The Troubled Past of Knoxville’s Market House

“Of all the bewildering things about a new country, the absence of human landmarks is one of the most depressing and disheartening.

-Willa Cather

Our history has many stories to tell; stories of war and freedom, of happiness and misery, of victory and failure. These are stories which have melted hearts and touched lives over many decades. These are stories of our past, of the world we once knew, of our ancestors. For the people of the present generation, it is their utmost responsibility to keep these stories alive for the next generations to come.

Knoxville is a place full of stories. One story worth remembering is the troubled past of Knoxville’s Market House. The Market House is a historical landmark that anchored commerce in downtown Knoxville since before the Civil War. It was a tragedy that this building was swept by flames on Sunday night December 6, 1959. The blaze damaged what was believed to be a cost of more than $170,000. The city had no insurance property; neither did most of the vendors who were affected by that unfortunate event.

Even though the Market House was held as a public farmer’s marker for 105 years, city officials said they wouldn’t waste time or money on repairs. Some leaders saw the landmark as a burdensome relic long past its prime and secretly rejoiced that it was finally removed.

Before the Market House burned down, there had been an endless argument between the people who strived for progress and the people who preserved tradition. The clash dominated Knoxville’s politics since the 1920’s and still shadows the city today.

It’s ironic that we all fight for freedom and peace, but even on our land, we face our own wars. It is inevitable that people will choose to stand on opposite sides, especially when it’s a call for change. While some people find it easy to embrace change, there are people who would choose to stand up and fight for what they believe in.

Our historical landmarks may turn out to be crumbling, abandoned places, but we should never take for granted their stories of the past. After all, each building tells a significant story which shaped our past and even our future. Even if we are now living in a modern world dominated by technology, let us not forget our history, which is surely worth remembering and worth keeping.

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  1. Darris K. Doyal on September 3, 2012 at 9:45 am

    It was a very sad day for me when the Market House burned. I have many memories of going there with my grandmother to buy fresh fish. Yes, it had an “aroma” about it but Knoxville lost one of it’s distinctive landmarks when it burned. I regret there were not enough advocates to preserve it as the iconic landmark it was. All too often political in-fighting trumps the good of the community.

  2. Howard Tillery on September 13, 2012 at 6:26 pm

    I remember going to the market house. It did have some really different smells to it. It also hadsome good restaurants inside. I hated that it burned also. I also think that what they developed in it’s place is really cool. Lerner shop,
    Thom McCann,The Hub dept. store,Strand theatre andmany others. When it was warm I would go up to the mall area and eat my lunch when I worked at Millers dept. store. Long live “MARKET SQUARE”.

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