Local Lore: 4084 Kingston Pike

4084 Kingston PIke, circa 1930s, photo courtesy of the McClung Historical Collection

The Morton house at 4084 Kingston Pike isn't visible from the street; here's a historic glimpse of what's behind the wall and greenery on the property, adjacent to St. George Greek Orthodox Church.

Interior of home, photo courtesy of the McClung Historical Collection

The house, designed by the locally well known architectural firm of Baumann & Baumann in 1927, was built for Benjamin A. Morton in 1927. House construction and the Morton family's move to their new home followed Benjamin A. Morton's term as Mayor of the City from 1923-1927. As Mayor, Morton was known for his reforms including a new water plant along Riverside Drive.

Benjamin A. Morton was, beyond his eventual political accomplishments, a self-made millionaire of the early part of the twentieth century, lucrative years for businessmen of his kind. Morton, the son a Maryville horse-back era physician, started his career as a teenager as an assistant bookkeeper with the H.T. Hackney Company, wholesale grocers. He was President of the company by 1899. His later endeavors would include prominent positions in local banking and offices in milling companies, J. Allen Smith Company and Security Feeds, and automobile dealerships.

Interestingly, with some local contemporaries -- Hugh Wheeler Sanford of the Sanford Day Iron Works and Knoxville Stove Works and William Carey Ross of M.L. Ross and Company, wholesale grocers and candy makers --Morton was part of a group known as "The Three Musketeers" or "The One Hundred Percent Club". Among their endeavors, the group organized and ran a lumber company, Riverside Lumber Company. They also had the Farragut Hotel built and were responsible for its operation until competition from the opening of the newer Andrew Johnson hotel and receivership of the older hotel.

Morton's banking experience included the Presidency and a difficult fight to keep the East Tennessee National Bank open during the Great Depression and Vice-Presidency of the Fidelity Bankers Trust Co. in the building at 502 S. Gay Street, at the corner of Gay Street and Union Avenue.  (The Fidelity Trust Company was originally organized in 1871 by Cowan, McClung, & Co., wholesalers.) The building is now the headquarters of the H.T. Hackney Company.

The Fidelity Building, 502 S Gay St

The Fidelity Building, 502 S Gay St

As Morton became involved in automobile dealerships, he started the Manufacturers Acceptance Corporation, an automobile financing company along with partners, including E. C. Mahan,  a prominent automobile dealer. This company was sold in the middle of the twentieth century and is still in business through heirs of the owners to whom it was sold. Its current location, a building built in 1954, is at 200 W. Fifth Avenue, incidentally the location of Trotta Montgomery Real Estate on the third floor.

Morton was also instrumental in the formation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. He was part of efforts to fundraise, negotiate, and acquire property for the park in partnership with David C. Chapman and Frank Maloney. Much of his success was based on his experience with the people living in the park area through the work of his father.

Benjamin A. Morton's son, Julian G. Morton, later became President of H.T. Hackney Company and Chairman of the Board of that company at his death in the early 1970s. He was also an official in other companies during his lifetime, including J. Allen Smith Co., Security Mills, and Knoxville Buick Company, and a board member of Park National Bank. He lived with his family in the Morton home after his father's death in the early 1950s.

Original site of the Knoxville Buick Company, N Gay St

Original site of the Knoxville Buick Company, N Gay St

Meanwhile, Benjamin A. Morton's other son, Benjamin A. Morton, Jr, was the owner a variety of dealerships, including McCreary- Morton Motor Company on Central Street, Knoxville Motor Company, and Knoxville Boat Company. He and his family lived nearby, toward town, at 3444 Kingston Pike, in a home set well away from the road, now accessed through the newer neighborhood of Boxwood Square. The Benjamin A. Morton, Jr. family moved to the home during the late 1950's. Benjamin A. Morton, Jr. died in the late 1970's.