so much of anything "famous" so it is hard to sort out the truth from fiction.  While there are deaths, likely related to speed, it is low compared to the number of riders.  Fatalities have also been associated with other causes than the actual riding of the motorcycle.
It was definitely a challenge in a big ole Ford truck, so I am not minimizing the risks, but those may be more likely in those riding the so-called "crotch rockets" who lie forward on the motorcycle, and who may have a proclivity to faster travel.  Most of the riders we saw were driving touring or cruising bikes, and seemed somewhat sedate.  I will follow up in the next post with a little more flair for the drama on the Tail. 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Dancing Bear Lodge

 We spent the night outside of Knoxville, in Turkey Creek/Farragut, and Sunday morning went in to Knoxville for me to get the photographs for the research.  No, the First Baptist Church was not one of them, but it was across the street from one, and church was just letting out when we arrived.  We spent a couple of hours doing the research and then headed the 40 minute drive to Townsend, where we would be staying in the Smoky Mountains.
 I am sort of past the rustic lodge decor for the most part, but the cabin was lovely and appropriate to the surroundings.  I took my  laptop out on the deck, with a glass of tea, and worked for a couple of hours.  (Yes, as usual, had a report to do that there had been no time to do before I left Mississippi.)

 The quiet sound of the forest lulled me into a rhythm as I gently rocked, typed, rested my eyes on the forest.  Finally after a couple of hours, I decided it was time to vacate and commandeered R to go for a short walk with me.

A light snack for supper, more work, and then at dark, the hot tub on the deck beckoned, breaking the sounds of the insects in the forest with its low rumble.  Sitting there immersed in the hot waters swirling around us, hearing only the Tennessee night sounds of the mountains, I felt like we were in a Cialis commercial.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Union Avenue Books in Knoxville: Books for Independent People

While in the area of Union Street to locate some New Deal-connected buildings, I found this little block of storefronts.  I liked the stained glass effect of the Art-Deco styled awning. 
The quirky paintings in the window captured my attention, as did the "Yay! Everything! tags.  My personal favorites: Yay! Roadtrips! and Yay! Reading!  If there is any one thing that has brought so much to my life, it is reading, and the love of reading.  I cannot imagine not being able to read, and while I am slowly adjusting to reading on a computer, I still want my books hardcover, with words printed on paper.  If I could gift every child born with the joy of reading, I would do it in a flash--it makes such a difference in how so much turns out.
Flannery O'Connor (1925-1964) was 39 when she died from systemic lupus, as had her father when she was 15 (georgiaencyclopedia.org).  As much as I have loved to read, and read quite a bit by quite a lot of writers, I recall nothing I might have read by Ms. O'Connor.  In the event you are desirous of hearing her read in her southern drawl what is said to be her most famous work, A Good Man is Hard to Find, see what you think of her writing and her reading.  I am a bit curious now, so I suspect I might have to giver her a try and discern for myself if her satire, irony, and humor--apparently tightly cloaked in her Catholic faith--is all it was cracked up to be.
As far as Union Avenue Books goes, it is a locally owned indie, and they host local, regional, and nationally known authors for readings and signings since they opened in 2011 in the Daylight Building--which was the reason for my unexpected discovery. 

We believe an independent bookstore is essential to the vibrancy of our community...
Now, Knoxville is on our short list for retirement locale.  What's not to love if not to eat, sleep, and read local, and especially when it looks this enticing?  I think, to quote my friend Gigi, "these are my people!"