In conjunction with the feature exhibition Rock of Ages: East Tennessee’s Marble Industry the Museum of East Tennessee History is inviting public participation in its ongoing efforts to study and document items made from marble quarried in East Tennessee, including photographs, documents, and stories relating to marble history and workers. Anyone with relevant information is encouraged to bring these to a Tennessee Marble Documentation Day on Saturday, April 15, 2017 at the East Tennessee History Center, 601 S. Gay Street, Knoxville.
East Tennessee marble is prized by architects, builders, and sculptors for its structural and decorative properties. The marble industry was once an important sector of East Tennessee’s economy. By the mid-1850s, East Tennessee marble from Knox County had been chosen for the interiors of the Tennessee State Capitol and marble from Hawkins County was being installed inside the new House and Senate wings of the United States Capitol. In the decades that followed, East Tennessee’s varicolored marble was sought by architects for the interiors of a variety of public buildings: state capitol buildings, courthouses, city halls. Tennessee marble would soon also be ordered for high traffic railroad terminal flooring across the United States and Canada.
Reminders of the once prominent Tennessee marble industry can be seen today, in late 19th, early 20th century buildings on Gay Street and other corners of downtown, in building facades, steps and entranceways, and interior lobbies. The Knoxville Post Office and Federal Building on Main Street is a particularly fine example dating from the 1930s. And Knoxville, a city that has won national recognition for historic preservation, continues to embrace its marble heritage in modern buildings such as the expansion of the U.S. Custom House into the East Tennessee History Center and the exterior marble of the Knoxville Museum of Art.
The event is from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., with a special panel discussion taking place from 10:30-11:30 a.m. The panel will feature Susan Knowles, Ph.D., of the Center of historic Preservation, Middle Tennessee State University, as moderator, as well as members of four families who were prominent in the marble business—Sonja Jones, Finbarr Saunders, Jean Vestal, and Beth Wolf, who will talk about their family’s experiences relating to the marble industry.
The program is free and open to the public. Visitors will also be invited to tour the museum for free and enjoy the Rock of Ages exhibition. The Museum of East Tennessee History is operated by the East Tennessee Historical Society and is located in the East Tennessee History Center at 601 S. Gay Street in downtown Knoxville. For further information, call (865) 215-8829 or visit www.eastTNhistory.org.