TVA Archaeologists Unearth Knoxville History
July 10, 2013
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - With research, technology and trowels, Tennessee Valley Authority archaeologists have dug into Knoxville’s past in an unusual archaeological excavation on a downtown site, part of an environmental review for a parking garage.
A block from TVA’s Knoxville Office Complex and the city’s Market Square business district, the dig is occurring on the proposed location of a multilevel garage of 800 to 1,000 spaces for the weekday use of TVA workers and other renters and for the free use of the public on nights and weekends.
The City of Knoxville recently issued a request for construction proposals from developers, while TVA continues an archaeological mitigation of the site.
The public is invited to an open house at the site from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, July 13, to view the work in progress, to see artifacts recovered from the excavation and to talk with archaeologists from TVA and consultant Tennessee Valley Archaeological Research of Huntsville, Ala. The site is near the corner of Summer Place and Locust Street.
“TVA has a responsibility to preserve our cultural resources,” said Brenda Brickhouse, TVA vice president of Environmental Permits and Compliance. “Under the National Historic Preservation Act, we must determine if any archaeological or architectural resources will be affected by our actions.
“It is unusual when these reviews lead to a full excavation to record and recover artifacts,” she said. “So it is exciting that this is taking place in downtown Knoxville, where the public can visit the site and talk with our archaeologists about what we do.”
TVA’s archaeological sleuths began looking below the paved surface of what had become a street-level parking lot last October. They found remnant brick foundations of the home of Peter Kern, a wealthy confectioner and Knoxville mayor who served more than a century ago; the burned timbers of a mid-1800s building, and an early 1900s apartment house.
A deeper dig over the past month unearthed old bottles, pieces of pottery, shards of a sundial and other revealing bits of everyday life from long ago.
“The goal is to determine what is and was on this site, to preserve what is historically important and to get it ready to serve a new purpose,” said Bruce Schofield, TVA vice president for Property and Natural Resources.
“Though TVA is no longer planning to build the garage itself, we continue to support the project as a public-private partnership with benefits for TVA employees, future tenants of TVA’s East Tower, the public and the downtown economy,” he said.
The Knoxville City Council is expected to approve the selection of a project developer this fall, subject to TVA review. The garage is slated for completion in 2015.
The Tennessee Valley Authority is a corporate agency of the United States that provides electricity for business customers and local power distributors serving 9 million people in parts of seven southeastern states. TVA receives no taxpayer funding, deriving virtually all of its revenues from sales of electricity. In addition to operating and investing its revenues in its electric system, TVA provides flood control, navigation and land management for the Tennessee River system and assists local power companies and state and local governments with economic development and job creation.