The city of Knoxville was the first capital of Tennessee, but that was some 250 years after Hernando de Soto scoured part of the area in search of El Dorado. The plat for the town was surveyed by Charles McClung and included provisions for a town common along the waterfront, a church and graveyard, and a school, which was chartered as Blount College in 1794 (and was the beginning of the University of Tennessee).
Described as an “alternately quiet and rowdy river town,” Knoxville for a time was indeed part of the Wild West. The infamous Kid Curry, a member of Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch, was arrested and held in Knoxville’s jail. He later escaped and galloped out of town on a horse he stole from the sheriff.
Manufacturing and distributing became an important part of the local economy for Knoxville – and the Tennessee River and rail lines made much of the city’s growth possible. Gay Street was the center of commercial development and was lined with stores, warehouses, stables, and more. And then came the Million Dollar Fire of 1897.
It was 4 a.m. in the morning when flames were seen leaping through the roof of the Hotel Knoxville located right where the Mast Store is now. The fire department scrambled and got as many boarders out as possible.
Knowing that the fire could get out of hand, the fire department in Chattanooga was contacted and made the journey to Knoxville aboard a train in record time (at speeds topping 90 miles per hour). One building had to be dynamited to control the blaze. By the end of the day, only five lives were lost, the Chattanooga fire department returned home to cheers, and two blocks of Gay Street lay in smoldering ruins. The losses were valued at $1 million and the cause is yet undetermined.
Out of the ashes arose the building you see today, which was constructed in 1898.
Add to Your Summer Reading List
There’s nothing like enjoying a good book under a shade tree with a nice breeze blowing or on a warm sandy beach with the sound of waves crashing on the shoreline. Summer reading runs the gamut from bodice rippers and murder mysteries to non-fiction accounts of our times and classics from long ago. We asked our employees to share some of their recommendations to add to your summer reading list.Read More
May is Sharing Our Shoes Month
Spring cleaning is taking place in all Mast Store communities. Windows are being scrubbed; the carpet is getting cleaned; and the closets, well, if you haven’t worn it in a while, it’s probably time to say goodbye to it. Take a good look at your shoes. If they have some miles left in them, we can make it easy for you to put some smiles on some local faces.Read More
Mast Store's Top 11 Gift Ideas for Mom
Mother’s Day is a little over a week away, so we know the stress of coming up with something special for your Mom is weighing on you. She is a hard one to find a gift for that’s just right. So, take a few cues from her – what does she like to do, where does she spend a lot of time, is there a gift you can give her to make something easier? Those are just a few of the questions you can ask to come up with the perfect gift, which Mom always taught you should be “thoughtful, useful, or heartfelt.” We think it’s best when they are all three. Here are a few ideas.Read More
In the not too distant past, Knoxville was a part of the Wild West. Just down the street from us, Kid Curry made a daring escape from the Knoxville prison..on the sheriff's horse, no less. Employees at the store, at that point in time known as M.M. Newcomer's, may have seen him making his mad dash down Gay Street. The whole block where the Mast Store in Knoxville is burned to the ground in 1897 in the Million Dollar Fire. Most of it was rebuilt in 1898!