It seems like something that happened in a whole other era. Though I guess by some perspectives, a school closing nearly 42 years ago would be. But back in the summer of 1982, the old Knoxville City Schools’ board decided to shutter what was then known as Park Lowry Elementary School and transfer those students to Sarah Moore Greene Elementary.
Just 60 years prior, it was a crown jewel in the city’s educational cap, even if it had been grown and nurtured by another, independent community. But back in 1922, the formerly incorporated town of Park City was five years into annexation into Knoxville. Its administration had a fine run from 1907 to 1917, building sidewalks, establishing police and fire forces as well as a school system centered on Park City School, originally named Armstrong School.
Back then, the school handled students from first grade through graduation. By 1923, the name was changed to Park City-Lowry School in honor of a favorite principal, John R. Lowry. Reportedly, when Lowry’s contract wasn’t renewed one year, the students went on strike. As a result, he not only got his job back, he got his name on the school as well.
The oldest buildings on the school’s campus dated back to 1909. By 1934, the school system had built a new main building. Despite the city’s promises to maintain Park City School as a “ranking institution,” not long after annexation the junior and senior classes were migrated to Knoxville High School. Within a couple of years, freshmen and sophomores were moved as well until it remained as an elementary school. The construction of Park Junior High School in 1927 further lessened the student body, which apparently flirted with 2000 in 1907 but was less than half that by the time the school was decommissioned.
Even still, the school continued on for five more decades after the changes that annexation brought to it. I was halfway through high school when the decision was made to close it. The closing also moved a 14th ward voting precinct to Austin-East High School.
Park Lowry was located in the Five Points area of East Knoxville on Linden Avenue. The school had seen decades of dedicated students, changes to buildings, as well its share of break-ins, vandalism and a fire over the arc of its existence. Just over five years after it closed, the abandoned and boarded up building caught fire, a blaze that caused injury to a Knoxville firefighter. By 1994, the site was purchased by Habitat for Humanity for new, affordable homes, and the glorious old school was gone.
Sources: Knoxville News Sentinel digital archives, August 15, 1982, October 3, 1987, June 27, 1993, McClung Historical Collection digital archives.