One of the many charms of our Kingston Pike-Sequoyah Hills neighborhood is that its development goes back to the 1920s, though it continued throughout the 1940s and later. Its history is naturally wrapped up in the history of Knoxville and its westward development along Kingston Pike. The story of how Kingston Pike and Sequoyah Hills came to be the Grand Dame of Knoxville neighborhoods is a book’s worth of history and stories and reminiscences.
If you’ve lived in Sequoyah Hills for a while, you might have heard that just such a book about the neighborhood was published some years ago. Reflections on Sequoyah Hills was published by KP-SHA in 1997 and is subtitled “As told to Sandy Berwick, Chair, Kingston Pike-Sequoyah Hills Association Historical Committee.” The foreword was written by Senator Howard H. Baker, Jr., who lived in the neighborhood for a time.
The book is comprised of 11 chapters and begins with the Native American history of the area. The chapter includes a list of street names and their origins in Native American dialects. Chapter 2 follows with a summary of the events of the Civil War that took place in this area. Chapter 3 then turns to a history of the ownership of the property now making up Kingston Pike and Sequoyah Hills, including the origins of the Talahi development in the 1920s. This initiative and the other efforts to sell lots ran head on into the great depression, which slowed development for a time.
Chapter 4 recounts the early years along the pike. The recollections of Cecil Holloway Matheny, who was born in 1912 at Westwood, and those of other long-time residents provide a personal glimpse of what it was like to live here as the area was developing. Russell Briscoe contributed his research on the origins of Kingston Pike, an old Indian trail. Chapter 5 is a detailed history of the cemetery on Arrowhead Trail, the burial place of some of the Looney, Sharp, and Lones settlers of Sequoyah Hills. This chapter includes family stories recorded by Lucile Lones Davis of the years before the area was developed.
Chapter 6 – the longest chapter in the book - offers personal reflections by dozens of residents who grew up in the neighborhood. Descriptions of what it was like to be a child here or to raise a family reveal a time that few can recall today. These stories are the heart of the book and explain the unique ambiance of the neighborhood.
Chapter 7 provides an architectural description of many of the historic homes on the Pike and in Sequoyah Hills. As we drive by some of these earlier homes, it is easy to take for granted the architectural traditions and craftsmanship that can be hard to find in even the most expensive of today’s homes. Georgian, Mediterranean, Spanish Colonial, Tudor, and Bungalow styles dominated the style of early homes, and were eventually joined by Art Deco, Mid-Century Ranch, and other more contemporary forms. The variety from one property to another is one of the delights of the neighborhood. Chapter 8 singles out four special homes: 715 Scenic Drive, 940 Cherokee Boulevard, 840 Cherokee Boulevard, and 918 Cherokee Boulevard. Personal recollections by former and current residents of the homes show the care that successive owners have devoted to maintaining the homes and grounds in their original style.
Chapter 9 focuses on the trees and flowers for which the neighborhood is well known, including a trip along the original Dogwood Trail. Chapter 10 summarizes the newsmakers and celebrities who have lived in the Kingston Pike-Sequoyah Hills area. You might be surprised to realize who you could have seen strolling the boulevard in years past. The last chapter recounts recollections of residents about Sequoyah schools, the library, the many churches, and Sequoyah Hills Center.
Reflections on Sequoyah Hills was a limited edition volume – only 1,500 were printed. If you don’t have a copy, you might still be able to find one on Amazon, where there are usually a few for sale in the original book jacket. It makes for a fascinating afternoon’s reading and a wonderful book to lend to houseguests.