Photo: Rick Harring | flickr

Where is – or isn’t – Knoxville? Part 4

Ben Taylor Local Living, Popular 9 Comments

In response to my last post, Meg wrote, “I wouldn’t include Louisville. To me, Louisville goes with Alcoa/Maryville, and not Knoxville. If Pellissippi did not exist, would Louisville still be in your “Knoxville” list?”

To answer Meg’s question — No, if we didn’t have the Pellissippi Parkway, I wouldn’t be so quick to perceive Louisville, TN as part of Knoxville. However, she could easily be right about Louisville. I could be way off the mark here.

But before you decide, let me go over one more time how I came to my hypothesis.

In my second blog post I asked the following question: If we were to start at a central point, say downtown, and taking all possible roads out of town, where and when would we start finding people for whom we (as well as they) would feel generally comfortable saying they were not from Knoxville?

I got out a big map of Knoxville and its surroundings. As I moved along the roads beyond the city limits, I began to ask myself this question: “Would I find it odd if I heard someone who lived in this place claim to be from Knoxville?” In the case of Louisville, I couldn’t do that. I would find it odd if someone from Maryville, Alcoa or Oak Ridge made that claim.

Now I could easily be mistaken. If so, how? If you have any objections at all, I would be most grateful if you chimed in here.

Photo: Rick Harring | flickr

Photo: Rick Harring | flickr

Comments 9


    Well, actually.. I’m not from Knoxville – just outside of Knoxville. A place called Louisville. But when people would ask me where that was, I had to explain it’s just outside of Knoxville. And I got tired of saying “I’m from just outside of Knoxville.” So I started telling them I’m from Knoxville. So, nowadays, when people ask me where I’m from, I say I’m from Knoxville.

    1. I care about that very much. That’s why I could be wrong. Does Louisville belong on the ‘not-Knoxville’ list? For what reasons? Is it as much ‘not Knoxville’ as Maryville or Oak Ridge?

  2. Years ago, I lived in the Alcoa area, but still worked in Knoxville. I don’t know about my neighbors at the time, but I would have said I was from Knoxville. This was before Pellissippe Then again, I was born and raised in parts of Knoxville.

    1. I find it interesting that you said you were living in the “Alcoa area,” but you were still working in Knoxville. You distinguished Alcoa from Knoxville. I also find it interesting that you would have said you were from Knoxville. During that time would you have ever felt comfortable– spontaneously, naturally, without even thinking of it–calling yourself an “Alcoan?” Also, in what area does Louisville fall? Or does it have its own area? Would it sound odd to you if someone said they were from the “Louisville area,” or “just outside Louisville?” Does that feeling of oddness have any bearing on Louisville’s actual status as a place?

    1. Thanks, Mom, for the info. That’s interesting–when we moved there in 1977 Farragut had not yet incorporated. Of course I have no memory of that time, but when I was old enough to send and receive mail I distinctly remember listing our address as Knoxville, and not Farragut. I’m sure I could have written Farragut or Concord without a problem, but that no one beyond the USPS ever insisted I use those names, that it was 6 to a 1/2dz. either way, I find even more interesting. Hence, my questions. . .

      And btw, I’m picking up the phone right now.

  3. Fascinating question! To complicate matters, Google has Knoxville’s McGhee Tyson Airport officially located in Louisville, TN. Is that accurate? If so, would that be further evidence for my hypothesis? On the other hand, if you are correct, then what would that mean for the “placeness” of Alcoa?

    1. well, Cincinnati’s airport isn’t even in Ohio…it is in Northern Kentucky.

      If you’re really interested in the concept of place, I recommend James Kunstler’s book The Geography of Nowhere.

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