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If you look at historic photographs of most medium or large size cities in the first half of the 20th century they too appear "ugly" thanks to the soot and horse droppings. The move away from coal furnaces to natural gas or electric heat and the replacement of horses with automobiles resulted in the elimination of smoke and most soots and cleaner streets. Yes, internal combustion engines produce waste gases but they are less visible than smoke particles from coal.
Perhaps downtown Knoxville ironically is lucky that it was left to slumber during the mid and late part of the 20th century which spared it from the wholesale destruction of older buildings elsewhere.
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