A little over a year ago, I joined Knox Heritage so I could attend an open house of the under-extreme-renovation-at-the-time Farragut Hotel building in downtown Knoxville. I hadn’t been able to track down any of the hotel’s official records from 1938 and 1940, the two occasions I have evidence to believe that Ben Irving stayed there. The work that the contractors and development company had been doing, even at that point, was pretty astounding.
A few Fridays back, many of us had the rare opportunity to do another walk-through. It was impressive how much progress had been made. One of my favorite points that owner Rick Dover mentioned was that, although they were building a full kitchen for a morning breakfast buffet, the new Farragut would not have an in-house restaurant. There are too many great restaurants within walking distance, and they were encouraging guests to actually get to know the city around the hotel – a sentiment I can get behind. Here are some photos from the visit.
The beautiful wood finishing on a nook next to the Clinch Ave. entrance that’s going to be a library.
“Better make it quick, kiddo; in 5 minutes, this place is becoming a Starbucks” – Unfunny sarcastic character from the last good season of The Simpsons.
The lobby, taken standing over the original stairs down to the Clinch Ave entrance.
What I can only assume will be the Men’s Room once they install the urinals. The tile floor and dark green stall doors (nice touch) reminds me a lot of New Haven Pizza places from growing up.
If “Die Hard 7” were to take place in the Farragut Hotel…
The first floor’s hinterland.
The building’s official re-opening as the Hyatt Place at the Historic Farragut Hotel is slated to be weeks away, which means that workers are scrambling to get all the holes filled and everything else in working order as I type this. The Knoxville News-Sentinel interviewed the new General Manager (who moved his family from Austin to come and run the show) and gave a pretty good bullet-point history of the building on their site here.
I took this when I walked by the site on Wednesday afternoon, mostly because of the shiny new “Coming Fall 2017” Hyatt banner.
I can’t remember how much I’ve covered the Farragut Hotel and its intersection with the Ben Irving Postcard Project, but from what I can tell, he stayed there at least once in 1935 and then possibly again in 1940. That’s really all I could ascertain from the notes and the dates on the cards.
Regarding the development’s news, the Knoxville News Sentinel published this article last year about the official development plans, which stated their plan was to reopen during the summer of 2017. So, knowing the pace of development in Knoxville, I looked forward to being able to see their finished product in late 2019.
I was fortunate to be able to visit the project as it currently sits when Knox Heritage had a special event there last Fall. I took several pictures while wandering around the construction site and I never did anything with them in October, so I figured I would post some highlights here. Forgive any unintentional trespassing I may have done.
The main elevator shaft, currently ripe for an action movie.
The boiler room, which from what I could tell was the lowest point in the building.
I saw this pile of neon lightbox letters in the basement. I’m trying to think what they would have spelled that included a “B.”
Knox Heritage has been teasing a follow-up event where their members will get a free preview of the hotel when it’s ready to officially reopen this fall. I’ll do my best to recreate these photos, but I can’t make any promises with the ones of gigantic death-hazard holes. I imagine they’ll patch those up.
My Cultural Geography class paid a visit to the Come to Make Records Exhibit at the East Tennessee History Center this Tuesday as part of our unit on musical geography. Photographic evidence below. We got there a few minutes late because we relied on the Vol Trolley (now the Orange Line) for transport from campus and had to navigate around more than one construction pit downtown, but otherwise the excursion was a complete success and the students enjoyed it. Special thanks to Eric Dawson of the Tennessee Archive of Moving Image and Sound (TAMIS) for giving us a great tour, talking about how important the site and situation of Knoxville were in the St. James Hotel recording sessions of 1929 and 1930.
That’s not me, but my friend Eric Dawson from the East TN History Center speaking to my GEOG 320 class last fall.
The exhibit runs through the end of October (last day on Sunday, October 30th), so you still have one week to go and see it if you haven’t yet. Admission is only $5 for non-members, and free on Sundays.
If you haven’t stumbled upon this yet, please do stumble. It serves as a cogent, architecturally-minded reminder of the crippling effect that Redevelopment had on this American city. Sites like this and Ghosts of DC are helping civilians dig into their collective past to learn from their forefathers’ triumphs and mistakes. Hopefully we can figure out the best ways to capitalize off of both.