Jump to content
Bill Cotter

The Knoxville World's Fair site - August 25, 2011

Recommended Posts

I was able to spend a few hours at the site of the 1982 Knoxville World's Fair during a visit to Tennessee last week. Here are a few shots showing how the place looks today:

aug-25-11-1.jpg

Taken from Western Avenue, this view of the Sunsphere looks past the Knoxville Convention & Exhibition Center.

aug-25-11-2.jpg

Also taken from Western Avenue. This area usually features a series of small waterfalls and ponds but was dry that day.

aug-25-11-3.jpg

The Sunsphere has recently been refurbished and looks great.

aug-25-11-4.jpg

The Knoxville Convention & Exhibition Center was built largely on the site of the fair's United States Pavilion.

aug-25-11-5.jpg

I understand the center is not heavily utilized. It's too bad the US Pavilion couldn't have been preserved in some way.

aug-25-11-6.jpg

This was once the main route between the fair's carnival-style rides and the rest of the site.

aug-25-11-7.jpg

Today it's a pleasant tree-lined walkway.

aug-25-11-8.jpg

This map should help you orientate yourself.

More to come!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The tour continues...

aug-25-11-9.jpg

This was the approximate location of the Mexico Pavilion.

aug-25-11-10.jpg

This rail line, which passed through the fair site back in 1982, is still in use today. In fact, I had to step out of the way of a maintenance truck that came rolling along the rails just before I took this shot.

aug-25-11-11.jpg

Here's the formal entrance to World's Fair Park from the parking lot.

aug-25-11-12.jpg

As you walk up to the base of the Sunsphere you are treated to a view of the Tennessee Amphitheatre. Left derelict for some years after the fair ended, it has now been restored and is in active use for concerts and other performances.

aug-25-11-13.jpg

There isn't much seating under the amphitheatre tent, which limits its use.

aug-25-11-14.jpg

After years of only seeing the Sunsphere in photographs it was a thrill to be seeing it in person. There's no sign of the Hardee's restaurant that was once at the base.

aug-25-11-15.jpg

Part of the man-made lake created for the fair is still there.

aug-25-11-16.jpg

This building was known as the Candy Factory during the fair. The center section has been remodeled since 1982.

More to come, including a trip up into the Sunsphere - including a level not open to the public.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Great shots. Would love to see the SP one day. :-)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What an amazing difference between the Knoxville and New York Fair sites and their mentalities. Even Seattle for that matter shows their site off as an asset to the city.

Obviously, Knoxville takes great pride in the area by maintaining the landscaping, grass, shrubbery and water features and has even restored the amphitheater and put it back into use. The overall impression is that the city really cares about its fair legacy and takes great effort into keeping it a pleasant well kept place to visit.

New York will never have either the money nor the initiative to restore the site and its features. The time is too far past and too much has been obliterated to realize the potential that the fair site could have offered.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Onward and upward!

aug-25-11-17.jpg

Before heading into the Sunsphere you come across this handy map of the site. I thought it was interesting that while the site is clearly named "World's Fair Park", and this sign lists the year the fair was held, there's nothing at all on the ground level to explain what the Fair was about, what was where, etc. Happily there is a display about the Fair up in the Sunsphere, but I thought a ground level plaque might have been a good idea as well.

aug-25-11-18.jpg

OK, we're looking down at the Tennessee Amphitheatre and what's left of the man-made lake. This is from the 3rd floor level of the Sunsphere. I was pleasantly surprised that they don't charge admission!

aug-25-11-19.jpg

Looking to what was the northwest section of the Fair. The building on the left belongs to the Knoxville school district and is being renovated. The old L&N train depot is to the right. The convention center building on the lower right originally held exhibits for the Fair as the Technology and Lifestyle Center.

aug-25-11-20.jpg

During the Fair Clinch Avenue was closed to traffic and covered by brightly colored tents.

aug-25-11-21.jpg

Here's a sneak peek of an upcoming Sunsphere attraction. This is 4th floor of the Sunsphere, which is obviously not open for business. It's the site of a former facility known as the Blue Room. It's now being renovated as a night club.

aug-25-11-22.jpg

We were getting a tour of the city by Martha Woodward, who wrote the Arcadia book on the 1982 Fair, and she ran into one of the owners of the night club. That led to a nice unplanned visit to the site.

aug-25-11-23.jpg

We're now on the 5th floor, which is used for catered events.

aug-25-11-24.jpg

The 5th floor also had a lamp that was somehow familiar in shape...

More later.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Winding up the tour...

aug-25-11-25.jpg

This large green expanse is the Performance Lawn. It was the site of many of the fair's international pavilions.

aug-25-11-26.jpg

Back on the ground we find a small cascading fountain near the Clinch Avenue bridge.

aug-25-11-27.jpg

Unlike in New York, no one was swimming in the fountain area - perhaps they actually enforce the "No wading or swimming" rule posted on the signs!

aug-25-11-28.jpg

Another view of the Performance Lawn.

aug-25-11-29.jpg

This section is known as "Flags of the World". Although there's no sign explaining it, these are the flags of the countries that participated at the fair.

aug-25-11-30.jpg

People can get wet and enjoy themselves in the aptly named Play Fountain.

And that concludes this look at Knoxville's World's Fair Park. I hope you enjoyed it!!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That cascading waterfall was the site of a foot bridge during the World's Fair.

The Clinch Avenue Bridge is quite old. My dad walked over it every Saturday in the fall in the late 40's and early 50's to get to "work". As a teenager he got a job at Neyland Stadium ushering at U.of Tenn football games. It was the direct route for him to walk from where they lived to the stadium, crossing over the L&N railroad tracks.

He also said when he enlisted in the military in 1951, they shipped him out to boot camp in Texas from that L&N station right there at the edge of what's now World's Fair park. The park is at a lower level than surrounding streets, and that's because it's where the rail lines split out into multiple tracks coming into the station. The one end of the park was the station platform area. The building itself is still there.

This was my dad's stomping grounds when he went to high school there 60 years ago.

Here is Knoxville's World's Fair Park way back in 1915, when it served as the Louisville & Nashville Railroad's station & boarding platforms. Passenger service ended in 1968. I believe this shot is from the Clinch Avenue Bridge, near the location of today's Convention Center.

Knoxville_1915.jpg

Compare to Bill's photo:

aug-25-11-19.jpg

Here is Knoxville's World's Fair Park in 1923, as seen from the Clinch Avenue Bridge.

1923_Knoxville.jpg

This is pretty much the same view today, albeit from under the bridge down near the new cascades.

2930967428_8fbf6dc72f.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Very pleasantly surprised at how well that park is kept up. Very nice.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

aug-25-11-23.jpg

We're now on the 5th floor, which is used for catered events.

It looks like the world's largest praxinoscope:

http://courses.ncssm.edu/gallery/collections/toys/html/exhibit11.htm :D

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It does look absolutely amazingly well-tended. I am particularly taken with the flags (and from an aerial shot I could see that there was another ring as well) - that's quite a commitment to keep those in shape.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Been away from the website for a while and was so pleased to stumble across these images! So pleased to see the Tennessee Amphitheatre restored and looking great.

Thanks to everyone for sharing these pictures and facts. It made my day!!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks Bill!

I Was just sharing worlds fair memories with my family and that it will be 30 years this June that we went. Time sure gets by. I've relocated in Edmond OK, with the move and building a new house, got out of my internet routines. All settled in now and looking forward to getting caught up on all I've missed on here.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now


×