Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Market Square and Old City – Knoxville Tennessee

While Dawn Marie was visiting us in September, we decided to explore downtown Knoxville, focusing especially on Market Square, and the longtime social nexus of the city.  Of course, a nice lunch was part of the plan…but that will be the subject of a subsequent posting…

These photos were taken from one end of Market Square… The square is lined with restaurants, music venues and shops.  There is also a water play park for children.  The fact that parking is free after 6 p.m. at the 3 nearby city-owned Market Square, State Street and Locust Street garages is a real plus.

Market Square gets its name from the Market House that once stood in the center of the square.  Farmers from Knoxville’s surrounding areas would bring their wagons into the Market House to sell their wares.  The southern end of the square holds the bell from the old Market House and also features a statue commemorating Tennessee's role in the fight for women's suffrage. 

It’s significant to note that ranks Market Square as the second best attraction in Knoxville!  1,720 reviews rank the square as Excellent or Very Good vs. 18 rating it as Poor or Terrible.  Only the Tennessee Theatre is ranked higher than Market Square!

The northern end of Market Square is anchored by these 2 restaurants…but these 2 are only a sample of the variety on the square itself or within a radius of 3 or 4 blocks.  Although we haven’t eaten at either location, for your convenience websites for these 2 dining options can be found at and at  However, the restaurant that we chose for lunch is located at the south end of the square.

The entire Market Square area serves as an important venue for various activities, special events and live entertainment.  Featured events include the Concerts on the Square series, Shakespeare on the Square and, in the appropriate seasons, a huge Farmer’s Market and Ice Skating on the Square.

The Market Square Farmer’s Market is a project of Nourish Knoxville.  The open-air farmers’ market is a “producer only market”, with all products being made, grown or raised by our vendors all within a 150 mile radius of the market.  Products vary by the season and include ornamental plants, vegetable and herb starts, produce, dairy, eggs, honey, meats, baked goods, jams/jellies, coffee, and artisan crafts.

This covered concrete and brick platform at the south end of the square is actually the stage that’s used for plays, music offerings and other presentations. 

This past weekend, Market Square was transformed into a free outdoor movie theater.  In addition, during the day on Saturday the Farmer’s Market was offering fall season produce and many other items.  At the same time, the square was the center of HOLA, a celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month…    

Laurie and I took turns taking photos of each other with Dawn Marie at the foot of the Tennessee Women’s Suffrage Memorial.  Note the fierce look projected by the ladies!

This life-size, bronze statue featuring three Tennessee suffragists was completed in 2006.  It features Lizzie Crozier French of Knoxville, Anne Dallas Dudley of Nashville, and Elizabeth Avery Meriwether of Memphis. 

Focusing on the Knoxville member of the trio, Margaret Elizabeth "Lizzie" Crozier French (1851 – 1926) was an American educator, women's suffragist and social reform activist.  Among other accomplishments, she was one of the primary leaders in the push for women's rights in Tennessee in the early 1900s, and helped the state become the 36th state to certify the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which gave women the right to vote, in 1920.  Tennessee’s ratification put the amendment over the top to become the law of the land!

Located at the south end of Market Square, Krutch Park brings a little bit of nature to the downtown Knoxville’s landscape!  Winding walking trails take visitors past a small cascading waterfall, a gentle stream, gardens, art sculptures and benches where you can just relax. 

Art in Public Places is an annual exhibition featuring large-scale sculptures that are displayed in Knoxville’s downtown public spaces as well as at McGhee Tyson Airport and in Oak Ridge Tennessee.  Every year new sculptures are chosen for display…

Laurie took this photo of a happy Dawn Marie in Krutch Park… 

As we wandered along beyond Market Square itself, we stopped into this little coffee and chocolate shop.  Unfortunately we were too full to partake of any of this luscious looking chocolate…but Dawn Marie did pick up a cup of coffee.  We will have to re-visit this little nook of comfort!

Cleverly, this coffee and chocolate shop has been named “Coffee and Chocolate”!  Website:

The first building that I noticed as we came out to Gay Street was the Riviera Theater.  It looks like it might be old…but then again it looks a bit too ‘clean’ to be old. 

As it turns out, the original Riviera Theatre was opened here in 1920. It was operated by Paramount Pictures Inc., but it was closed in 1976 and then demolished in 1988.  This ‘new’ Regal Riviera Stadium 8 was built on the original site, opening in August 2007.  The fact that a downtown 8-screen movie theater exists is proof that people are moving downtown and that the center of Knoxville is alive!

Just down Gay Street from the Riviera Theater is the Number #1 attraction in Knoxville…the Tennessee Theatre. 

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places and honored as the Official State Theatre of Tennessee, "Knoxville's Grand Entertainment Palace" reopened in 2005 after a $25.5 million restoration process.  With its magnificent architecture and stunning décor, the Tennessee Theatre offers visitors the rare opportunity to step back in time.  The original opening day for the Theatre was on October 1, 1928.  I’m embarrassed to admit that after living in the area for more than 7 years, we still haven’t made our pilgrimage to the Tennessee Theater.  

With acts as varied as Bonnie Raitt, ZZ Top, Bob Dylan and the Moscow Ballet, the Tennessee Theatre is on our ‘bucket list!

This is a partial street view north up Gay Street.  The Theaters are both south on Gay Street from where we walked over from the south end of Market Square.  With its restaurants and shops, Gay Street is an integral part of what’s happening in downtown Knoxville. 

Since its development in the 1790s, Gay Street has served as the Knoxville’s principal financial and commercial thoroughfare, and has played a primary role in the city's historical and cultural development.  The street contains Knoxville's largest office buildings and oldest commercial structures. Several buildings on the street are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  To learn more about the interesting history of Gay Street, you can go to

The Skybox Bar and Grill on Gay Street is pure Knoxville!  This is a hangout for ‘Vols’ fans… If you live anywhere in East Tennessee, you are a University of Tennessee Volunteer’s sports fan.  Especially during football and basketball season, Vols fans are everywhere and our local newscasts are full of team news and projections.  A losing season or even the loss of a big game casts a pall over the city…especially if the teams are beaten by a Southeastern Conference rival!  
Skybox Bar and Grill’s website is at

How many cities have a wall painting honoring a famous moonshiner?!!  In Artist Alley just east of Market Square before Gay Street, there is an alleyway full of different wall paintings or murals.  Popcorn Sutton’s tribute was close to the entrance to the alley.  To see other wall art in the alley, go to  

Marvin "Popcorn" Sutton, (1946 – 2009) was an American Appalachian moonshiner who was born in Maggie Valley, North Carolina and was raised, lived and died in the rural areas around Maggie Valley and nearby Cocke County, Tennessee.  He wrote a self-published autobiographical guide to moonshining production, self-produced a home video depicting his moonshining activities, and was later the subject of several documentaries, including one that received a Regional Emmy Award.

Sutton committed suicide in 2009 rather than report to federal prison after being convicted of offenses related to moonshining and illegal firearm possession.  Since his death, a new company and an associated whiskey brand have been named after him.  To learn more, go to

From Market Square and Gay Street, we drove over to and through Knoxville’s Old City area.  Like downtown, it is burgeoning with activity with shops, restaurants, galleries and the like popping up everywhere.  The ‘Old City’ is located at the northeast corner of the city's downtown area.

Originally this neighborhood was part of a raucous and vice-ridden section of town known as "The Bowery."  The Old City is not the oldest section of Knoxville...but was given that name in recent history.  Most of the neighborhood was not part of Knoxville until the 1850s, when the arrival of the railroad encouraged the city to annex the area. 

This is the former Patrick Sullivan’s Saloon in the Old City area.  Patrick Sullivan, who lived in this building with his family, converted it to a saloon in 1888 after the family moved out.  At the time, Sullivan’s Saloon was an anchor of a saloon district called the Bowery, which included as many as 20 saloons along a half-mile stretch of Central.  The area catered mostly to travelers and working-class men.  

The saloon operated from 1888 until 1907, when the city banned saloons. After that, the building hosted other businesses, including a boarding house, a bordello, an upholstery business, and most notably Armetta’s Ice Cream, which flourished here in the 1920s and ‘30s.  The building was once again reborn as Sullivan’s Saloon on St. Patrick’s Day 1988.  That operation has since closed down. 

This classic old building has been refurbished and it’s now The Lonesome Dove Western Bistro, an upscale restaurant serving gourmet cuisine to include a variety of wild game, steaks, seafood, etc.  Website:

One more photo of a couple of buildings in the old town area… It’s hard to visualize now but by the early 1900s, Central Street was lined with saloons and brothels.  Violent crime and prostitution continued to be a problem into the 1960s and that caused many of the neighborhood's businesses to flee the area.  Today many buildings are being refurbished and converted into businesses, apartments and lofts…

In 1985, most of the Old City neighborhood's historic buildings were listed on the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Southern Terminal and Warehouse Historic District.  Website:,_Knoxville,_Tennessee.

Here is one last photo of an iconic Knoxville landmark…the Sunsphere.   Laurie took this picture as we headed out of downtown via a short detour through World’s Fair Park.  The Sunsphere was constructed for Knoxville’s 1982 World's Fair and during that time, it served as the symbol for the Fair. The Sunsphere was also home to a full service restaurant and an Observation Deck, the latter still being open to the public today. 

FYI… The 1982 World's Fair was formally known as the Knoxville International Energy Exposition; with the theme of the fair being "Energy Turns the World."  The Fair opened on May 1, 1982 and closed on October 31, 1982…after receiving over 11 million visitors!  To learn more about the Fair, go to

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

If you’ve actually read all the way through this long posting, congratulations!  Thanks for stopping by and learning a bit about Knoxville!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave


  1. What an interesting city to visit, I've only driven through it but wish we had stopped and looked around. If all those good reviews are an indication, Market Square sounds like a fun attraction with lots of good things. The moonshiner wall is unique for sure and the saloon/restaurant building has great old architecture. Thanks for the tour, Dave and have a good rest of the week!

  2. Looks like you had a good day exploring Ktown.

  3. What a great city, Dave! I love all your photos and really enjoyed this tour! Thank you so much for sharing and I hope you are having a great week. :)

  4. Knoxville looks like a very nice place to visit. We've never been and now I regret that we never visited. Love the pictures of all of you. Happiness radiates from your faces.