Many present-day Knox Countians assume the Fountain Head Railway (The Dummy Line) (1895-1905) used a site in downtown Knoxville as its home station. Not so, the home station was at the corner of Broadway and Holston St. (now Tyson) in a building later occupied for 37 years by Jacob Goodstein’s Grocery.
Across Broadway was the Central Market which, along with Gay Street and Market Square, was one of the busiest shopping sites in the county. It later was occupied by a number of businesses and was renamed Emory Place.
Central Market first appears in the 1889 City Directory when there were 33 stalls housed in a frame structure on a wide spur of Fourth Avenue with the City Scales on the west end and Fire Engine House No. 1 in a brick building on the east end.
Old Gray Cemetery, founded in 1850, was just across Broadway from the market on the southwest corner of Holston Street. With the FHRW’s home depot across that side street, the location was a busy one. From 1890 to 1905, for instance, the railway sold 10,000 fares each day to carry Fountain Citians and north Knoxvillians to their work in the textile mills, railroad shops, offices and business places downtown and back home or to recreation areas like the Whittle Springs Hotel and Resort or the Fountain Head Hotel and Resort.
Early tenants in the Central Market included Thomas Owens’ Fish Market, Jacob Croissant’s Meat Market and Austin Plummer’s Produce Co. Others like the Knox Candy Co. would come and go with grocers Ebenezer Kelley and Strother Lynn lasting for several years.
The original Market House a mile away on Market Square had been built in 1854 and expanded in 1897. Perhaps that needed expansion was the impetus for Central Market’s transition about the turn of the century from small markets to larger factory-like businesses and more substantial brick buildings.
When “Market” no longer described its mission, the powers-that-be sought another name. The New Market Train Wreck of Sept. 24, 1904 was on everyone’s mind. Two Southern Railway passenger trains traveling at high speeds had collided head-on in the worst transportation disaster in area history. It was first announced that there were 56 killed and 106 injured but the toll grew as more facts emerged and as some of the injured died.
Perhaps the most well-known casualty was the Rev. Isaac Emory, 74, who, after funeral services at Second Presbyterian Church, was interred in Old Gray Cemetery with a footstone reading “The Children’s Friend.”
Born in 1830, the Rev. Emory, a native of Fulton, N.Y., graduated from Lane Theological Seminary in Cincinnati and became a missionary for the American Sunday School Union. He arrived in Knoxville in 1865 at the end of the Civil War. (*)
Knoxville had a population of only 7,000 at the time and only a few of its churches had Sunday Schools. The Rev. Emory soon succeeded in establishing 26 of them locally from which several churches grew. Traveling by buggy, train and steamboat, he canvassed Chattanooga and Nashville and established many more. But, over the years, his major progress was in “backwoods” areas where he started Sunday schools in which the membership totaled more than 50,000 eventually. Along the way he influenced many to enter the ministry and a short while before his tragic death he was elected moderator of the Knoxville Presbytery.
Upon Emory’s death it just seemed a logical choice, and the Central Market became Emory Place. (Emory’s farm was in the Arlington area of north Knoxville. His son, Charles M. Emory, established Arlington Gardens there after his father’s death. He sold vegetable plants grown in beds or in some of the first hothouses in Knoxville. When the demand for houses in the suburbs grew in 1924 to 1926, Emory developed the upscale neighborhood and named its two boulevards Fairmont and Emoriland, again honoring the Rev. Emory.
Central Market (Emory Place) changed character from a market with stalls to free-standing buildings (1917 Sanborn’s Fire Map). A church, the Crescent Steam Laundry and the O.J. Smith Cabinet Co. were to the south. On the north were the Hinton Laundry and Dry Cleaning Co., the U.S. Post Office and the Walla Walla Chewing Gum Co. (*)
According to the American Journal of Commerce (1903), W.D. Biddle established Walla Walla on March 2, 1897, with small quarters and only five employees. Surely even William Wrigley, Chicago’s chewing gum king, would have been proud of the growth of the company which at its height had 40-50 employees producing 1,200 sticks of chewing gum each minute – some two tons each day.
Until 1915, Walla Walla occupied Nos. 8 and 10 Central Market with each 25 x 100-foot building consisting of four floors, equipped with steam power and up-to-date machinery. Walla Walla became the largest company of its kind in the South and its product was marketed in 42 states by eight traveling salespeople. Then it moved to 511-14 State St. and eventually (1950) prominent former UT athlete and businessman Herman D. “Breezy” Wynn bought the company planning to expand it to 60 employees.
At an early date (1910), Walla Walla Chewing Gum Co. had only a few neighbors. But soon St. John’s Lutheran Church acquired two lots at the southwest entrance and completed their historic sanctuary in 1913. Also, the 1903 Sanborn’s Fire Map shows the Whittle-Spence Trunk and Bag Co., with R.D. Whittle as president, occupying a large building in the elbow-shaped center of Emory Place. R.D. was the younger brother of James M. Whittle who established Whittle Springs Hotel.
Today, Emory Place has experienced a renaissance thanks to the efforts of architect and former city council member L. Duane Grieve. He purchased Nos. 8, 10 and 12 Emory Place in 1982, gutted the buildings, replaced the wiring and plumbing, installed sprinklers and updated the historic façade. Commendably, only after that considerable expense did he apply for and win a federal block grant that transformed a surface parking lot into an attractive pocket park and enhanced all the properties in Emory Place, which was appropriately added to the National Register of Historic Places on Nov. 10, 1994.
Today, The Dummy Line is only a memory but Emory Place is again very active and preserved as an important part of Knox County history.
Jim Tumblin, retired optometrist and active historian, writes a monthly series on Fountain City for KnoxTNToday.com.