Fred Duncan Gallery is a local treasure

Harold DuckettArts 865, Our Town Stories, West Knox

When I went looking for Fred Duncan last weekend, I found him at his gallery, where he is every day but Sunday and Monday. Many Mondays he ends up there, too.


After my review of Carl Sublett’s art show was published in KnoxTNToday last Friday, in which I questioned the title of one of Carl’s drawings that was labeled “L&N Terminal,” I received a message from a reader in Florida. He had grown up in the Byington area of West Knoxville and remembered a Byington L&N station. He wondered if Sublett’s drawing was it. If it still existed, he thought Fred Duncan would know.

Fred Duncan’s painting of the L&N Byington Station.

Bob Foxx remembers that when he was a young boy in the early 1950s, his parents would take him to L&N’s Byington station to watch the train go by and wave to his grandfather, who worked for L&N and rode the trains.

“I don’t remember what the station looked like,” Foxx told me. “I don’t have any pictures of it. But I remember my grandfather standing on the back landing of the caboose waving to me as the train passed. I have pictures of him on the train.”

He also remembered it was on Ball Camp Pike in West Knox County and that Fred Duncan has a gallery on Ball Camp, probably not far from where the L&N ought to be.

Just inside the door of Duncan’s gallery there was Duncan’s watercolor painting of the L&N Byington Station. He painted it from an old photograph. “It was just down the road,” Duncan told me, pointing west along Ball Camp Road. The station closed and was torn down by the mid-1950s, he thought.

There are lots of paintings of local buildings and landmarks in Duncan’s gallery. Most of the paintings are his work. Some of them are prints of the original paintings, sold not long after they were finished. People in the Byington area come looking for paintings that bring back memories from their childhoods.

Fred Duncan’s painting of the Carefree Drive-in in Oliver Springs, TN. The images of other paintings are reflections in the glass of the framed painting. (Photo by Harold Duckett)

Duncan grew up in Oliver Springs. While he was still in high school, he began working at the Carefree Drive-In movie theater. Before long, he began making signs for the theater and creating ads to run in the Knoxville News-Sentinel.

In the mid-1960s, Duncan began working for Elwood Pitts and Pitts Signs. Then in 1984 he opened his own sign business, located in the building his gallery now occupies.

His primary business was large carved, routed and sand-blasted wood subdivision signs made for the new housing developments as they spread west through Knox County. But as he got older, the work began to become more difficult to do.

Twelve years ago, he closed the sign business and converted his shop to a full-time art gallery to showcase his paintings and the work of others.

Duncan is 76 now. “I feel every damn day of it,” he remarked, only half joking.

Fred Duncan Gallery, 8430 Ball Camp Pike (Photo by Harold Duckett)

Fred Duncan Gallery is at 8430 Ball Camp Pike, in West Knoxville. The gallery is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. It’s as warm and welcoming inside as it looks from the outside.

My review of the Carl Sublett show can be found in the Arts865 section at https://www.knoxtntoday.com.

More information about Fred Duncan Gallery can be found at http://www.fredhduncanart.com. You will enjoy seeing Fred’s work. You will also enjoy meeting Fred. He is a delight to spend some time with.

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