History of the City


Indya Kincannon
[email protected]
(865) 215-2040

400 Main St., Room 691
Knoxville, TN 37902

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Knoxville 1886 drawn by H. Wellge
Knoxville, Tennessee 1886. Drawn by H. Wellge. Beck & Pauli, litho. Published/Created in Milwaukee, Norris, Wellge & Co. This image is available thru the Library of Congress.
Present-day Knoxville is located near the center of the Great Valley of East Tennessee. Its location, in the heart of the valley and at the headwaters of the Tennessee River, make the city a center for the region's economy, culture, and history.

Before European settlement, the valley was the hunting grounds of the Cherokee Indians. James White, the founder of Knoxville, established his home here in 1786 as a fort and cluster of cabins. By 1791, the community was renamed Knoxville and enjoyed status as capital of the Southwest Territory. By 1794, the town was home to Blount College, known today as the University of Tennessee.

In the 1800s, Knoxville took advantage of its river access, railroad connections, and geographical location to become one of the leading distributing centers in the south. These same assets would make Knoxville a prize to be fought for during the American Civil War. Like the rest of the state, Knoxville was divided between the blue and the gray.

After the war, Knoxville rebuilt its economy through commerce, industry, and natural resources that included lumber, coal, and marble. Those natural resources and river-generated power helped establish Knoxville as an important "New Deal" city in the early 20th century, as a gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and as headquarters to the Tennessee Valley Authority. In 1982, Knoxville was host to a World's Fair and 11 million visitors. The theme, "Energy Turns the World," reflects the city's prominent role in technology.

Today, Knoxville is home to pioneers in industry, leaders in the arts, and traditionalists working to preserve our heritage. Knoxville's culture and history can be explored and discovered in its 20 museums, numerous performing arts venues, and its historic neighborhoods. 


Blount MansionBlount Mansion

200 W. Hill Ave., Downtown
[email protected]

Tue.-Fri. 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sat. 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Blount Mansion, built in 1792, was the home and territorial Capitol of Governor William Blount, a signer of the U.S. Constitution, and later a US Senator. Blount helped draft the first Tennessee State Constitution here making it "The Birthplace of Tennessee." The Mansion is Knoxville's only National Historic Landmark and has historical exhibits and an art gallery.

Crescent BendCrescent Bend
The Armstrong-Lockett House
W.P. Toms Memorial Gardens

2728 Kingston Pike

Wed.-Fri. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Sat. 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Built in 1834, the home is appointed with 18th century American and English furniture and decorative arts and holds an outstanding collection of English silver. Magnificent formal Italian gardens feature nine terraces and five fountains.

Bleak HouseConfederate Memorial Hall (Bleak House)
3148 Kingston Pike

Wed.-Fri. 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. 

This 15-room, brick 1858 mansion was Confederate General James Longstreet's headquarters during the 1863 siege of Knoxville. It features beautifully terraced gardens, period furnishings, museum and library.

James White's FortJames White's Fort
205 E. Hill Ave., Downtown

Mon.-Sat. 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Dec.-Mar. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The fort was the home of Gen. James White who settled here with a land grant from North Carolina. The home is furnished with tools and artifacts of the period, giving visitors a glimpse into the daily lives of early settlers.

Mabry Hazen HouseMabry-Hazen House
1711 Dandridge Ave.

Mon.-Fri. 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sat. 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Antebellum home built in 1858. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Occupied by Union and Confederate troops during the Civil War while the Mabry family lived upstairs. A museum of family life during and after the war. Located on Bethel Ave. down the road from the Mabry-Hazen house is the Bethel Cemetery which contains ore than 1,600 Confederate dead, including several hundred soldiers who were killed in the Battle of Fort Sanders. Click here for more information about Bethel Cemetery.

Marble SpringsMarble Springs State Historic Farmstead
1220 W. Gov. John Sevier Highway

Wed.-Sat. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sun. 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Marble Springs State Historic Site is the last remaining home of John Sevier - Tennessee's first Governor. The home was built ca. 1792 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The site is a working farmstead including log structures and farm animals. Living history interpreters provide guided tours.

Ramsey HouseRamsey House Plantation
2614 Thorngrove Pike
six miles southeast of downtown

Wed.-Sat. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The Ramsey house was built in 1797 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This house is noted as the first stone house in the region and it has notable 18th century architectural features such as gardens and period furnishings. It is the boyhood home of Dr. J.G.M. Ramsey. 

WestwoodHistoric Westwood
3425 Kingston Pike

Mon.-Thurs. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Historic Westwood was built as a “wedding promise” in 1890 by John Edwin Lutz and his wife, Ann Adelia Armstrong Lutz, on property owned by her grandfather, Drury P. Armstrong. The couple moved into the Queen Anne Victorian mansion from Adelia’s parents’ home, Bleak House, a short distance away on Kingston Pike. 


Museum of East TN HistoryEast Tennessee Historical Society
Museum of East Tennessee History

601 South Gay Street, Downtown
[email protected]

Mon.-Fri. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Sat. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Sun. 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Come face to face with our region's history makers in the Museum of East Tennessee History. From the King of the Wild Frontier to the King of Country Museum, this museum introduces you to a cast of historic characters and rare artifacts, including Davy Crockett's original "Old Betsy" rifle.