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Bill Cotter

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

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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:


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


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


The Sunsphere has recently been refurbished and looks great.


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


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


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


Today it's a pleasant tree-lined walkway.


This map should help you orientate yourself.

More to come!

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The tour continues...


This was the approximate location of the Mexico Pavilion.


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.


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


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.


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


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.


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


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.

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

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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.

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Onward and upward!


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.


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!


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.


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


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.


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.


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


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

More later.

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Winding up the tour...


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


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


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!


Another view of the Performance Lawn.


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.


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!!

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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.


Compare to Bill's photo:


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


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


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

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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

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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.

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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!!

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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.

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