Knox Heritage Walking Tour and last thoughts on biscuits and hygiene issues

Kim Trent leads the Knox Heritage Walking Tour from the Visitor's Center

This one will be a bit of an ambling, rambling post tying together loosely connected thoughts. I’ll start with one of my favorite activities of Biscuit Day: The kickoff for the Knox Heritage Historic Knoxville Downtown Walking Tour. Kim Trent personally led the first official tours using the new brochure which is designed to be self-guided. It is available here and is printable, though Kim assured me she has a few million copies (or some other big number) and it is available at several places including the Knoxville Visitor’s Center. You will also find a Google Map of the Tour.

Walking up the Hill to Immaculate Conception

Saturday included only a small portion of the sixty stops along the tour route and took around thirty minutes to complete. My guess is that the entire tour, if taken on one day, would require lunch at the mid-point and dinner at the end. It’s a large undertaking to walk and it was a larger undertaking and long journey to bring the tour to fruition. Jack Neely talks about it in this Metropulse article. Interestingly, he declares in the May 16 article that he will no longer lead walking tours and he was on Gay Street two nights later doing just that.

Gathered in front of The Church of the Immaculate Conception, Knoxville
Church of the Immaculate Conception, Knoxville

Four our brief tour on Saturday we hiked up the hill to the Church of the Immaculate Conception. It was completed in 1886 replacing an earlier structure that dated to 1855. It was built near the large Irish Catholic community that settled near the train yards. We stopped by the Rebori Building (128 South Gay, corner of the 100 block and current home to Nouveau Classics). It opened in 1886 as the Lawson McGhee Library on the top two floors and retail below. Interestingly, it eventually became residential on the top two floors – one residence – and it recently changed hands with the new owner committed to keeping the residence intact.

Rebori Building, Knoxville

Just down the block we stopped to talk about the Emporium and Sterchi Buildings. Each were built to house Sterchi Brothers Furniture Store. The former in 1902 and the later in 1925. The Emporium retains access to underground Gay Street and was one of the early renovation projects of David Dewhirst who bought it from Kristopher Kendrick. The Sterchi Building played an important role in the early dissemination of music in Knoxville, selling record players and paying to have local artists make records to be sold in the store.

Sterchi Building, Knoxville
Emporium Building, Knoxville

I’d encourage you to get your copy of the brochure and take a hike! Maybe we should have a Urban Blues group tour.

Just hanging out in the city on a pretty day.

After leaving the tour, I walked around the Biscuit Festival site and noticed a couple washing their hands at some portable contraptions in Krutch Park. I took the lady’s photo and commented on what a good idea the sanitation stations are, but they noted that the water wasn’t working. Still, it seemed like a good idea on a day which featured jelly and sorghum at every turn.

Sanitation Stations in Krutch Park
Porta-potties on Market Square

That brings up something else I’ve had on my mind for a while – porta-potties. Newsflash: They are ugly, nasty and smell bad! I know they have  a function and we don’t have much in the way of an alternative at big events, but how long will it be until we get some public restrooms downtown? I know it is expensive and comes with a set of problems, but if we can overcome that in Sequoyah Hills, why not downtown? I may have to take a field trip to look at their facilities and talk about that a bit more.

Finally, something Urban Woman and I have discussed lately is how amazing it is that downtown transforms so fast for events. We went to bed Friday night, for example with Knoxville looking like normal and woke up to the Farmer’s Market and Biscuit Festival stretching for blocks. Just as quickly, it’s gone: Sunday morning there was little sign of the 25,000 people who poured in the day before.

Rocking for Colitis!
Bean-tossing for Crohn's!

Saturday we saw another rapid transformation on the same day. Market Square was the Farmers’ Market until 2:00 and shortly thereafter it was another set-up for a completely different event: An awareness/fund-raising event for Colitis and Crohn’s disease. I guess you can see how I went from porta-potties to this event (if not, look up the diseases). I know these are very serious and debilitating diseases for many people and I’m glad groups are raising awareness and money for research, but I’m becoming a bit fatigued with the continuous stream of events/parade floats/days/weeks and celebrities plugging the latest disease du jour. Maybe it’s just me being a tad cranky.