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Randy Treadway

Knoxville Walking Tour

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May 27, 2005

Sunsphere, theme building of the 1982 World's Fair. After the World's Fair, white panels were inserted along the full length of the structure to try to provide better corrosion protection from the elements. That presumed that they intended to try to take care of it. It's now full of rust, and closed to the public.

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This old bridge was covered with huge tents during the World's Fair, serving as Pavilions.

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In spite of the 'construction area' sign, there was no indication of any activity at all in the Sunsphere. It's dead, but not beyond the point of refurbishment.

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The World's Fair's Tennessee State Amphitheater. It looks like it hasn't been used in years, and is covered in rust.

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Elevator doors at the base of the Sunsphere.

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Closeup

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Ladder leading to third level of the Sunsphere. Ceiling panels don't look too hot. I believe I've seen a picture where a walkway joined that level where this ladder is now placed. The walkway was likely removed when they built the Convention Center (after the Fair).

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Looking up from the base

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The Amphitheater suspension structure. Get out the sandpaper and the paint!

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Mini-waterfall. I think this may have been built after the Fair. In '82 this was the location of a diagonal pedestrian walkway which roughly divided the 'Water of the World' lake in half.

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The sun trying to shine on the Sunsphere. The 'glasshouse' building on the left is part of the Convention Center, which now occupies acreage where many pavilions were located during the World's Fair.

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Court of Flags and Fountain

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World's Fair park from the 2nd floor balcony of the landmark L&N Railroad Station (nearby tracks belonging to Norfolk Southern were closed during the Fair, then reopened. A NS freight moved through the park while I was there). The tent in the foreground was set up for kid's activities related to a big convention in the Convention Center while we were there.

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Similar view in 1982 during the World's Fair. As you can see, this end of the lake has been filled in and grassed over.

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After looking all over for any museum or anything about the World's Fair, I finally found a picture mounted on the wall next to the restrooms in the park security building. It was among several pictures of 'old Knoxville'. The reflection in the frame's glass is the Convention Center on the other side of the park.

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At the base of the bridge, I found a nice diorama map of the park. This is how the park is currently configured.

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I took a second shot with a bit different camera settings

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Compare to this aerial view from the World's Fair-

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The back side of the Amphitheater

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Similar aerial view during the Fair- beyond the Amphitheater was the United States Pavilion at the far end of the lake. It isn't there any more. Those trees appear to be fast growers!

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Looking into the upper part of the Amphitheater grandstand

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I found another map display near the Sunsphere base

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Looking toward the far end of the lake. That bridge you see was the location of the United States Pavilion. Apparently it lasted for quite a few years after the World's Fair before they finally tore it down

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Another picture of the Amphitheater. That red block on the upper concourse area looks like some kind of decorative element- maybe dating back to the World's Fair.

It you look just under the main cable anchor on the left, you'll see a big 'rubber hose' hanging there. Apparently it is an electrical conduit. The rubber has completely separated so that part of the hose has dropped down, leaving all the electrical cables inside exposed to the elements. It would be a miracle if the lights still came on if somebody were to throw the breaker.

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Stagnant water in an old waterfall next to a staircase near the Sunsphere. I presumed this was left from the World's Fair when I snapped the picture, but later I realized that the wall on the right is part of the Convention Center, which wasn't built until later. Don't know about the staircase itself.

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That's it! I'm sorry I wasn't able to attend the World's Fair itself, but it was interesting to walk around and figure out 'before-and-after' shots.

Hopefully they'll be able to find the funds to restore the Sunsphere and reopen it to the public. And the Amphitheater looks like a great summer concert venue if they'd invest a little to refurbish it and keep it up!

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WOW Randy,

Thanks so much for sharing these images with us.

The Tennessee Amphitheatre was slated for demolition when the park was being rennovated, but somehow and for whatever reason it was saved. Inside ( I was able to go inside the theatre back in 1993) is a plaque noting it's World's Fair History/ Architects etc... I have an image of the plaque posted in my Yahoo! group <a href="http://groups.yahoo.com/group/1982WorldsFair/" target="_blank">The 1982 World's Fair</a>

The U.S. Pavilion was demolished in 1991. I was unarmed with a camera, and totally unaware of it's fate when I stumbled across the wrecking cranes when driving through Knoxville. I was with family, and had an itenerary to keep, so could not spend time there. I was saddened by the image of that beautiful building coming down.

I would love for you to post these images in my group, or by your permission, I can post them for you. The Knoxville Fair is the only World's Fair I ever attended, so I am very interested in anything to do with it. It was one of the last "Great Family vacations" I had as a child. Sentimental is another way to describe my feelings for this fair.

Thanks for posting. I really appreciate it~

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You're welcome to re-post them wherever you like, RocketT, or if you'd like to just link to the individual .jpgs on the server they're on that's fine too. Post away!

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You're welcome to re-post them wherever you like, RocketT, or if you'd like to just link to the individual .jpgs on the server they're on that's fine too.  Post away!

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Thanks Randy!

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There is still hope for remnants of the '82 Fair at Fair park.

As posted in a Knoxville Group:

<!--quoteo--><div class='quotetop'>QUOTE</div><div class='quotemain'><!--quotec-->There is a good deal of interest in the redevelopment of the Worlds

Fair Park Assets (Candy Factory, Victorian Houses, and Sunsphere) and

it is important that ample notice be given regarding all steps of this

process. To this point the city has sponsored and publicized a number

of stakeholder and public meetings both prior to and after the

"Request for Proposals" period.  A council workshop on the proposed

redevelopment of these assets has been scheduled for Thursday July

14th at 5pm in the Small Assembly Room of the City County Building. At

this workshop the  plans, contracts, and arrangements will be

presented and discussed for consideration prior to any subsequent

council action.  Please see the following link for more information

and documentation.

<a href="http://tinyurl.com/buevu" target="_blank">http://tinyurl.com/buevu</a>

Bill Lyons<!--QuoteEnd--></div><!--QuoteEEnd-->

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Ive got to hand it to you Randy.These are some Great Photo's

In addition each one tells a story.

Thanks for sharing them

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I took this photo of our amphitheatre located in North Miami Beach,Florida today.

Note how similar the design is to the one in Knoxville

Dave

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Thank you for these remarkable images. The "then and now" scenes are fascinating. It is also interesting to note that Knoxville has about as much respect for its world's fair past as does NYC. I never thought the Sunsphere was all that interesting a structure but it is a legacy and a part of their heritage. It is a shame to see that it is sliding into disprepair. It appears to face the same fate as the NYS pavilion in NYC.

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One possible difference-

I didn't see a single instance of graffiti or broken windows in Knoxville's World's Fair park.

There is plenty of evidence of neglect, but not wanton destruction by the local citizens, such as hit FMCP in the 1970's.

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Take a tour through and on top of the Sunsphere!

<a href="http://web.knoxnews.com/special/randomthis/d_sunsphere.shtml" target="_blank">Video tour of Sunsphere</a>

Too bad a NYC reporter couldn't get a tour like this of the NYC Pavilion.

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Cool video! Although there are some obvious areas of corrosion, busted drop ceiling panels, and some kind of noisy electrical unit in that 'conning tower room' just under the roof, it looks like it would be easily restorable. The power seems to work, the elevators are operable, etc.

The NYS towers look like they're in much worse shape, with ladders and steps that have completely rusted through, fiberglass ceiling panels removed, concrete covering removed in order to expose underlying steel to as much corrosion as possible, etc.

40 years compared to 20 is one difference, of course, and harsher weather may be another. But the biggest is probably Knoxville maintained and used their tower for the first 10 or 15 years after their Fair, so they've only had five or ten years of neglect (or at least abandonment).

My youngest brother said he and a friend went up in the Sunsphere in about 1993 or 1994, when it was still open to the public.

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Thanks so much for sharing this. I like the fact the Observation deck is laid out paying homage to the fair.

Sure brought back alot of memories seeing this video. I have always loved the Sunsphere.

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wow, what a picture collection..

i cant help but say this but.. the sunsphere is quite tacky.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I agree with you on both counts. However, the same could be said about a lot of the NYWF64 and other World's Fair architecture. That's part of its appeal and makes the exceptions, like the NYWF64 Spanish pavilion, even more interesting.

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Folks, I just got a phone call that my grandmother passed away about 3 hours ago. It wasn't unexpected- she was in her 90's and declining health- especially over the last few days. That's what I was doing in Knoxville when I shot these pictures a few months ago- one last visit with Grandma (in the nursing home in Oak Ridge, near Knoxville).

I'll be flying back to Knoxville from L.A. tonight or tomorrow morning, so will sign off from PTU for a few days (most likely). I'll take my digital camera and if the opportunity presents itself, see if I can get a winter photo of the World's Fair "snowsphere". I was just talking to Bill Cotter on the phone about the Knoxville World's Fair park a few days ago....

Anyway, I'm sure the rest of you will "keep it goin'" over the next few days and I'll catch up when I get back. There's more interesting "pictures of the day" in the qeue.

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My deepest sympathy. Even when you expect the worse it is still hard to take.

I lost my mother over Thanksgiving after she had been very sick for 6 months and it was still

a shock when it occurred.

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