These photographs were taken in a different city. It was called Knoxville, and it had roughly the same coordinates of latitude and longitude as ours does, but it was a different city. None of its citizens still walk the streets of Knoxville today.
To a Knoxvillian of 2011, a visit to this other Knoxville might be more disorienting than a trip to Dublin or Sydney or even Mumbai. Transportation was different, architecture was different, food was different, currency was different, accents, customs, and clothing were different. Live drama was much more popular than football. French cuisine was much more common than Italian or Mexican. White-haired veterans of a long-ago civil war passed French and German-speaking newcomers on the sidewalks. It was home to a university, high on a hill on the west side of town, but the city’s biggest institutions were factories.
Without a few frames of reference, it would be easy to believe that the other Knoxville never existed. But with the help of latter-day Knoxville photographer David Luttrell, and photographs borrowed from the Library of Congress—most of these were taken for the Detroit Publishing Co., a publisher of postcards—we thought we’d have a look at the two Knoxvilles to see what remains of that other one, and what doesn’t.