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The McClung Buildings


Photo courtesy Knox Heritage

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  • Calvin Morgan McClung (1855-1919), founder of C.M. McClung & Co., and of the public library’s McClung Collection.
  • By 1910, McClung was so proud of its Jackson Avenue plant that the company regularly used pictures of its buildings in advertisements.
  • A ca. 1900 advertisement for McClung.
  • Images from a C.M. McClung & Co. catalog, ca. 1920, at the McClung Historical Collection. Note that in the photo, the buyer beholds McClung, suitcase in hand, as if approaching from the train station.
  • Images from a C.M. McClung & Co. catalog, ca. 1920, at the McClung Historical Collection.
  • A fire-extinguisher page from a C.M. McClung & Co. catalog, ca. 1920, at the McClung Historical Collection; McClung offered a whole line of fire retardants and firefighting equipment.
  • A 1974 snapshot likely taken by the late Ron Childress, a preservationist architect who co-founded Knox Heritage, helped start the Old City’s revival, and admired these buildings.
  • The same building about 30 years later, without substantial improvements.
  • The McClung buildings as they appeared in 1993, when would-be developer Mark Saroff bought them. Fire-department historian Jack Lewis took this photo, he says, because he suspected they might burn someday. The buildings demolished this week are at the far left of the cluster. All the others were destroyed in the 2007 fire.
  • The February, 2007 fire that destroyed most of the complex. Its cause has never been determined.
  • The 2007 fire was perhaps the most arresting spectacles in memory.
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  • Even before the fire, the buildings looked bad from behind. Thanks to I-40, many thousands more saw them from this direction than from little-traveled Jackson Avenue.
  • With two floors below the Jackson Avenue elevation, the buildings looked even bigger from the rail yards.
  • The 1911 McClung addition, which survived the 2007 fire on its east, and the 2014 fire on its west, appeared for a few days as if it might be salvaged. However, when an engineering firm’s damage report suggested the possibility of collapse, and recommended either upper-floor stabilization, which would likely have been costly, or demolition, the city opted for the latter.
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  • The last building whose construction was witnessed by Calvin M. McClung himself, the 1911 building was also the last to remain standing. It was there until just this week. With JW Demolition in charge, it’s likely the tallest building ever demolished in downtown Knoxville.

A look at the rise and fall of some of Knoxville's iconic industrial buildings.

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