Archives » Knoxville
I started this page years ago and forgot about it. Just started fleshing it out further and published it this morning. A work in progress, but a start.
I wanted to like the Peter Kern Library. I do like the space. I certainly like the idea of craft cocktails being served in Knoxville. Heck, I was going to open my own bar just a few doors down from there about 10 years ago. However, the drinks here just miss the mark.
On our first visit, we tried a few drinks. My first I could not finish and so we traded. I didn’t really love the other one either. Neither of us loved our second round. But we liked the place and the attempt and our server and recommended it to friends.
Our second visit was a shock. We heard the head bartender was there and we were excited to talk shop with someone who maybe knew more than the typical hi-ball server.
I was probably a little less enamored of the place and so I was realizing every recipe was on the sweet side. Muddled fruit, honey and Crème de Violette. The only tart drink we tried last time and even my tart loving wife didn’t care for it. I realized none of these drinks looked appealing.
Ah, there is a “Classics” section with an “Old Fashioned” and a “Sazerac”. I decide on an Old Fashioned, but having been served in the last few years in typical places, I asked if they muddled oranges in them and could I have mine without orange fruit. The classic recipe calls for lemon peel, though I was served a fantastic version at The Gin Joint in Charleston with orange peel and it was great. But this made our bartender angry and I could either have it her way, which would be the best one I ever had, or I could have it my way. I felt like I might have been asked to leave if I wasn’t sitting with her regular customers, who I had told to come there in the first place. I wanted it my way. Or, well, the right way. I wanted the classic. No fruit.
What I got was okay. Not a craft cocktail. Not bad, but nothing beyond what I could tell the bartender to make me at the bar at the Holiday Inn Express.
I sampled all the drinks ordered and found nothing to be very good. My wife’s two drinks were forced down and she likely would have not finished if we weren’t with friends and obliged to stay longer than we wanted.
The drink list is overly sweet, and those that are not sweet are super hot or overly weird and just too strong in their flavors. Nothing was balanced. Nothing was tart in a good way. And nothing much was bigger than about 3 ounces. It all seemed to be 3 ounce cocktails served up.
The attitude was unforgivable.
I suppose I should go easy on the home town place that is trying, but, how will they improve? I am not going to take my cocktail nerd friends there. We’ll just go to my house and have good drinks instead. Should the bartenders at PKL visit some of the other good bars around and revise their palette and recipes, I’ll give them another chance. For now, they need to start over. Leave the décor, toss the recipes.
I suppose this proves that Knoxville will support good cocktails. If they are filling this small space to capacity on weekend nights, a better option might do more business.
When I was at the Mod Weekend event last weekend in Fort Lauderdale, I was talking with other fans of vintage modern and thought it would be great to document these places on a map so other people can find them easily. I have taken out of town guests on tours myself a few times. The map would allow people to guide themselves.
I came home and have explored the idea. The first effort is HERE. Vintage Knoxville. I started it tying it into my website pages, but am expanding to add various cool spots.
If you’d like to help with the project, drop me a line. Do this for your own city! It is not hard, just takes time.
Now if there was a mobile app for this to drop a pin on the map as we drive, that would be super!
Just a bump so you know I finally added images of this fantastic Lustron home here in Knoxville.
This icon on Kingston Pike, which dated back to the 1930s at least, and which seemed to deny time by still standing in a location that was heavily commercialized all around, is no more.
Those who went to Opal’s Lounge were right next to it and there were many mysteries in the old courtyard. An older man lived there and came by to say hello to Opal regulalrly. There was a GTO Judge in there somewhere. I hope someone got the old sign… Wish it were me…
We had the pleasure of visiting with the owners of the Robert Daniel house here in Knoxville. The house was designed and built by James Fitzgibbon in 1950. I won’t bore you too much with words. The house is incredible. The owners say they regulalrly find architects at their door dropping by to see Fitzgibbon’s master work. Often they are old friends of his.
The rock is all local from the Candora Marble company, which supplied a lot of what you seein Washington DC.
The lucite triangle coming out of the roof is where a tree used to grow.
Upper deck area that used to be a childrens play area.
Above to the left is where the master bedroom is.
Through the bookcase you can see the step down to a study. Bedroom above.
Looks out to a gardwn and fountain area.
This little station was in a movie filmed in Knoxville. Anyone recall what movie? October Sky or Box of Moonlight? In the movie, I recall there were like 20 Highway direction signs in front of it.
Great vinatge lines.
A phone? I forgot to see if it had a dial tone.
These lights must have shined on a lot of classic cars getting gas…
Knox Glass sign on Central. Looks like it could have gas tiki torches.
I’m not sure what this says about me, but a few months ago, this sign was un-retouched and showed it’s 50 plus years of service and I loved it. Now it has been refurbished, and, I’m not so thrilled. Sick?
I’ve had a couple of converible tops replaced by these guys.
Just a great old building and sign.
UPDATE: As luck would have it, I busted the back window out of my convertible top yesterday while unloading wood for bar construction. I called Lonnie’s immediately and the number was disconnected. Drove by to see a closed sign and the place cleaned out…
This place is still open doing business.
Spent this beautifal Fall day photographing some vintage Knox ville, signs and buildings. I’ll be posting them over the next week.
I picked up this new card of the Sharp’s Motel at the Clinton Antiques Fair today. For the complete story on this Motel, click here. A big postcard dealer. She will be at the postcard show with her complete collection. It was great to see a stack of just Knoxville cards. Other than my own stack, I’d never seen that before. I’ve had this circled on my calendar for months. I can’t wait to flip through all the cards and see what gems I can find!
OCTOBER 19-20, 2007- East Tennessee Postcard Show, Days Inn Convention Center, Central Ave. Pike at Merchants Dr. Fri. 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Milt Hinshilwood, 865-247-5767
Check out the Sputnik mailbox!
On Wednesday I happened to be in the hospital emergency room and browsed the local Knoxville Magazine and they had this article on a great house in town. It was a teaser and did not give the address.
Saturday, we were out hitting some garage sales and turned down the street and I immediately spotted a thick growth of bamboo. We slowed. Then I saw more house and we were both oohing. Then I saw the modern beams on the side of the house from the pictures and I knew I’d stumbled upon the house!
It was an original Lustron home from 1948. There are 3 of these in Knoxville that I know of today. This one I did not know about. The problem today with these homes is that they are just too small by our standards. Gary solved this by very artfully adding on to his Lustron. The whole property is incredible and he carried the atomic theme even to his mailbox, which is a stainless steel Sputnik design
It is such a pleasure to just know this place is here in town. There are some drop dead gorgeaous modern homes near there. They are in a very upscale neighborhood and are classic and will remain for ages. This one is just over the top Mod.
You know I will be slipping an invitation in his mailbox to my next luau!
This is the parking area behind the house. Love the gates!
This is an addition behind the house. Perfectly matching!
The metal wings on the side are a great touch and mimic the vintage building that is now Belleza Salon.
From the front you see the original small Lustron home.
Tim Hollis has created several great books of vintage Americana, concentrating on the South. His latest offering is about the good old Smokie Mountains and the many vacation destinations in the time of automobile travel on highways. It should jog many memories.
He will be here in town at Carpe Librum book store on Wednesday, June 27th. I have added his books to my store here on Swank Pad.
Also appearing at:
MONDAY EVENING, JUNE 25 – Joseph Beth book store, Charlotte, NC
THURSDAY EVENING, JUNE 28 – Joseph Beth store, Lexington, KY
SATURDAY AFTERNOON, JUNE 30 – Joseph Beth store, Cincinnati, OH
If you are a denizen of the Knoxville dives, you know Opal’s Lounge. If you go by before 7PM these days, you can still hang out with Opal herself. She is a legend in Knoxville bars. She has been like a grandmother to me. One that smokes, drinks and cusses.
I have made it a point to go visit Miss Opal monthly if not weekly since she stopped working the late nights there. It’s always good to see her.
Word has come to me via Mark that she has sold the place. By what I hear, it must be to someone she knows and who will likely keep it much as it is. I am going to get over there soon and find out details. We simply must have a celebration of Miss Opal. Once I know more about the future plans, I will send out word as to when we shall congregate around our community leader.
Here is what they said of the place in 2002 when she got the “Best Real Dive in Knoxville” award:
Best Real Dive
Hey, Toddy’s is OK. It might be deserving of the “neighborhood bar” honor, but it ain’t much of a dive as dives go. The dive of dives is the runner-up, almost straight across Kingston Pike. It shares a gravel driveway with the condemned Biltmore Motor Court, a lodging place that was seedy in its heyday along the Dixie Lee Highway. Opal’s Lounge used to be much worse, 20 years ago in its poke-salad days as Dirty Gert’s, back when the carpet squished with stale beer and the devil knows what else underfoot, but it’s still a dive to be reckoned with. Consider the near-subterranean location, with its door and its parking at the rear (for those timid Baptist tipplers among us). Think of the steel girders overhead, every 30 inches, that hold up the low, gray concrete ceiling, bomb-shelter style. Look at the portraits of John Wayne and Willie Nelson on the side wall above the pool tables, and cast a long glance at the nubile, decidedly nude muchacha painted exquisitely on velvet, con sombrero, above the backbar. Check out the jewel of a juke box. Wonder how come Bubba ain’t shot it yet. Ignore the electronic dart board, there for the dartistes who can’t count. Thanks to Ms. Opal Sparks, prop., Opal’s is still the dive it always was, despite the fact that the pool hall-then-massage parlor upstairs is now an oriental rug shop, and the men’s room is actually clean and doesn’t smell any worse than the Swisher-brand air freshener on the wall. At least the mirror is cracked in two places. And, even though the bar now carries such pee-willy beverages as Guinness stout and Pete’s Wicked Ale, Opal’s is unquestionably a Bud-BudLight-MillerLite kind of joint.
Trust us. The votes Opal’s got came from the most discriminating of dive denizens. There wasn’t another real dive among the top 10. When the prominent throwback sign, lettered: “We Reserve The Right To Refuse Service To Anyone” is taken into full account, one has to wonder who the hell that could ever be.
She also makes her own damn pickled eggs thank you very much!
Spread the word and get by there before 7PM and pay your respects to the lady.
UPDATE: Even at the time of this post, Opal’s was history. She sold it for a small amount really and we wish we had known. We would have bought it and kept it true to its roots and a shrine to Miss Opal. George Jones would always remain on the jukebox, with Patsy, the Killer, and Elvis.
As it turned out, I was there her last night. I was there with Mark on a Friday and Miss Opal was particularly nice and loving. She literally interupted our conversation several times to give me a hug and tell us she loved us. It seemed strange, and now I know why.
I asked around Metropulse to see if they would do a story on her. She is not fond of reporters. I offered to help and even to write it if needed. Opal would talk to me I am sure. I have not heard anything in a long time. I guess it isn’t happening.
Even Peyton Manning used to go to Opal’s to get away. He loved the place. That’s the way it used to be. A big star like Peyton could enjoy a night there without being hassled.
I spent a gazzilion nights at Opals over the years and saw it dead and crowded as hell. Never saw a fight ever. That says quite a lot for a dive like that. Met the best friend of a certain James Dean and heard the story of the day James took off to the big city and asked his friend to come with him. He didn’t. Met the psychiatrist for Sinatra’s drummer’s son. Sounds like a distant connection, but he told me about meeting Frank and him knowing just who he was and thanked him and offered to help in any way if it was needed. Let me know a little more about the man.
There was a certain magic to Opal’s. And it is now completely gone.
Easily one of the most common Knoxville postcards, and the only card I have found for the Highland’s. I had no clue about it until some fellow Knoxvillians clued me in. The place is still there:
It is now Andrew Morton’s Fine Gifts. There is a strange twist to this place. Today it is a block or so off Kingston Pike or 11-70. In the old days, it was on 11-70. 11-70 went in front of it and next to Long’s and took a hard turn to cross the railroad bridge. It then went across and took another hard turn to follow Newcom back to what is now Kingston Pike.
There is also evidence that this was a change as 11-70, way way back, went straight through, down what is now Old Kingston Pike, across the railroad tracks to what is now Homberg.
Click here for the Google satellite shot to see how Kingston Pike runs to Old Kingston Pike and clearly used to not curve around as it does today.
The Watauga Building – which at one time was a hotel, at the corner of Gay and Park Avenue.
Finding this place took some detective work and help from the community. First was Park Avenue. The answer to that came on the forums:
In the late 1850s-1880s, this street was called Craig Street in the town of Shieldstown, east of First Creek, and was called Park Street in the city of Knoxville, west of First Creek. The streets were in separate towns, neither was a main thoroughfare, there was no bridge over the creek, and the streets did not meet. The main streets out to Chilhowee Park were East Fifth and Linden, and the early streetcars, horse-drawn, took these routes in the 1870s and 1880s.In the 1880s or 1890s, Brian Branner, mayor of Knoxville, who lived on Craig Street in Shieldstown, renamed Craig Street after his mother Magnolia Branner. At some point Park Street in Knoxville was renamed Magnolia, probably to match the rest of the street. This would most likely have been after the bridge was built over First Creek connecting the streets, after trolleys were running out Magnolia Avenue, or after Shieldstown and its subdivisions, known as Park City, were incorporated by Knoxville.
That placed the Watauga at the corner where Regas is today, but across from the Regas is Whist Court, which is not at all right and the other two corners were leveled for the Interstate. Being that the Regas is only two stories, the Watauga must have been destroyed right? Take a look at the picture:
Photo courtesy Wes Morgan
Notice a remarkable resemblance? Were there two buildings built with the same plans, one 2 stories and one 5? The answer came from Jack Neely:
As weird as it seems, the current Regas building in fact does comprise the first two stories of the old Watauga Hotel, one of several hotels that used to be clustered near the Southern station. The three upper floors were razed in the early ’60s because they were empty and considered a fire and crumbling hazard. In those days, there wasn’t much motive to fix them up. Regas wasn’t always there–it started as the ‘Ocean Cafe,’ on Gay near old Commerce. But it has been there since the early-to-mid 1920s. It was originally in a much smaller luncheonette-sized space of the Watauga, but radically remodelled in the ’50s, I assume about the time the Watauga closed, taking up most of the floor.
Thanks for your interest,
The Watauga lives! The whole thread is HERE
This is the oldest card. Check out the phone number!
The postcards say it is 3 miles north of Knoxville on Highways 33 and 71. That’s all. So I really had no idea where this was. Then one day as I was driving over Black Oar Ridge on North Broadway, it hit me. That old motel I had taken pictures of before there was the Black Oak Court! How had I been so dense?
This old linen card shows the same place, for sure.
Another older linen card of the same place.
This chrome card looks like a different place, but maybe it’s a remodel. The classic stone facade of the 50s.
This most clear card shows the glass brick, blueish front to the rooms.
Here is is today. The buildings are still there, but overgrown. The beautiful glass brick fronts are still there on the cabin/rooms.
This view shows the cabins back there, but there is too much growth to see the fronts. I will try to get back and hike back there for more pictures.
I posted this topic earlier and it turns out I was wrong. Mark said he thought the Dwarf was at the corner of Merchants and Clinton Highway. That seemed wrong to me because that building looks nothing like the postcard. A reader on the Swank Forums did the research and it turns out that is one of the locations. It has been very heavily renovated!
Here is the building now.
The poster also gave me an address for the other Dwarf Restaurant on Clinton Highway and a look at Google maps and I knew it was correct. I also recalled the buildings, as I pass the daily and it was all coming together. The address I had on the postcard was just plain wrong and sent me on a wild goose chase.
Here you see on the left, the Dwarf building and right of center, the Tate Motel office building and the cleared lot where the motel rooms were. Luckily, Google maps uses older images so this is pre-junk yard.
Here is the best image showing the two buildings in their prime. This is in the mid-1950s and it appears the Tate did not have the office building yet. You gotta love the sign!
Why a dwarf? It predates that Travelocity thing by a few decades.
Here is a later image of the Tate Motel and it looks like the restaurant is no longer the Dwarf. Also note the office building is there.
And here is a postcard of just the Tate Motel with no office. Look at the size of the trees to see this is an early image.
Here is a very early linen card. The roof sign attracted barn-stormers.
“Chicken in the basket” is a take off of the popular “Chicken in the Rough.”
Here it is today. The Dwarf and the Tate. I didn’t bother (or dare) poke around for remnants of the past. Not much to find I am sure and they would not welcome me.
This postcard eluded me for a while because I had no information on it’s location. But a reader of my forums knew it and pointed me to the right place. I drove past there daily for a months now and didn’t recognize it.
It is pretty run down. But there are people there doing something. Likely not making it a motel. Now we know the location.
I had these two images of the enigmatic “Dwarf Restaurant” in Knoxville.
It’s clear now there either were two of them or two locations. The first is clearly related to the Tate Motel which I located a while ago. Recently on the Swank Pad forums, a local pointed me to what I now beleive is the location in the second postcard. I took these pictures this morning.
Looks very close.