Most subdivisions have a sign at their entrance. Many have elaborate landscaping or ornamental architectural features like walls, gates or small gatehouses. Village Green residents and visitors are greeted by a different sight when they enter at Village Green Parkway – a black, wooden pillory.
According to a history of the subdivision on the Trotta Montgomery Real Estate website, Village Green was developed in the late 1960s by Marvin and Breck Ellison, Dean Cate and Ross Hanna Jr. The planned community was built on 600 acres of rolling fields and woodlands, and was advertised as being 17 minutes from downtown Knoxville via Kingston Pike. New homes were in the $20,000-$30,000 price range.
The developers patterned the development after Colonial Williamsburg, and the pillory at Village Green Parkway is part of the 18th-century theme. One might confuse the pillory with stocks, but a November 2010 edition of the Village Green Homeowners Association clarifies the difference.
“A pillory is an instrument of punishment used to humiliate a criminal by binding his neck and hands so the offender could not hide his face from the community. If the shame of this punishment did not force remorse on the man, the rotten eggs and vegetables thrown by onlookers usually would. The pillory has its origins in the 12th century, but it was particularly popular in Puritan America, including Colonial Williamsburg upon whose pillory (like most of the artifacts in the neighborhood) our pillory is modeled.
Stocks served a purpose, but they bound the feet and hands of the prisoner in a seated position and left the neck free. Stocks were considered a safer form of punishment, since there was less risk of suffocation if the convicted were knocked unconscious by, say, a brick mixed in amongst the rotten cabbages.”
While this recreation of Puritan justice in a Farragut suburb might seem morbid, at least two long-term Village Green residents never paid it much mind. Both, in fact, participated in decorating the pillory each year at Christmas as part of the Village Green Garden Club.
Kathy Tidwell’s husband, Kenneth, picked out their Village Green home when he started a new job at X-10 in Oak Ridge 45 years ago. His previous job was at Kennedy Space Center, and Kathy stayed in Florida with the kids for a year before joining him.
“He picked the house because it wasn’t on a hill,” she says. There was snow and ice on the ground while he was house-hunting.
The garden club decorated the subdivision entrances and the neighborhood clubhouse each Christmas and would hang a wreath on the pillory. She has never been bothered by the ornament and just thinks of it as a historical feature of the subdivision.
“Back in the day, if the wife did something bad, they’d put her in the stocks and thrown rotten tomatoes at her,” she laughs.
Marie Leonard moved to Village Green in 1974 with her husband, Bob, who would become Farragut’s first mayor. They moved from south Knoxville to west Knox County because Marie liked the subdivision’s streetlights and sidewalks. It was a wonderful place to raise a family and the neighbors all knew each other, she says. The pillory, ominous as it seems, had no impact on the neighborhood.
“We never thought much about it, never talked about it.”
Wendy Smith coordinates marketing and public relations for the Town of Farragut.