The second oldest home in Knoxville is the James Park House, located downtown on Cumberland Ave. Google Street View doesn’t really do it justice, but it’s better than the photo I tried to take with my phone while stopped at a red light a couple of days ago.
I wanted to snap a picture of the Park House because it’s got an interesting connection to John Sevier. “Nolichucky Jack” didn’t live here, but it wasn’t for lack of trying.
Sevier purchased this downtown lot and started building a home there in the 1790s, around the same time he was serving as Tennessee’s first governor. Construction didn’t get very far. Nothing but a brick foundation and part of a wall had been completed before a financial setback forced Sevier to abandon the project. For a man so accustomed to winning, whether on the battlefield or in politics, it must have been an irksome disappointment. He sold the lot to his son G.W. Sevier in 1801, and it passed out of the family’s hands six years later.
James Park, an Irish immigrant and Knoxville mayor, bought the lot and built the current structure on Sevier’s foundation in 1812. The house stayed in the Park family for a century; after that, it served time as a Red Cross facility and a medical academy. Gulf & Ohio Railways acquired it to use as a headquarters building a few years ago and undertook an extensive restoration.
Although Sevier never got to build the home he wanted on the lot, it’s just a stone’s throw from the courthouse lawn where his remains were reinterred in the 1880s. One fellow who did get to spend some time in the Park House was Sevier’s mortal enemy Andrew Jackson, who stopped by for a visit in 1830.
In a sense, the story of the house lot on Cumberland Ave. mirrors the larger story of Sevier’s place in Tennessee’s history. In both cases, Sevier secured the land and laid the foundation, but it was left to others to build up the structure, which obscured and overshadowed the contributions of the man who made so much of it possible. And in both cases it happened around the same time. While James Park was building his house in 1812, Sevier’s great rival was on the brink of national fame and state preeminence, but Sevier himself was in the twilight of his long and very eventful life.
If you’re in the Knoxville area and you’re looking for something to do this weekend, stop by Marble Springs State Historic Site for Statehood Days. They’ll have living history demonstrations, food, and tours of the historic buildings. Here’s the schedule.
This hard-working trio is on duty 24/7 at the home of Tennessee’s first governor.
…and John Sevier.
Follow them on Twitter, or stop by the site and pay ‘em a visit.
Marble Springs State Historic Site in Knoxville, TN is getting ready for its first annual fundraiser. We’re calling it a “Sevier Soirée.”
It’s on Saturday, Nov. 23 starting at 6:30 P.M. For $50 you can enjoy hors d’oeuvres prepared on an open hearth, dinner, wine, live music, nighttime tours of the historic buildings, and a silent auction. If you’ve been to Marble Springs before, this is a wonderful opportunity to enjoy the site in a fashion you’ve never experienced. And if you haven’t been, this is the perfect chance to do it in style.
For more information, visit the Marble Springs website or call (865) 573-5508.
If you live in my neck of the woods, here are a couple of upcoming events you might like.
This Saturday from 2:00 to 6:00 P.M., Marble Springs State Historic Site in Knoxville is holding its annual “Halloween Haunts & Haints” event, with special activities for kids and trick-or-treating at the site’s historic buildings.
Next up is the Lincoln Institute’s 2013 R. Gerald McMurtry Memorial Lecture. Ron Soodalter will present “The Quality of Mercy: Abraham Lincoln and the Power to Pardon,” at 11:00 A.M. in the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum. Soodalter is the author of Hanging Captain Gordon: The Life and Trial of an American Slave Trader, and has worked as an educator, curator, and contributor to numerous national magazines.
- I can’t believe I forgot to mention this until now, but it’s time for John Sevier Days Living History Weekend at Marble Springs State Historic Site in Knoxville, TN. The action starts tomorrow and continues through Sunday—reenacting, demonstrations, food, and presentations on the Lost State of Franklin and King’s Mountain. It’ll be a blast, so stop by if you get the chance.
- While we’re talking about Marble Springs, let me also recommend a great way to support the site and get some nifty benefits for yourself. Join the Governor John Sevier Memorial Association and you’ll get free admission when you visit, discounts on gift shop items, access to special events, and more. Memberships start at just $25.
- Late September-early October is King’s Mountain season. If you can’t make it to Knoxville for the Marble Springs event, there’s another option for those of you in southwestern Virginia. On Sunday, Abingdon Muster Grounds is hosting Sharyn McCrumb, who will read from her new novel about the battle. They’ll also have living history demonstrations and the unveiling of a new painting of William Campbell, whose unit marched from Abingdon to Sycamore Shoals to meet the other Overmountain Men.
- Some Connecticut parents are quite understandably upset over a school function where students got a taste of slavery…including the racial slurs. What. Were. They. Thinking?
- Here’s a Rev War infographic from 1871.
- Some folks are working to preserve the area around Kettle Creek battlefield in Georgia.
- A supplementary AP history text is drawing criticism for the way it refers to the Second Amendment.
- Next time you’re driving through Shepherdsville, KY keep an eye out for the new John Hunt Morgan mural on an underpass along Old Preston Highway.
Well, as of today, I’ve been given the honor and privilege of being associated with one of the coolest historic sites in East Tennessee. I’m now on the Board of Directors for the Governor John Sevier Memorial Association, which oversees Marble Springs State Historic Site in Knoxville. Sevier spent the last fifteen years of his remarkably eventful life there.
Needless to say, this is pretty exciting for an early Tennessee/King’s Mountain enthusiast like me. Marble Springs has an extremely dedicated and talented staff, and I’m looking forward to being involved.