59 photos

Life on the Square: A Celebration of the Rebirth of Downtown Knoxville.

This gallery features the revitalized Market Square and Krutch Park. Photos here will be in constant flux, as I stumble upon new opportunities. (With my bad knees, "stumble" is no cute play on words.) Every image here was made on Market Square, in Krutch Park, or within a few feet of those landmarks.

I don't know Bill Haslam beyond occasionally meeting him at History Center events (Stepmom Natalie is on our ETHS board). I have nothing to do with his campaign or politics. What I do know is that the area where these photographs were made was a complete dead zone 8-10 years ago. Back then, maybe once a week you saw someone walking a dog. Unless some big children's event was happening, you never saw families with children. I mean, never.... If a children’s event occurred, the families showed up right where the event was to happen and then promptly left the second it was over. If there had been helicopters available for faster getaways, they would have used them.

Back in July of 2001, or 2002, I forget which, we held our annual Davy Crockett's birthday party. That year it was attended by maybe 60-70 kids and their parents on the Market Street side of the History Center, just south of Krutch Park. About half way through the festivities, the event was crashed by a guy in a hospital gown with an IV plug still in his arm. I'll never forget the little printed blue flowers on his gown, which, like all hospital gowns, didn't cover enough of him. I'm not making this up. That may have been the low point. You simply could not trust downtown Knoxville in those days. The problem had been decades in the making, though. From what I hear and read, downtown had not been family friendly since at least the 1950s. But by 2001-2002, it was a dead zone.

Within 2-3 weeks of Mayor Haslam taking office, police department bike patrols became very visible downtown and the security situation began to gradually change. There have been many other factors contributing to the change in atmosphere: the Market Square District Association’s wide range of activities, including the farmer's market (appearing in many of these images), a new downtown theatre, renovation of the Tennessee Theatre, the new History Center expansion, the Knoxville Opera Guild, the Hola Festival, many new downtown residential spaces. But I firmly believe that many of the images in this gallery would not have been possible were it not for early decisions the Mayor made when he first took office. Before any of the other elements of progress could take root, there had to be a feeling of safety for families. We've had that safety and security for most of a decade now, and these images reflect the results. We have our downtown again, for the first time since today’s grandparents were children.

DM


As always, please use the slideshow so you'll see the images at their full-resolution best.