|Charles McClung McGhee|
I could not even begin to delve into the person that was C.M. McGhee. His influence in this region was vast and still affects us to this day. If you would like to know as much as possible about Mr. McGhee, William MacArthur wrote the definitive dissertation and you can find it here. The short version is that Mr. McGhee made a lot of money starting in the railroad business and becoming a financier and smart investor. He had deep ties to the Knoxville area (his great-grandfather was James White), so he had keen interests in the civic pride of the city. McGhee was responsible for the siting of most of Knoxville's railroad tracks. McGhee often formed partnerships with another of Knoxville's most illustrious industrialists, E.J. Sanford. Together they founded the Knoxville Woolen Mills, the Lenoir City Company, and acquired the Coal Creek Mining Company.
Mr. McGhee lived here,
|The C.M. McGhee mansion at 505 Locust St. Photo thanks to Knoxville Urban Guy @ InsideofKnoxville.com|
|The Masonic Temple at 505 Locust Street. The McGhee house is still inside of that box. Photo thanks to Knoxville Urban Guy @ InsideofKnoxville.com|
Today, C.M. McGhee is probably best remembered for his greatest gift to the city, the Lawson McGhee Library, which is named for his daughter May Lawson McGhee who died at an early age. His grandson, McGhee Tyson is the person for whom our airport is named. His was a very prodigious legacy.
Mr. McGhee began his career in Knoxville operating a meat packing plant on Gay Street. It is not entirely clear if this plant occupied the same plot that is now known as 310 S. Gay St. We do know, however, that McGhee invested in many land development projects, so that may be how this particular parcel became part of his estate. In any case, McGhee owned a row of two-story buildings on the spot as early as 1870. They were collectively called the McGhee Block. Collectively they housed a wholesale liquor store, a grange, a tailor, a produce store, a rag supply and a drug store.
The building preceding the McGhee was not a victim of the "Great Fire of 1897". Rather, it burned in another fire in 1902, which the Century building again survived. It appears that C.M. McGhee commissioned the building of a larger wholesale house on the site of the smaller building.
|308 S. Gay Street, before 1897, at extreme left (two story building). The Century Building (still standing in 2014) is to the left with the two ornamental gables.|
|The McGhee Building just after construction in 1903.|
|The McGhee Building 1930's|
|Scroll work and lions|
|Proudly displaying the name McGhee|
|One of the ornamental doorways|
The McGhee building does not seem to have ever housed a business by the name of McGhee. It was originally occupied by the Broyles, McClellan, and Lackey Company, which sold farm equipment and seed. For a brief time it housed the Shield and Gillespie Clothing Company. Later it housed various furniture concerns including the King Mantel Company, Sterchi & Haun company (which would become Sterchi Bros.), and then Haun Furniture. In it's last years, Walker's store occupied the address 306 (the northern half of the building), while Bill Vasey (Vasey's) Furniture Store occupied the southern half.
|A fanciful 1908 rendering by the Shield Brand Clothing Co. showing their marquis on top. The building never looked like this. Shield got its own building later, on the 100 block.|
|A very early photo of the block. The McGhee is to the left with the square shaped protrusion. The dark building with the stripes is the Century Building.|
|King Mantel and Furniture Company in the McGhee Building. Late 1920's/early 1930's.|
|Sterchi and Haun at the McGhee.|
|Sterchi and Haun storefront (note the ornate door frame)|
|1930's The McGhee divided into two fronts (by paint) housing Walker's in the norther half.|
|Close up on Walker's, the southern side looks vacant. Sterchi may have moved down the street at this point.|
|1950s Walkers is still there and the southern half is now called Haun and Company Furniture|
|Looking south down Gay St. early 1960's. The McGhee is identified by the "Furniture" sign at the right. This time it is Bill Vasey Furniture.|
As most of my entries go, the McGhee building was eventually torn down. I have been unable to locate the specific date but it was between 1968 and March 22, 1969. We know this because the March 22, 1969 edition of the Knoxville Journal proclaimed the following.:
"A city building permit was obtained Friday on behalf of the estate of C.M. McGhee to construct a two level parking lot at the 308 S. Gay St. site formerly occupied by Vasey Furniture Company. The lot, estimated to cost $47,000.00 will have basement parking and street level parking space and a small office. David B. Lieberman is architect and Brownlee-Kesterson Construction Company is the contractor, according to the permit which also stated that the parking had been approved Friday by the city traffic engineer's office." Interestingly, the parcel was still part of the McGhee estate in 1969. As late as 1985, it was owned by a group called McGhee Properties, when it was sold to Rowland and Rowland P.C.
I had always assumed that the hole in Gay Street at this location was merely a surface parking lot, but it is in fact a two story parking structure. Here is how it looks today.
|The hole that used to be 306 and 308 S. Gay Street. Note that the parking lot is at grade.|
|That gap next to the Century Building used to be the McGhee Building. You can still see the scars that were its floors.|
|The only thing that remains of the McGhee Building, the rear foundation wall that makes the back wall of the basement garage structure.|
|Another shot from Fire Street Alley looking toward the Century Building. There are cars inside of that wall.|
|The scars of a former flyover bridge from the McGhee, about two floors up.|
|Gay Street, unbroken and containing the McGhee Building|
|Here it is circled.|
|From a different vantage, looking east, southeast.|
|The McGhee Building circled|
|Holes on either side of the Century Building. The one to the left once housed the McGhee.|
|This hole has been vacant since 1969!|
|The Century Building casts a shadow where the McGhee Building once stood.|
|Federal Clothing Stores, McGhee to the right.|
|A detail of the elaborate window openings and cornice.|
|Bill's Auto Supply occupying 304 S. Gay St.|
|A detail shot of the Bill's storefront.|
|How 304 S. Gay St. would look from the 1940's until the 1990's.|
His shop sat vacant for decades after Mr. Friedman retired. In the 1990's, the metal skin on the front of the building was removed and the building had a brick front that reflected all that had been done after the 1940's fire. The building was owned by Cormac McCarthy's brother Dennis for a short time in the late 90's.
|The Federal Clothing/Max Friedman Building today.|
It isn't until you look at the rear of the building that you realize that it is over 100 years old.
|Max Friedman's from Fire Street Alley|
Until next time...