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.
Fall Foliage Primer - November 6, 2019
This is the final Fall Foliage Primer of the year. It looks like Knoxville, Greenville, and Hendersonville still have some locations of high color. Other reporting spots - Boone/Valle Crucis, Asheville, and Waynesville - have some spotty color (particularly Oaks, which are in their glory right now, and some Maples). There are still lots of activities to get out and enjoy, too. Check out what our reporters have to suggest as well bid you a fond farewell until next year.Read More
Check Your Closets and Share the Warmth
There is a Japanese proverb that says, “One kind word can warm three winter months.” If a kind word can be so powerful, what can a kind action do? Colder weather is on the way, so coats, hats, and gloves are needed to be ready for it. During the month of November, Mast Store and Columbia Sportswear are partnering for the fifteenth time to Share the Warmth Coat Collection in our home communitiesRead More
Fall Foliage Primer - October 30, 2019
We are reaching the peak! All locations can safely report that Fall is HERE! Some locations - like Valle Crucis and Boone - are just past peak, but still have pockets of incredible color, while other locations - like Greenville and Knoxville are just beginning to reach their highest color show. And there's lots in between in Waynesville, Asheville, and Hendersonville. It's our favorite time of year! Colder weather is on its way everywhere this week, so no matter where you're visiting, be sure to bring a jacket, a fleece, and a raincoat. The weather this time of year changes quickly. Take a look to see the fun activities to enjoy this week.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!