Historic Gibbs Drive reflects early subdivision life

Dr. Jim TumblinFeature, Fountain City

In nominating the Gibbs Drive Historic District for the National Register of Historic Places, which was granted on Nov. 8, 2000, Cathryn Irwin, then program director for Knox Heritage, observed, “The Gibbs Drive Historic District is a neighborhood of 52 residences and associated outbuildings that reflect the characteristics of the streetcar and automobile suburb in Knoxville. The district has a linear street pattern, broad sidewalks, spacious façade lawns and sidewalks. Beginning in the era of streetcar suburbs, the neighborhood development continued throughout the period when automobile usage and ownership became prolific in Knoxville. The predominant building styles and forms are the bungalow, Craftsman, Minimal Traditional and four squares. Overall, the district is an outstanding example of the early twentieth century trend away from the elaborate Victorian era styles, to a more simplified floor plan and appearance.”

The early Fountain City subdivision was developed by Gibbs and Maloney Real Estate Co. Charles R. Gibbs (1885-1918), who was only 25 years old must have been a very enterprising young man.

“Greater Knoxville Illustrated (1910),” states, “The real estate business, which is a very accurate barometer of prosperity, shows a vigorous activity, especially in the offices of Gibbs and Maloney at 600-601 Bank and Trust Building. The firm commenced business two years ago and is composed of Chas. R. Gibbs and G.E. Maloney, both of whom are natives of Tennessee and have a large and influential connection through which they are well known for their energy and reliability. They do a general real estate business in city and county property.” George E. Maloney was soon replaced by his brother Frank D. Maloney as a principal in the company.

Most of the houses on Gibbs Drive were built before 1930 but there were infill houses built as late as 1950. Carlos C. Campbell, author of “Birth of a National Park” (1960), and a founder of the Park, moved his family to Gibbs Drive in 1922. Many other prominent Knox Countians have lived on the street; including Hop Bailey, longtime Knox County school board chair; George Dempster, inventor, industrialist and Knoxville mayor; Daniel Orndorff, owner of Knoxville Music Co.; G.P. Pavlis, restaurant owner; Dr. Fred Tallent, Hotel Ave. pharmacist; J.A. Tindell, coal company executive and early president of Fountain City Bank; Campbell Wallace, prominent civil engineer and Judge W.L. Welcker, early mayor of North Knoxville before it was annexed.

Charles Russell Gibbs was born on Sept. 21, 1885. His parents were Prof. William Carroll Gibbs (1839-1917), a direct descendent of Nicholas Gibbs, and Martha S. Bell (1848-1891). Prof. Gibbs was an educator for most of his life and served as superintendent of the Knox County schools from 1882-1883. The professor was exceedingly well educated for his time having attended Emory and Henry College in Virginia and having graduated from the University of Tennessee in 1876.

Unfortunately, Charles Gibbs did not live to see the completion of the Gibbs Drive project. He passed away at his home in Bearden on April 11, 1918, at 32 years of age due to complications from diabetes. Ironically, in Dec. 1921, Dr. Frederick Banting, a Canadian physician, succeeded in extracting insulin from the adult pancreas, a treatment which might have enabled Gibbs to cope with the disease. His wife, Lula Haynes Gibbs, and his three children survived him. Lula Gibbs maintained an interest in the Gibbs-Maloney Co. for some time, but then liquidated and moved to San Antonio, Texas, to live with her son. She passed away there on April 7, 1964, and her body was returned to be buried with her husband in Greenwood Cemetery.

Frank D. Maloney (1879-1952) was the third of four sons of Judge George L. and Sonora Dodson Maloney, born in Knoxville on Jan. 3, 1879. His father was judge of the Knox County Court from 1888-1902 and worked for the establishment of a home for the indigent. Eventually, when it was established, the home was named for him and the George Maloney home at Maloneyville served Knox County’s indigent for many years.

Frank attended the public schools in west Knoxville and graduated from the University of Tennessee with an engineering degree in 1898. His lifelong friend, David Chapman, was a teammate on the football team with Maloney at fullback and Chapman as quarterback. Years later, they would work together effectively in the efforts to acquire land for the national park.

Maloney was one of the volunteers for the Spanish-American war in 1898 and assisted in organizing a company that became part of the 6th U.S. Volunteer Infantry. There were only 28,000 men in the regular U.S. Army at the time and, when the President requested 50,000, over 220,000 volunteered.

He also re-enlisted for the Philippine Insurrection (1899–1902) and was assigned a captaincy in the 39th U.S. Volunteer Infantry and served under Gen. Arthur MacArthur, Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s father. He survived that brutal jungle war and won a promotion to colonel. His uncanny expertise in assessing topography and preparing detailed maps, enabled him to choose the site for Ft. Benning, Georgia, which remains an important military post today.

Although Maloney had not been an applicant, Gov. Ben Hooper chose him to become adjutant general of the Tennessee National Guard in 1911. During Gen. Maloney’s four years as AG, he reorganized the guard and gave it a sound structure.

Periodically, he also engaged in general contracting and railroad engineering with the John A. Kreis Construction Co. Later, he worked with the Benson Winch Co. where his military experience facilitated their rapid growth. During his long career, he would also serve as commissioner of highways for Knox County; become the first chair of the Knox County Planning Commission (organized in 1940), and served on the Knoxville Housing Authority.

When the Great Smoky Mountains Conservation Association was formed, Maloney became one of the original members. The board first met on Dec. 21, 1923, with a board of directors that included: Forrest Andrews, Carlos C. Campbell, Col. David Chapman, Willis P. Davis, Paul Fink, Russell W. Hanlon, Gen. Frank Maloney and I.W. Rawlings.

Arno B. Cammerer, associate director of the National Park Service, was charged with establishing the boundaries for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Gen. Maloney was doubly qualified to become his chief assistant in the project. He had lengthy experience as a civil engineer with a particular expertise in topography and map-making and he had an intimate knowledge of the Smokies where he had often hiked and camped since he was 17 years old.

By 1926, Maloney had prepared a composite map of the park’s proposed 704,000 acres. This map, dubbed the “Cammerer Map” or the “Red Line Map,” was used throughout the lengthy negotiations with the State of North Carolina, the State of Tennessee and the U.S. Congress.

Having just returned from yet another mission to Washington on behalf of the park, Gen. Frank D. Maloney passed away suddenly on March 7, 1952. A confirmed bachelor, he was survived by his sister and his three brothers. He is buried in the family plat at Highland Memorial Cemetery. His grave stone reads: “Frank Maloney, Army Officer, Engineer, Adjutant General (Tenn.) 1911-1915, Leader in the Establishment of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.”

His contributions to the establishment of the park were recognized when the Maloney Point Overlook on the Little River Road near Fighting Creek Gap was named for him. Significantly, longtime Gibbs Drive resident Carlos Campbell was also honored with the naming of the Campbell Overlook four miles south of Gatlinburg on US-441.

Nearly 100 years later, the historic Gibbs-Maloney Addition remains a stellar example of a real estate development conducive to living the American dream in a compatible neighborhood.

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