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The Lost Fair: National Conservation Expo of 1913

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McClung Historical Collection

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  • The Southern States Building
  • The Negro Building was designed, financed, and built entirely by Knoxville blacks. It outlined black contributions to industry and economy. To the left is a tamale and “wienerwurst” stand; at the time, there were tamale manufacturers, both run by blacks, within a few blocks of Chilhowee Park.
  • The Woman’s Building included demonstrations of fabric art associated with women—and, perhaps because it couldn’t be fit in anywhere else, also a small Civil War display.
  •  A rarely seen depiction from promotional literature of the fairgrounds.
  • The Land Building. Built anew for the 1913 Exposition, it was by some accounts even more impressive than the Liberal Arts Building. It included a 3,500-seat auditorium where Gifford Pinchot, Helen Keller, and others spoke.
  • The Liberal Arts Building. Sometimes known by other names, it was the Exposition’s main building. It burned in a spectacular blaze in 1938, and was replaced by the Jacob Building, which stands on the site now.
  • The Bandstand. Donated by an association of marble suppliers, at the height of the period when Knoxville was famous for its marble industry, the gazebo served as a public stage for musical acts and some speeches at the 1913 exposition. It’s the only architecture remnant of the exposition that still exists today.
  • The Entrance to the 1913 National Conservation Exposition, probably on Magnolia Avenue.
  • The Fine Arts Building hosted what may have been the best display of contemporary art in Knoxville in the 20th century. It included a granite fountain with “a bronze figure of a nude boy playing on a pipe of reeds” as well as oils by John Singer Sargent, Robert Henri, Childe Hassam, and several other leading American artists of the day.
  • Ellery’s Band, which had gained fame for its popularity at the St. Louis World’s Fair, nine years before the National Conservation Exposition. Sometimes called an “Italian Band,” it specialized in popular classical and operatic pieces, and accompanied several male singers; they usually played in the marble bandstand, the only building from the 1913 Exposition which remains at Chilhowee Park today.
  • The Coal Building was said to be built mainly of large chunks of coal.
  • The Child Welfare Building included a female physician who offered free check-ups to children.

Although it isn’t often mentioned in history books, the NCE drew over a million visitors to the new cause of “environmentalism.”

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