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Knoxville in Knox County, Tennessee — The American South (East South Central)
 

Lawson McGhee Library

 

Knoxville History Project

 
Lawson McGhee Library<br>(<i>marker west panel</i>) image. Click for full size.
By Cosmos Mariner, May 10, 2019
1. Lawson McGhee Library
(marker west panel)
Inscription.  
Lawson McGhee Library (west panel)

”I intend to erect a building to be used as a
public library, and at the same time, a
memorial to a beloved child.”
-Charles McClung McGhee

The original Lawson McGhee Library was the first durable public library in Tennessee.

Knoxville's public-library movement dates back to the early 1800s, but it wasn't until 1873, following a series of short-lived projects, that several leading citizens organized a Reading Room in an old hotel. The modest library struggled financially until railroad executive and financier Charles McClung McGhee (1828-1907), lost his daughter, and made a gesture to assure that her name never to be forgotten in her home town.

In 1886, with McGhee's funds, a library organization, including what remained of the old one, completed a three-story building at the northeast corner of Gay and Vine, run on a subscription basis. In 1917 it moved into a freestanding building on the hill about a block north of Market Square, operated as a city-run free lending library. The current building and third home of Lawson
West panel detail: 2nd Lawson McGhee Library (1917-1971) image. Click for full size.
Courtesy McClung Historical Collection
2. West panel detail: 2nd Lawson McGhee Library (1917-1971)
About a block north of Market Square, the second Lawson McGhee Library was a free library serving the public from 1917 to 1971. Despite efforts to save the building for other uses, it was torn down in late 1974 to make way for Summit Hill Drive.
McGhee Library on this block was designed by architect Bruce McCarty and completed in 1971.

John Kelley (east panel)
Artist John Kelley grew up in Knoxville, attending Webb School and YMCA art classes at the old Dulin Art Gallery. His mother, Evelyn, encouraged his art; a family trip to Nashville's Parthenon engendered a fascination with Greek mythology, a major theme of his best-known work. He studied art at the University of Tennessee before transferring to the famous Pratt Institute in New York. He also studied painting at the Art Students League and the New York Academy of Art. Part of a new wave of interest in figure painting, Kelley has studied anatomy to help develop his current genre, realistic images of mythological figures. He has maintained a studio in Brooklyn for many years, but he also maintains a home and studio in Knoxville.

Kelley remembers Lawson McGhee Library as "a great oasis of culture and inspiration." In 1985, he was commissioned to paint this portrait of Lawson McGhee. Lawson McGhee Williams, the daughter of Knoxville industrialist Charles McClung McGhee, died giving birth in New York in 1883. Her wealthy father, who lived on Locust Street on the hill immediately to the northwest of here, memorialized his daughter with the name of the public library he endowed, the first durable public library in Tennessee. This building,
John Kelly<br>(<i>marker east panel</i>) image. Click for full size.
By Cosmos Mariner, May 10, 2019
3. John Kelly
(marker east panel)
the third to house Lawson McGhee Library, was designed by modernist Bruce McCarty and completed in 1971. Originally central to a city library system, it's now run by Knox County.

Special thanks to City of Knoxville City Council
and Knox County Public Library
Downtown Art Wraps are coordinated by the Knoxville Historic Project, an educational nonprofit with a mission to research and promote the history and culture of Knoxville.
Discover other Art Wraps and learn more at knoxvillehistoryproject.org

 
Erected by Knoxville History Project.
 
Location. 35° 57.73′ N, 83° 55.219′ W. Marker is in Knoxville, Tennessee, in Knox County. Marker is at the intersection of West Church Avenue and Locust Street, on the right when traveling east on West Church Avenue. Marker is located along the sidewalk, at the southeast corner of the intersection. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 500 West Church Avenue, Knoxville TN 37902, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Rotary Club of Knoxville (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); James Park House (about 500 feet away); Albert Milani (about 700 feet away); First Baptist Church (about 800 feet away); Knoxville's Old Custom House / Fiddlin' Bob Taylor
East panel detail: Artist John Kelley image. Click for full size.
Courtesy John Kelley
4. East panel detail: Artist John Kelley
(approx. 0.2 miles away); Mecklenburg Place (approx. 0.2 miles away); Krutch Park (approx. 0.2 miles away); Lloyd Branson (approx. 0.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Knoxville.
 
Related markers. Click here for a list of markers that are related to this marker. Knoxville History Project
 
Also see . . .  Charles McClung McGhee (Wikipedia). As director of the East Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia Railway (ETV&G), McGhee was responsible for much of the railroad construction that took place in the East Tennessee area in the 1870s and 1880s. McGhee was a well-known philanthropist in Knoxville in his later years. In 1875, he helped secure funding for Knoxville's St. John's Orphanage. In 1885, McGhee donated $50,000 for the establishment of the Lawson McGhee Library. (Submitted on June 6, 2019, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida.) 
 
Categories. Arts, Letters, MusicCharity & Public WorkNotable PersonsWomen
 
Lawson McGhee (1985), Oil on Canvas image. Click for full size.
Courtesy John Kelley
5. Lawson McGhee (1985), Oil on Canvas
Lawson McGhee Library Marker (<i>wide view</i>)<br>(<i>southwest & northeast perspectives</i>) image. Click for full size.
By Cosmos Mariner, May 10, 2019
6. Lawson McGhee Library Marker (wide view)
(southwest & northeast perspectives)
Current building and third home of Lawson McGhee Library (<i>1/2 block east of marker</i>) image. Click for full size.
By Cosmos Mariner, May 10, 2019
7. Current building and third home of Lawson McGhee Library (1/2 block east of marker)
 

More. Search the internet for Lawson McGhee Library.
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 6, 2019. This page originally submitted on June 4, 2019, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida. This page has been viewed 61 times since then. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. submitted on June 6, 2019, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida.
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