It’s taken a couple of weeks, but the Liberty Building which used to sit at the corner of Walnut and Summer Place no longer sits there. Pieces of it lie about, but most of it has left the premises. Trucks, dumpsters a small bulldozer, a large backhoe and a larger tractor I cannot identify, but which had an extension that looked like a dinosaur head took care of the business. The dinosaur could rip steel beams out of place with a single bite.
No one argued for the Liberty Building to be spared. It was ugly – mostly a box built sometime in the 1950’s or 1960’s. It had no windows to speak of, but plenty of cement blocks and steel. It faced the back side of the Market Square Parking Garage and hadn’t been used in many years, as far as I know. I remember parking beside it in the late 1980s and I don’t recall any signs of life then. It had once housed TVA offices in the pre-tower days, I believe.
Watching the demolition I had several thoughts. Urban Woman and I talked about the power of the machines, the debris that will fill a big hole in a dump and all the other buildings everywhere that ultimately do the same thing. It seems like a waste of good land.
We also talked about Katrina. The devastation reminded us of the scenes from the Mississippi and Louisiana Gulf Coast after the storm. We shared a heavy feeling remembering that time and marveled that what nature can do in a few minutes or a few hours takes us days or weeks to do with our powerful machines. Maybe we aren’t so powerful after all.
I thought about the cars that we’ll stack on top of each other in that space. The scars across the city bear witness to the demands of the automobile. Ultimately, it begs a question: Where is the tipping point at which we’ve devoted so much space to the cars of people who want to drive downtown that there isn’t enough space left for an actual city? Are we going to become just a Market Square Amusement Ride with AMPLE Parking!?!
I also thought about this side of downtown, once again. I said it before, but it screams to be said again: Downtown Knoxville is too small to have large parking garage districts. In one strip along the western reach of downtown we have the TVA garage, Summer Place Garage, Market Square Garage, Garage Soon to be Built, Locust Street Garage and the Hilton Garage. Is that enough? Will it ever be enough? How will we ever utilize this part of the city?
Finally, even though no one argued to save the building, it made me think about how much better we seem to be at destroying buildings than we are at building new ones. In recent months we’ve knocked down a building just north on Broadway, we knocked down what used to be Lucille’s, we knocked down two buildings on Walnut. The owners want to knock down the Pryor Brown Garage, UT seems to want to knock down all of Fort Sanders that Covenant Health doesn’t knock down first. What have we built, lately?
But, it’s just an ugly old building and various people insist we must have more parking so we can grow. So, I assume, we’ll soon see a garage where once there was a Liberty Building. Maybe we’ll name it “Liberty Garage.” It will have a minimum retail space, though not much. It won’t have residences on the top which would have had a great view and likely would have been in great demand. It won’t have an urban garden on the top like it might have in San Francisco because, well because we just need parking, I suppose.