History of Chilhowee Park

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Mary Bogert
mbogert@kccsmg.com
Convention Center
(865) 251-6001
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Chilhowee Park
(865) 215-1450

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Liberal Arts Bldg 1913
Liberal Arts Building at Chilhowee Park. Photograph by James E. Thompson - Courtesy of the Calvin M. McClung Historical Collection, Knox County Public Library.


Fernando Cortes "F.C." Beaman (1836-1911), a college professor, was the founder of what we now call Chilhowee Park. He purchased a farm from Alexander McMillan in 1875 and in the late 1880's he converted part of the farm into Beaman Park. Beaman wanted to design a park where citizens could enjoy a beautiful setting which included a lake for boating and swimming, caves to explore, springs, and a dance pavilion. The park became a popular gathering spot and after trolley service was developed to serve the area in 1890, the park became known as Chilhowee Park. 


1910 APPALACHIAN EXPOSITION - Learn more

In 1910 the first Appalachian Exposition was held at Chilhowee Park to demonstrate progress in Southern industry. 

The City of Knoxville prepared to receive half a million visitors (so it was hoped) to the Appalachian Exposition. How would the crowds be transported to the grounds? What would they see? Would they show up? The Knox County Library created a historic news podcast from the news sources of 1910 that describes the anticipated successful exposition with details about railway preparations and buildings.

Pres. Theodore Roosevelt at Conservation Expo
Stereo image of Theodore Roosevelt's visit to the Appalachian Exposition of 1910 in Chilhowee Park. Photo Courtesy of the Calvin M. McClung Historical Collection, Knox County Public Library.


Nine major buildings were created to house displays and attractions. The main exhibit hall for the Exposition was the Liberal Arts Building, which sat on the east shore of the lake. The Liberal Arts Building was destroyed by fire on June 29, 1938. 

1913 Chilhowee Park
Liberal Arts Building at Chilhowee Park. Photograph by James E. Thompson - Courtesy of the Calvin M. McClung Historical Collection, Knox County Public Library.


The Chilhowee Park Bandstand is the only structure built for the 1910 Appalachian Exposition that still exists today. The bandstand was made of Tennessee marble and designed by architects R.F. Graf & Sons.

Chilhowee Park Bandstand
Bandstand at Chilhowee Park. Photograph by James E. Thompson - Courtesy of the Calvin M. McClung Historical Collection, Knox County Public Library.


The success of the 1910 fair led to the 1911 Appalachian Exposition in Chilhowee Park and eventually the idea of a larger, far-reaching exposition for 1913.


1913 NATIONAL CONSERVATION EXPOSITION - Learn more

The National Conservation Exposition opened on September 1, 1913, with a first-day attendance of 33,280 and ran through November 1, 1913. It was the first fair of its kind and it is estimated that the fair drew over a million visitors to the new cause of environmentalism.

Among the visitors were Booker T. Washington, Helen Keller, and Gifford Pinchot. Some of the content/entertainment of the fair included a mock coal explosion, moving pictures, artist exhibits, and exhibits with conservation topics of farming techniques, flooding, erosion, peak coal, the value of wildlife, etc. 

Several Knoxville citizens involved in the National Conservation Exposition, including Knoxville Mayor Ben Morton, would later be a part of the development of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Read Jack Neely's 2009 Metro Pulse article "A Fair to Remember: Knoxville's National Conservation Expo of 1913."


TENNESSEE VALLEY FAIR - Learn more

After the successful national expositions at Chilhowee Park, there was a push by Knoxville businessman Hugh Faust to establish a permanent annual fair. Through the help of others, including agriculture professor and UT President Harcourt Morgan, the East Tennessee Division Fair launched in October 1916. The fair was later renamed to the Tennessee Valley Agricultural and Industrial Fair in 1933. Since the 1980's the fair has been known as the Tennessee Valley Fair.

Learn more about the history of the Tennessee Valley Fair at the Knoxville History Project.




SOURCES

Photographs by James E. Thompson, courtesy of the Calvin M. McClung Historical Collection, Knox County Public Library

Appalachian Exposition of 1910, Tennessee Encyclopedia

A Fair to Remember; Knoxville's National Conservation Exposition of 1913 by Jack Neely, 2009, published in the Metro Pulse


Meet Me At The Fair! by Stephen V. Ash, 1985, published by Tennessee Valley Agricultural & Industrial Fair 

Let's Go to the Tennessee Valley Fair!, 2016, by Knoxville History Project