The old Peter Kern home in downtown Knoxville being excavated.
Image by East Tennessee Historical Society.
KNOXVILLE — Ever wonder about the history buried beneath the pavement and buildings of downtown Knoxville? Make plans to attend “Archeological Excavation Discovers Knoxville History,” a Brown Bag Lecture by TVA project archeologists. This special lecture at the East Tennessee Historical Society on January 16 will introduce attendees to the history of one such site, the old Peter Kern home that once stood between Locust and Walnut streets and recently excavated in preparation for the building of a new multi-level parking garage. Examples of items discovered will be on display.
The excavation discovered the foundations of Kern’s home, a two-story stable that could house up to 20 horses, and a vast assortment of remnants of everyday life in early downtown Knoxville. Also unearthed were artifacts associated with an early hotel, mission house, and a grocery store that once served downtown residents. Project archaeologists and researchers Hunter Johnson, Ted Karpynec, Keith Little and Travis Rael will discuss the project and findings, as well as the importance of learning about and documenting everyday life in Knoxville during the past 150 years.
Peter Kern was born in Germany in 1835 and immigrated to America in the 1850s. He was a Confederate veteran who fought with the 12th Georgia Infantry. While passing through Knoxville he was apprehended by Union troops and forced to remain in the city. It was at this time that he started a small bakery to sell flour and molasses and cookies to Union troops. The small business evolved into Kerns Bakery, an enterprise familiar to East Tennesseans even today. Kern became a well known and respected entrepreneur, philanthropist, and politician and served as the mayor of Knoxville from 1890-1892.
The program is sponsored by 21st Mortgage and is and free and open to the public. The lecture will begin at noon at the East Tennessee History Center, 601 S. Gay Street, Knoxville. Admission is free and guests are invited to bring a “Brown Bag” lunch and enjoy the lecture. Soft drinks will be available.
For more information on the lecture, exhibitions, or museum hours, call 865-215-8824 or visit the website at www.EastTNHistory.org.