We’ve talked before, quite extensively, about the Walnut Street Garage. Built with one small portion of retail facing the street, it is a nine-story container for cars with very little to offer beyond that. The resultant construction also exposed a nine-story solid wall on its south side which, despite some stained stripes to give it an appearance of texture, remained a widely visible blank surface.
Visit Knoxville and the City of Knoxville convened a committee of various interested parties (Full Disclosure: I was part of the committee) to discuss what might be done to increase the pedestrian interest and improve the pedestrian experience in the area. The result began taking shape earlier this week and the project was completed by the end of the day yesterday. The idea developed by the committee called for three three large photographs of historic scenes from Knoxville to be placed on canvas and displayed on the side of the garage.
The murals cover approximately the top five floors of the garage, measuring 223 feet across (the three together) and 58 feet in height, and are visible from a range of several blocks. The print-to-canvas transfers were handled by High Resolutions located just off Central, and the installation was handled by Valley Signs and Surveys out of Ooltewah.
The photographs come from the McClung Historical Collection‘s digital collection you’ll find at that link. If you haven’t explored the collection and you enjoy historic photographs of the city, I’d encourage you to follow the link and explore the additional 23,000 items. (Be sure you have plenty of time – an evening can easily be lost there.) The photographs selected include portraits of the Kern Building, the Market House and a shot of Gay Street with a Trolley in the foreground. It certainly is a more appealing view. My survey of people on the street seeing the murals for the first time indicated a 100% approval rating. She said she really liked it.
Deputy Mayor Bill Lyons is quoted in the press release as stating, “This is a great opportunity to turn what we could politely call a functional part of the downtown landscape into a real showcase for Knoxville history and heritage. Seeing these landmark photographs at such an impressive scale will help connect our present to our past. It shows us how much has changed over the years but also how much we have preserved, and the importance of protecting our city’s unique character.”
To Dr. Lyons point, I am very pleased the photographs included show two photographs of buildings we largely preserved and one we didn’t. I’ve thought a lot about the Market House and how the character of Market Square would have been so different at this point if it had survived. Better? Worse? Hard to say. Still, the point that we have saved some of what went before and lost other elements of our history should help us to remember the importance of the past as we deal with currently endangered buildings such as the Cal Johnson and others.
It’s worth taking a look. It doesn’t make the garage a good idea, but it makes it more bearable. As you drive downtown for First Friday, why not make it an attraction? Park in the garage, which has free public parking on weeknights when entering after 6 p.m. and free parking on weekends. (If you enter before 6:00 PM, it will electronically charge you on the way out. It is more sophisticated than the other garages.) Ride the very nice elevator to the top as you arrive and look at the interesting views of the city from that perspective.
Walk around the garage to the south side as you exit and stand in the adjacent parking lot to examine the photographs. They are pretty amazing and quite intriguing given the level of detail they reveal. When you return to your car after the sun has set, go to the roof again and look at the city after dark. I think you’ll enjoy what you see.
The photos are not intended to be in that location forever, though they will likely stay in place for an extended time. The brackets hold them in place are intended to remain and make way for future projects. What would you like to see in that space. Do you like the selection. What do you wish had been chosen? There are many possibilities which might be fun to consider.
Happy Fourth of July, everybody. I’ll post my 10 Day Planner this Sunday, but otherwise, I’ll see you on Tuesday with news of . . . wait for it . . . another opening. The hits just keep coming.