Knoxville Visitor Center
White Lightning starts here! You'll find gifts, snacks, area information, and can park for free (with permit) to enjoy much of Knoxville. Built in 1925, this building first housed Kuhlman's Store and became the visitor center in 2004, now operated by Visit Knoxville. If you're here at noon, stick around for the live radio broadcast of world-famous WDVX Blue Plate Special, and experience both unknown talents as well as legends such as Bela Fleck.
301 S. Gay St. Knoxville, TN 37902
Park the car in lot or nearby, and walk down Gay Street for points 1 and 2.
More About: The City of Knoxville
The 1786 settlement known as White’s Fort was renamed Knoxville in 1791 to honor the first U.S. Secretary of War, Henry Knox. For a time, the city served as Tennessee’s state capital. In the early 20th century, Knoxville’s quarries supplied pink marble to much of the country, earning it the nickname “The Marble City.” Today, Knoxville is the third-largest city in the state and the largest city in East Tennessee. Offering museums, historic homes, fine dining, entertainment, a world-class zoo, and the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, Knoxville boasts big-city attractions with small town charm and rests in the beautiful foothills of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Historic Gay Street
As you walk along this main thoroughfare, enjoy some of the city's greatest assets and icons:
Mast General Store, home to over 500 old-fashioned, hard-to-find candies.
Art Market Gallery, an East Tennessee artist cooperative.
Downtown Grill & Brewery, the city's first modern brewpub.
East Tennessee History Center, where the signature exhibit explores 250 years of East Tennessee's culture from Native Americans and the Civil War to civil rights and country music.
The 1928 Tennessee Theatre (Tennessee's Official State Theatre) and the 1909 Bijou Theatre. Tours by advance reservations.
402 S. Gay St. Knoxville, TN 37902
From the parking lot, turn R onto S. Gay St., toward Wall Ave. to pt. 2.
In 1897, a small hotel fire spread quickly through Gay Street. At the time, it was the "pride of the city" with expensive buildings and high-class establishments. Due to extensive damage, it is known as the "Million Dollar Fire."
This historic district has stories to tell dating all the way back to 1854. The area has served as a farmer's market, commercial district, political stage and cultural center; home to Confederates and Unionists, saloonkeepers and prohibitionists; and witness and host to great American history. Roy Acuff got his start here, as did Elvis Presley. Stroll the sidewalks and duck into charming cafes, gift shops, pubs and more in this vibrant and eccentric district.
Market Square Knoxville, TN 37902
Turn R onto S. Gay St., toward Wall Ave. Turn L on Wall Ave. to pt. 3. Between Wall Ave. & Union Ave.
More About: Elvis and Market Square
When Knoxville record merchant Sam Morrison played Elvis Presley's "That's All Right" over the loudspeakers in the mid-1950s, he sold hundreds of copies--including two to an RCA talent scout. Several months later, RCA bought Elvis' Sun contract, and Elvis was on the road to stardom. Learn more about Memphis and West Tennessee music and culture on the Walking Tall: Rockabilly, Rails & Legendary Tales Trail.
The first frame house built west of the Appalachian Mountains in 1792, this was the home of territorial Governor and signer of the U.S. Constitution, William Blount. It served, for a period, as the administrative capital of the Southwestern Territory, and was also the first building in the area with windows, causing the Cherokee to call it "the house with many eyes." Blount died here in 1800, but the house had another significant tenant: Confederate spy Belle Boyd, who used it as her refuge in 1863.
200 W. Hill Ave Knoxville, TN 37902
Head SE on S. Gay St. Turn L onto W. Hill Ave. to pt. 4. Parking available in back.
More About: William Blount & Mary Grainger Blount
William Blount was an influential political figure in the late 1700s. Born in North Carolina, he served with their forces in the War of Independence in 1776. President George Washington appointed Blount Governor of the territory of the United States south of the Ohio River. Shortly thereafter, Blount announced that Knoxville would be his new capital, and began construction of his mansion (point 10) there in 1792. The house was made of sawn hewn lumber, in accordance with wife Mary Grainger’s insistence on building a “proper wooden house.” Blount Mansion would serve as the family home and the territorial capitol. In 1797, Blount was accused of concocting a plan to conquer Florida and Louisiana for the Britain and Spanish Provinces. Despite this episode, Blount’s political career flourished, and the following year he was elected to the State Senate, soon rising to the speakership. Mary was a much-beloved first lady of the Southwest Territory and, in 1796, Grainger County was named for her. It is the only Tennessee county honoring a woman. The Blounts are buried in Knoxville's First Presbyterian Church cemetery (point 13)
Women's Basketball Hall of Fame
Opened in June 1999, this is the only facility in the world of its kind dedicated to women's basketball. The hall offers an excellent collection of multimedia presentations, artifacts and experiences.
700 Hall of Fame Dr. Knoxville, TN 37915
Exit Right on W. Hill Ave. Pt. 5 is just past int. of Hall of Fame Dr. & E. Hill Ave.
More About: Super Coach
Knoxville is home to University of Tennessee Lady Vols. Former Head Coach Pat Summitt was awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Obama in 2012 and was the first woman in NCAA basketball history to win more than 800 games. She retired with 1,098 wins.
James White's Fort
Knoxville's location near the center of the Great Valley of East Tennessee was the hunting ground of the Cherokee Indians prior to its settlement by Europeans. Revolutionary War veteran James White moved from North Carolina and established his home here in 1786, building a fort and cluster of cabins. This re-creation sits less than a mile from the original site and offers tours and hands-on interpretations of open-hearth cooking, blacksmithing and spinning.
205 E. Hill Ave. Knoxville, TN 37915
Turn R on E. Hill Ave. Turn R on Hall of Fame Dr. to pt. 6.
More About: James White
James White, Knoxville’s founder and first settler, came to the region from North Carolina in the early 1780s. For his service in the Revolutionary War, he was given a land grant of 1,000 acres upon which he built a two-story log house (point 12). Two years later he enclosed the house with a stockade fence for protection from wild animals. He cleared the area around the fort of trees, planted vegetable gardens and grew tobacco. White sectioned off part of his land to establish a town that would become known as Knoxville. Sixty-four half-acre lots were segmented into 16 blocks and sold for $8.00 each. White lived here until early 1793. Later in life, he gave land to the First Presbyterian Church (point 13) and also for the establishment of Blount College, which later became the University of Tennessee.
This district is a vibrant evolution of what was known as "The Bowery" around 1900: a bawdy neighborhood of saloons, pool halls, houses of ill repute and gambling dens. Later it became known as "The Bottom" and was settled by early Greek immigrants, segregated African-Americans, and bootleggers. Revitalization in the 1980s turned it into a unique historic district with an eclectic mix of shops, restaurants, clubs and Knoxville's first winery, Blue Slip Winery.
Central St. and Jackson Ave. Knoxville, TN 37915
Exit R onto E. Hill Ave. Turn R onto State St. Turn R onto W. Summit Hill Dr., turn L onto N. Central St. to pt. 7.
St. John's Lutheran Church
This Gothic Revival-style structure was built in 1913 to house a congregation founded in 1888 by German immigrants who wanted to worship in the English language.
544 N. Broadway St. Knoxville, TN 37917
Continue on NW on N. Central St. Turn L on Emory Pl. This street looks like a parking lot. You'll see pt. 8 ahead as you turn slight R.
Old Gray & National Cemeteries
Established in 1850, Old Gray is a prestigious final resting place for prominent Knoxvillians. Just beyond it is National, established in 1863 to bury fallen Union troops. It was the first to honor th edead with small flags on Memorial Day.
543 N. Broadway St. Knoxville, TN 37917
Pt. 9 is across N. Broadway St. from pt. 8.
More About: Bootleg Drop-Off Point
A hollow monument in Old Gray Cemetery that marked the grave of Knoxville's first embalmer served as a drop-off point for bootleg liquor during prohibition.
Downtown North/Old North Knoxville
(Private Properties) Historic neighborhoods thrive on both sides of Broadway--Fourth and Gill on the right, and Old North on the left. Cruise these streets to see examples of Queen Anne, shotgun, Victorian, Craftsman, Tudor Revival, and other late 19th- and early 20th-century architecture. The area, once known as "trolleyburb" and called North Knoxville, linked factory workers to the city by electric streetcars in the 1890s. North Hills, one of Knoxville's first neighborhoods, was established in 1927. Catering to the middle class, this subdivision had several restrictions, including a minimum size (six rooms), construction costs ($5,000), and residents' ethnicity: sales "outside of the Caucasian race," were prohibited. Today it's featured every April on the nationally-recognized Dogwood Trail & Arts Festival.
N. Broadway St. Knoxville, TN 37917
Driving N on US-441/N. Broadway St., watch for signs for pt. 10.
Originally founded as supply depot Fort Adair in 1791, this community organized as "Fountain Head" and built a church and campground for revivals. In 1885, the site was re-developed as the Fountain Head Hotel and its heart-shaped duck pond known as Fountain City Lake remains today. Stroll the sidewalks, discover historical markers, and pop into locally-owned shops and restaurants.
Knoxville, TN 37918
Head N on US-441/TN-71/33/N. Broadway St. for approximately 4.3 miles to pt 11. Points 12-14 are a few highlights to explore in Fountain City.
More About: Fountain City
Until 1962, Fountain City was the largest unincorporated city in the U.S., with a population of 30,000. Annexed by Knoxville in 1962, it still feels like an independent small town today. It began as Fort Adair, a supply depot built in 1791, just five years after Knoxville founder James White built his fort to protect westward-bound migrants from hostile Cherokee during the Chickamauga Wars. The community that formed surrounding the fort, known as "Fountain Head," built a church and campground and held camp-meeting revivals. In 1890, a post office was established and the name changed to “Fountain City.” The campground was sold in 1885 to land developers who built the Fountain Head Hotel. The heart-shaped duck pond, known as Fountain City Lake, originally adorned the front of this hotel, which was destroyed by fire in the early 1900s. Stroll the sidewalks, discover historical markers, and pop into locally-owned shops and restaurants.
Litton's Market opened in 1946 not as a restaurant, but as a grocery and hardware store with a full-service gas station in Knoxville's Inskip community. The original owner's son, Barry Litton, later opened this location as a meat market. In 1981, a customer asked Barry to fry him a hamburger and the restaurant was born. Try the “Thunder Road” burger or one of their unbelievable desserts.
2803 Essary Dr. Gainesboro, TN 37918
Head N on US-441/TN-71/33/N. Broadway St.. Turn R at Essary Dr. to pt. 12.
This restaurant serves up homemade ice cream as well as creative sandwiches.
114 Hotel Rd Gainesboro, TN 37918
Exit R onto Essary Dr. Turn R onto US-441/ TN-71/33/N. Broadway St. Turn L onto Hotel Rd. to pt. 13.
Fountain City Park
Formerly Fountain Head's campground, this park is a popular setting for special events, picnics and rallies. Stop and enjoy playgrounds, a natural spring and of course, the namesake fountain.
117 Hotel Rd. Fountain City, TN 37918
Exit L onto Hotel Rd. to pt. 14 entrance.
The Fruit & Berry Patch
Purchase or pick your own produce including berries, grapes, apples and corn. Better yet, refresh with a fruit slush or fried pie.
4407 McCloud Rd Fountain City, TN 37938
Drive N on US-441/TN-71/33/N. Broadway St./Maynardville Pk. Look for blue sign pointing L; turn L onto Andersonville Pk. Turn R onto McCloud Rd. to pt. 15.
More About: The Ride
Consider this stretch of the trail all part of the authentic White Lightning experience as you twist and turn down Hwy 144 (to Plainview), up Hwy 131 (to Luttrell), north on Hwy 61 (to Maynardville) and then back south on Hwy 170 (into Anderson County). These rural roads offer a leisurely cruise for Sunday drivers, a curvy thrill for motorcyclists, and a beautiful piece of Tennessee for everyone in between.
Nicholas Gibbs Homestead
Prominent pioneer Nicholas Gibbs homesteaded 450 acres here in the late 1700s, on land granted to him for his service in the Revolutionary War. The hewed log house is one of the oldest structures in the state still on its original site; it was the boyhood home of three War of 1812 soldiers and remained in the family until 1971. Gibbs was Knox Countys first Justice of the Peace.
7533 E. Emory Rd. Corryton, TN 37721
Retrace route to TN-71/33/Maynardville Pk., turn L to continue N. Turn R onto TN-131/E. Emory Rd. Go NE for approx. 4.9 miles. At int. of Tazewell Pk., continue straight and road becomes TN-331/E. Emory Rd. Go approx. 0.5 mile to pt. 16.
Originally known as Cedar Ford, this is the birthplace of country music icons Chet Atkins and Kenny Chesney. A notorious distillery once operated just outside of town, sending wagon loads of corn whiskey out onto Thunder Road toward Knoxville. It was run by the Lay family, saloon owners rumored to have assisted one of Butch Cassidy's gangs in escaping from a Knoxville jail. On the third Saturday in September, the city park comes alive with music at the annual Luttrell Bluegrass Festival.
Lynchburg, TN 37779
Continue NE on TN-331/E. Emory Rd. Turn L on Washington Pk. NE and then L on TN-61. Continue N on TN-61/Main St. Turn R, then L to stay on TN-61/Main St. to pt. 17.
More About: Luttrell's Pink Marble
Pink Marble from Luttrell was used to construct the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D. C. and Grand Central Terminal in New York City.
Joppa Mountain Pottery
Known for stoneware and raku pottery, Joppa Mountain Pottery's award-winning work has been featured several times on HGTV and PBS. It has a growing reputation with collectors and galleries worldwide.
1479 Joppa Mountain Rd. Rutledge, TN 37861
Continue NE on Main St./TN-61/131. (131 becomes Church Valley Rd.) for approx. 6.5 miles. Turn R at Joppa Mountain Rd. to pt. 18. Retrace route to TN-131 and turn L to head SW. Turn R on TN-61 and go NW on TN-61 (follow signs to stay on 61) for approx.
More About: Country Music Icons and Opry Legends
They may be small towns, but Maynardville, Luttrell, and others in this area sure have produced some big stars. Roy Acuff – Known as the “King of Country Music,” he began his musical career touring the Southern Appalachian region as part of Dr. Hauer’s medicine show. In 1937, he recorded “The Great Speckled Bird," which landed him an audition and guest spot on the Grand Ole Opry. The performance didn't entirely wow the crowd, but the amount of fan mail WSM received afterwards led to Acuff and his newly formed band, the Smoky Mountain Boys, becoming regular Opry performers. Chet Atkins – Born in Luttrell, Atkins started his career with a job at WNOX-AM radio in Knoxville, playing fiddle and guitar with singer and Opry Member Bill Carlisle and comic Archie Campbell of "Hee Haw" fame. He made his first Opry appearance in 1946 as a member of Red Foley’s band, and even earned a short-lived solo spot. When the spot was cut, he joined Mother Maybelle and the Carter Sisters on KWTO, where they soon attracted Opry attention. Relocating to Nashville in mid-1950, Atkins regularly played the Opry and became an executive with RCA’s Nashville studio, bringing Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Connie Smith, Bobby Bare, Dolly Parton, Jerry Reed, John Hartford and Charley Pride to the label in the 1960s. Kenny Chesney – Born in Knoxville and raised in Luttrell, he received his first guitar Christmas of 1987 and began teaching himself to play. While studying at East Tennessee State University, he played at local restaurants and bars around Johnson City. Backed by several fellow college-student musicians (who now make up the core of Allison Krauss' band), he recorded his first album in 1989 at Classic Recording Studio in Bristol. In 1990, Chesney headed to Nashville where the only person he knew in the business, producer Kyle Lehning, told him, “You’ve definitely got something, but it ain’t there yet.” He spent a few years playing honky tonks and, in 1992, landed an audition with Opryland Music Group, from which he walked away with a songwriter's contract. Carl Smith – A native of Maynardville born in 1927, country music singer Carl Smith was known as “Mister Country.” He was one of country’s most successful male artists during the 1950s, with 30 Top 10 hits. A Country Music Hall of Fame inductee and Grand Ole Opry member, his success continued well into the 1970s, when he had a charting single every year but one. In the 1950s, he married June Carter, the daughter of Maybelle Carter of the Carter Family, who would later marry Johnny Cash. Carl and June's daughter, Rebecca Smith, grew up to become Carlene Carter, a country singer in her own right.
This little town is the birth- place of Opry greats Roy Acuff and Carl Smith. If you’re lucky, the Union County Museum & Historic Society (pictured) will be open when you visit; please call ahead, as it’s run entirely by volunteers. Across the street is Pete’s Place, a local favorite for steak or catfish.
Roy Acuff Union Museum & Library, 3824 Maynardville Hwy, Maynardville, 865-992-2136
Pete's Place, 3905 Maynardville Hwy, Maynardville, 865-992-3698
Maynardville, TN 37807
From pt. 17, continue NE on TN-61/131/Main St. Turn L on TN-61 and go NW on TN-61 (follow signs to stay on 61) for approx. 5 miles. Turn L on TN-33/61/Maynardville Hwy to pt. 19.
More About: Rosenwald Schools
Sears, Roebuck & Co.'s Julius Rosenwald, guided by Booker T. Washington, established a fund for African-American education in the early 1900s. It was first used in Tennessee by ex-slave Samuel L. Smith to build a school and church here in Union County. White Lightning Trail point 120 is a Rosenwald School.
Union County Chamber of Commerce
Stop in for maps, guides and county information in the historic 1918 Maynardville State Bank. This Classical Revival-style building features Doric columns and housed this predominantly agricultural community's bank from 1922-30 when it closed following the 1929 stock market crash.
1001 Main St Maynardville, TN 37807
From museum, exit R onto TN-33/61/Maynardville Hwy. Turn R onto Monroe St., turn L onto Main St. to pt 20.