[History of Fountain City] [Annexation] [Fountain City Today]
Fountain City, now part of the City of Knoxville, was once the largest unincorporated town in America! What happened to this once booming little town? How did it become part of the City of Knoxville? And how do the citizens of Fountain City keep its identity alive today? The Fountain City shield is an image map. By clicking on each of the four quadrants, you can see photos and a video of different locations in Fountain City.
In 1788, John Adair built a fort to protect the early settlers travelling west to Nashville, which was then called Nashborough. Other settlers soon joined Adair, including John Smith, who settled the area which became known as Smith's Woods, or Smithwood.
Fountain Head Methodist Church was established in 1828 and, in 1833, the first of many camp meetings was held in the area that later became Fountain City Park.
It was not until 1886 that the three-story Fountain Head Hotel was built. The building of the hotel heralded an economic growth in the area.
Many important events took place in 1890. First, a steam railway named the "Dummy Line" was constructed from Emory Place in North Knoxville to Fountain Head. In 1905, electric trolly cars replaced the steam railway. Gasoline buses made the "Dummy Line" obsolete in 1934.
The first post office was built in 1890 and the area was named Fountain City because there was already a Fountain Head community in middle Tennessee. The Fountain City post office was an independent post office until 1925, when it became a branch of the Knoxville post office.
The beautiful heart-shaped lake was also constructed in 1890 and thousands of people visited Fountain City that summer to see the lake.
Education was important to the people moving into Fountain City. Holbrook Normal College opened in 1893, but was not successful. Central High School moved into the building in 1906; its motto is "Pride and Tradition." Fountain City Elementary School opened in 1902.
In 1937, the people of Fountain City created their own public library, with the assistance of Judge John W. Green, a local philanthrophist.
In 1951, the Lion's Club built a community building in the Fountain City Park. The Fountain City Lion's Club maintains the Park and the Fountain City Lake.
When Knoxville opened the first Dogwood Trail in Sequoyah Hills in 1955, Fountain City hurried to open its own Dogwood Trail in 1957.
Growth in Fountain City flourished in the 1950s. By 1960, Fountain Citians boasted that they lived in the largest unincorporated city in America. With a population nearing 30,000, they were able to maintain their own water and sewer system, their own fire department, and their own garbage collection company.
When Knoxville became interested in annexing Fountain City, there was much opposition. There was much bitterness and debate on both sides of the issue. Even school children fought to defend their parents viewpoints. Finally, it was agreed that Fountain City would become part of Knoxville at midnight on February 11, 1962.
But, that was not the end of Fountain City! Fountain Citians staged a dramatic surrender. At 11:30 a.m., Ross T. Stuart presented a symbolic sword to Mayor John Duncan. Nearly 400 mourners accompanied a horse-drawn hearse. There were six pallbearers dressed in long black coats with tails and wearing black stovepipe hats. In the coffin was a giant golden key to Fountain City, which was presented to the Mayor. A bugler played "Taps" to end the service. Read more about a funeral for Fountain City as covered by WBIR-TV. For a longer article by local historian Dr. Jim Tumblin, O.D. and to view historic photographs from the event, please visit Dr. Tumblin's coverage of Fountain City's Funeral on his Website.
There were outbursts for months afterwards, but eventually, feelings were smoothed. Streetlights were installed, a new library was built next to the park, and other progress was made.
In 1972, a non-profit community group, the Fountain City Town Hall, was founded with the mission to serve, protect, and assist in the development of the neighborhood. The Town Hall takes a proactve roll in working with the Knoxville City Council and the Metropolitan Planning Commission.
Beginning on Memorial Day weekend in 1974, the citizens of Fountain City have held an annual Honor Fountain City Day in the Fountain City Park. At this event, a man and woman are honored for their civic contributions to Fountain City. There is also an award presented to a "Friend of Fountain City" to someone who does not live in the community but has worked on its behalf. Beautification awards are presented to businesses and indivduals who have completed property improvements. In addition to the awards, there is entertainment in the park and the local restaurants provide plenty of food.
People magazine voted Fountain City the best suburban community in Tennessee in 1986. In 2003, plans were made for a new library, a traditional brick building with Tuscan columns, a grand arch, Italian tile floors, and composite slate roof treatment. Knox County cut the budget on the project, which threatened the slate roof and the Tuscan columns. Fountain Citians raised more than $80,000 to make sure that the building would be built just as they had been promised it would be. Then, a Heritage Committee was formed and raised more money and collaborated with the UT McClung Museum to install display cases so that rotating exhibits on the history of Fountain City could be displayed inside the library entrance. Although Fountain City does not officially exist as a town, it is still thriving.
Page modified by Becky Smeltzer, October 14, 2007.