History of the Southern Railway Station
the history behind us
The Southern Railway Station of Knoxville was built in 1903-1904, and was designed by the architect, Frank P. Milburn, for the Southern Railway Company. Records of the time note an initial construction estimate of $40,000. The budget was later increased to $80,000 and in 1901 a notice indicated that the contract had been awarded to Nicholoas Ittner of Atlanta for $100,000.
Originally, the lower level of the Southern Railway Station contained the mail, express, telegraph, and dining rooms and the baggage area. The upper level consisted of segregated waiting rooms, which opened to the ticket office. These waiting areas each contained a smoking room, ladies’ parlor and restrooms. Interesting architectural features of the Southern Railway Station include fireplaces feating inscriptions by Robert Burns, the Scottish poet, and coffered ceilings in the former two passenger waiting rooms and the former restaurant on the ground level. New paint colors matching the original brick and stone have been used as well as the composition roof, which creates an illusion matching the original slate roof. Both buildings exhibit Neoclassical Revival with Jacobean/Dutch Colonial influence on the exterior, featuring corbel-stepped gables and windows of a new-classical palladia motif. The construction is a combination of brick, wood, and cast iron.
At its apex, the station served more than 30 daily passenger trains. Among these were numerous locals that serve the man lines radiating out of Knoxville into ever rural area of East Tennessee. It was largely these local trains that helped Knoxville to become and maintain the position of a commercial center for the entire region in the days before the automobile. The station saw two world wars and following the great upsurge and strain of traffic from World War II, the unavoidable decline due to the rise of the automobile, the improvement of highways, and the coming of accessible airline transportion.
Passenger service stopped in 1970. The building was vacant and suffered water and fire damage until purchased at auction by the Southern Station Partnership in 1988. Renovation of the property took place in 1989 in conjunction with the Knoxville Streetscape project on Depot Avenue.
The Future Ahead of Us
The Historic Southern Railway Station and rail signing were recently purchased by The Southern Station of TN, LLC and renovated into an event venue with endless opportunities. The Station is also the new home to Knoxville’s first winery, Blue Slip Winery, LLC , the Pelican Bistro, and continues to be the home of long time tenant, Old Smoky Railway Museum.
The station is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has been honored with various preservation awards. Today it serves the community not just as an office building and winery with event space, but also as a landmark of its past and future and a shining example of the best of historic preservation.