Local Lore: 1424 Armstrong Avenue

The home at 1424 Armstrong Avenue in what is now known as Old North Knoxville was built in the early 1890s and shared the end of the street with only three other homes at the turn of the century. These homes included 1411, next door,  the home at 1365, and a home that has since been destroyed.  While 1424 was occupied by a merchandise broker, 1365 was occupied by the owner  of a marble quarry (John M. Ross) and 1411 was owned by a wholesale liquor company owner, John N. Betterton..

1411 Armstrong Avenue, today

Knoxville was experiencing intense population growth around the turn of the century, from around 9,700 in 1880 to around 36,400 in 1910. The population of Knoxville in 1890 at the time 1424 Armstrong Avenue was built, was about 22,500 and there were about 7,300 houses in the city at that time.. The area around the neighborhood, a streetcar suburb of the Broadway line, was annexed to the city in 1897.

1365 Armstrong Avenue, today

Electric lights, water, and early sewer system access were available to some homes in Knoxville when this home was built. There were only 350 telephone subscribers in Knoxville in 1890.

1424 Armstrong Ave, today

The original occupant of 1424 Armstrong Avenue was Edwin R. Wade, the merchandise broker. Wade was a young man from Virginia in the early 1890's. In 1900, he ran for Mayor of Knoxville against Sam Heiskell and lost.

Broadway in the early 20th century. Photo courtesy of McClung Historical Collection. 

Wade's father was involved the tobacco business in Virginia and. Wade was a friend to James B. Duke and R. J. Reynolds, tobacco industry magnates. Interestingly, he was credited with bringing the first cigarettes to Knoxville.

Broadway & Central, early 20th century. Photo courtesy of McClung Historical Collection. 

Wade, who died in 1951 at 92, was the dean of America's food brokers and Knoxville's oldest active merchandising official until his retirement five years before  his death.

Wade's family home was at 1625 W. Clinch Avenue, now a vacant lot, next to the Pickle mansion site, where his mother lived until 1935.

Early 20th century view of Armstrong Ave, courtesty of the McClung Historical Collection

1424 Armstrong Avenenue was occupied by shorter term residents or vacant until the early 20th century when the home was occupied by the James M. Dunn family. Dunn died in the home in 1942 at the age of 86.

Dunn came from Anderson County in the late 1880s.  He was Knoxville's oldest contractor when he died. His company built many buildings in Knoxville and other towns, including the building that was occupied by S.H. George & Company as well as the Miller's Department store building and Knoxville High School.

Thompson Place, looking down from Armstrong Ave, early 20th century. Courtesy of the McClung Collection. 

Thompson Place, looking down from Armstrong Ave, early 20th century. Courtesy of the McClung Collection. 

Oscar Dunn, a partner in the family business, and son of James Dunn, also lived in the home with his family. Oscar Dunn retired from the family business about 1950, after erecting the U.T. College of Business Administration. He died at the age  of 75 in 1958 while living at the Farragut Hotel on Gay St.

Have suggestions for future installmennts of Local Lore? Drop us a note at jennifer@trottamontgomery.com or leave a comment below.