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.
We Arrived on April 30, 1980
On a cool spring day in 1980, April 30 to be exact, a young family arrived in the mountains of North Carolina. After a long drive from Florida in a UHaul and a pickup truck, they were about to begin their lives' work in an old general store. In this short video blog, you'll hear what their first impressions were ... in Faye's own words.Read More
Boredom Buster #3
Who's ready for another diversion or two? By now, our new routines are, well, routine. Get up, make coffee, fix breakfast, send the students to school in one corner of the living room and set up the office on the kitchen table. We don't know about you, but it sure is hard to get the 250 steps per hour now because the coffee pot is a lot closer (and so is the restroom). This week's Boredom Busters will revisit a skill that many of us have let slip in the days of GPS (but it's still important), offer up a few podcasts for your enjoyment, and send a jigsaw puzzle or two your way.Read More
Grab a Bite at the Store
Back 40 years ago, you couldn't grab a bite to eat in the Valle. It meant a drive to Boone or to Banner Elk or to Mountain City over in Tennessee. That is until John and Faye Cooper decided to open the Mast Store Deli. Sandwiches and soups were served in the back of the store. Here's a little of that story, including a bit of it in Faye's own words.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!