The corner of Broadway and Fifth Avenue, once central to an affluent walking neighborhood of urban townhouses, was especially known for its accumulation of churches. Though several of these church structures saw more than one denomination, as churches grew, merged, and moved, the church in the foreground of this ca. 1905 photograph is best known as First Lutheran Church, originally a German-speaking church to serve Knoxville’s substantial population of immigrants. Just beyond it is the old Broad Street Methodist Church, and the steeple in the distance may be that of Central Presbyterian.
It’s been speculated that this church’s design may be a partial inspiration for a rather mysterious 1947 realist painting by Charles Griffin Farr, “Street in Knoxville,” on long-term display at the Knoxville Museum of Art.
Though the scene’s now in the shadow of Interstate 40 and on the edge of the “mission district” of services to the homeless, the immediate area is still home to two historic churches, St. John’s Lutheran and First Christian. Recently restored Minvilla Flats, built in 1913, is in the modern photo; the historic photograph predates it.