Watauga Building

Knoxville, Tennessee – Then and Now

Watauga Building

The Watauga Building was 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 where is 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.

Margery Bensey
Park City

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:

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,

Jack Neely

The Watauga lives!

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