L&N Station (Knoxville)

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Louisville and Nashville Passenger Station
The L&N Station, viewed from Western Avenue
Location 700 Western Avenue
Knoxville, Tennessee
Coordinates 35°57′51″N 83°55′28″W / 35.96417°N 83.92444°W / 35.96417; -83.92444Coordinates: 35°57′51″N 83°55′28″W / 35.96417°N 83.92444°W / 35.96417; -83.92444
Area 1.286 acres (5,200 m2)[1]
Built 1904–1905[1]
Architect Richard Monfort[1]
Architectural style Victorian, Chateauesque[1]
NRHP Reference # 82003982
Added to NRHP March 25, 1982

The L&N Station is a former rail passenger station in Knoxville, Tennessee, United States, located in the downtown area at the northern end of the World's Fair Park. Built in 1905 by the Louisville and Nashville Railroad, the station was renovated for use in the 1982 World's Fair, and is currently home to the Knox County STEM Academy.[2] In 1982, the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places for its architecture and role in Knoxville's transportation history.[1]

The L&N completed a rail line running from Cincinnati to Atlanta in the early 1900s, and built a string of passenger stations and depots to service trains along this line.[1] The company's Knoxville station was the city's largest, and considered by some the "finest" along the L&N's entire Cincinnati–Atlanta line.[1] It served as a passenger station until the L&N ceased passenger train service to Knoxville in 1968, and continued to house L&N offices until 1975.[1] The L&N Station is mentioned in several scenes in author James Agee's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, A Death in the Family.[3]


The L&N Station occupies the southwest corner of the intersection of Western Avenue, Broadway, Henley Street, and Summit Hill Drive, opposite Old City Hall. It straddles the east bank of Second Creek, and was designed to incorporate the bank's downward slope. The building is L-shaped, with wings projecting west and south of the northeast corner tower (the wings face Western Avenue and Henley Street). Due to the ground's slope, the building's main floor is at ground level on the north and east sides, but rises a full story above the ground on the south and west sides.[1] Tracks and train sheds originally extended from the rail yard up to the rear of the building.[4]

The station's rear veranda

The building's most recognizable feature is its northeast corner tower, which rises three stories, and is topped by a pitched, clay-tiled roof with decorated dormers. A smaller tower rises at the end of the west wing, giving the building its chateau-like appearance. A wrap-around veranda allows access to the main floor on the south side of the building. The north side of the west wing originally included frosted glass doors and glazed transoms, which have been restored. Due to the construction of the Western Avenue Viaduct, the building's ground level lies about 10 feet (3.0 m) below Western Avenue, with a ramp providing vehicular access.[1]

The interior of the main floor consisted of waiting rooms in the west wing, a dining room in the northeast corner tower, and a kitchen, lunch counter, and baggage areas in the south wing. The waiting rooms included a general waiting room, a ladies' waiting room (with a private entrance and an entrance from the general waiting room) on the northwest corner, and a "colored" waiting room on the southwest corner. The colored waiting room, a relic of segregation, had a separate entrance. The second story consisted of L&N offices, and the third story in the northeast tower was used as a drafting room by L&N engineers.[1]


While railroads had reached Knoxville by 1855, the L&N did not have direct access to the city until the early 1900s, due to its rivalry with the Southern Railway and its predecessors.[5] The Southern controlled much of the rail traffic south of the Tennessee-Kentucky border, while the L&N controlled much of the traffic north of the border, and the two railroads continuously thwarted one another's attempts to expand beyond this border. In an 1894 meeting, L&N president Milton Smith and Southern president Samuel Spencer agreed not to encroach upon each other's market.[5]

Stained glass windows at the station's northwest entrance

Shortly after the 1894 agreement, Spencer was named president of the Cincinnati, New Orleans and Texas Pacific Railway, essentially giving the Southern (of which Spencer remained president) access to the L&N's Kentucky and Ohio markets.[5] Deeming the agreement void, the L&N made plans to build a direct line from Cincinnati to Atlanta by way of Knoxville. In 1902, the L&N purchased the Atlanta, Knoxville and Northern Railroad, which connected Knoxville to the Western and Atlantic at Marietta, Georgia, and began construction of a line from Jellico to Knoxville, which was completed in 1905.[5]

The L&N planned an elegant Knoxville station to rival the Southern Terminal, which had been erected at the Southern railyard along Depot Street.[1] The L&N completed a freight depot in 1904, and began construction of the passenger station that same year. The station was designed by the L&N Engineering Department, headed by Irish immigrant and Royal College of Science for Ireland graduate Richard Monfort, who was largely responsible for the station's Victorian and chateauesque elements. The station formally opened on April 10, 1905.[1]

Author James Agee describes the L&N Station in several scenes in his book, A Death In the Family, which is set in Knoxville in 1915. In an early scene, while walking through Knoxville with his father, they pass the station, and Agee noted how its stained glass "smouldered like an exhausted butterfly." In another scene, while crossing the Asylum (Western) Avenue Viaduct, he wrote, "the L&N yards lay on his left, feint skeins of steel, blocked shadows, little spumes of steam." In a later scene, Agee describes the crowded L&N waiting room, in which his family waited to catch a train to the Great Smoky Mountains.[3]

Post-L&N development[edit]

The L&N gradually phased out passenger service after World War II, with the last passenger train leaving the L&N Station in 1968. The L&N vacated the station in 1975, after which it remained vacant until purchased by Alex Harkness and his partners in 1980. In 1982, the station was renovated for use in the 1982 World's Fair, as it was adjacent to the World's Fair Park, which was then under development. Two restaurants, a Ruby Tuesday restaurant and the first L&N Seafood Grill, were housed in lower floors of the building, while the second floor offices were converted into meeting rooms for the fair's VIPs.[1][6]

In 1985, the building was further renovated by Alex Harkness and Station 82 Partners for use as office space and special events.[1][7][8] From 2002 to 2004, a restaurant, Ye Olde Steakhouse, operated out of the station while it repaired damage from a fire at its location on Chapman Highway.[8][9]

L&N STEM Academy[edit]

In October 2010, Knox County Schools announced plans to establish a magnet high school for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), to be located in the L&N Station building.[7] Funding for the STEM school is included in the Tennessee Race to the Top plan.[7] The new school officially opened on August 15, 2011, with an enrollment of 180 students.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o J. S. Rabun, National Register of Historic Places Registration Form for the Louisville and Nashville Passenger Station, 13 April 1981.
  2. ^ a b Lydia McCoy, "STEM School Classes Start on Monday at Former Knoxville Train Station," Knoxville New Sentinel, 14 August 2011. Retrieved: 15 August 2011.
  3. ^ a b James Agee, A Death in the Family (New York: McDowell, Obolensky, 1957), pp. 17, 41, 218-219.
  4. ^ Thompson Brothers (photographers), L&N Station, Calvin M. McClung Historical Collection. Retrieved: 30 December 2010.
  5. ^ a b c d Lucile Deaderick, ed., Heart of the Valley: A History of Knoxville, Tennessee (Knoxville, TN: East Tennessee Historical Society, 1976), pp. 199-202.
  6. ^ Samuel (Sandy) E. Beall, III, Corporate Governance Center website, University of Tennessee. Accessed December 31, 2010.
  7. ^ a b c STEM Cell at the L&N?, Metro Pulse, 29 October 2010. Accessed at the Internet Archive, 5 October 2015.
  8. ^ a b Erica Estep, Officials Propose New High School Academy for Knox County, WATE.com, 29 October 2010. Retrieved: 30 December 2010.
  9. ^ Erica Estep, L&N building may need too many renovations for STEM academy, WATE.com, 24 November 2010

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