By Mike Steely
If you think Lenoir City as just a suburb of Knoxville you are underrating out neighbor community.
Like Alcoa, Maryville and Seymour, Lenior City supplies workers and services to Knoxville just as Knox County and Farragut supply labor to the surrounding cities.
Lenoir City is much more than a suburb and dates back to the late 1700s when Judge David Campbell, a cousin of a man with the same name who was the founder of Campbell’s Station, located there and built a log cabin and grist mill.
But Campbell’s claim didn’t hold up and what is now the town was part of a 5,000-acre grant to General William Lenoir, a veteran of the Revolutionary War. The case ended in 1809 with Lenoir the winner and he established a large business trade there that included a mill and steamboat landing.
Several Civil War incidents happened in the city including some destruction from a raid by Union Cavalry forces. The mill was saved after a secret Masonic handshake between the commanding Union officer and the owner of the mill.
The city was the home of the Lenoir City Company and that building now serves as home of the Lenoir City Museum. By far, the most recognized landmarks are the Lenoir Cotton Mill and the iconic William Ballard House, built in 1821. Lenoir City is also the home of Lenoir City Utilities Company which serves customers in Loudon County and West Knox County.
The Lenoir City Park, on the waters of Lake Loudon just above the dam, is a much used park and hosts events throughout the year.
As the largest city in Loudon County the town continues to prosper and has become a much traveled route for people going to the Smoky Mountains. The Loudon County Visitor Center, near I-75, is well staffed and offers much information about the county and East Tennessee.
The residents of nearby Tellico Village have added much to the Lenoir City and Loudon County economy. Other large residential developments also contribute to the growth including Tennessee National and Rarity Bay. Many Knoxville professionals reside along the lake and in upscale communities such as Avalon.
Lenoir City is the “Phoenix” of our area, rising twice from disasters. In 1994 a tornado struck the downtown. In 1998 the Lenoir Hotel caught fire and the entire block was destroyed. The block was rebuilt to house the Roane State Community College, the Career Center and the Lenoir City Public Library.
Work is underway on construction of a new highway bridge over Fort Loudoun along Highway 321. The Highway 321 commercial district continues to grow and fill in from downtown to and beyond the intersection with Interstate 75.
“Our population since 2010 has grown by 50 percent,” Amber Scott, Assistant City Administrator, told The Focus.
She said the Fort Loudoun bridge completion date has been extended until the summer of 2017 and added that there’s an effort in the state legislature to retain the current bridge as a pedestrian causeway.
She said the growth of commerce along Highway 321 and the increasing tourist traffic passing through Lenoir City have been very welcomed.
“We have a grant for downtown and we’re planning a new streetscape that will include underground utilities, landscaping, brick pavers at the intersections, and more friendly downtown parking,” she said.
Phase One of that will start soon and the bids are being let. It will involve one block, from Kingston to A Street.
Upcoming events for Lenoir City include the “Cool Down Downtown” on August 13th at 6:30 that features an ice-cream social and contest at the First National Bank Parking Lot. The Downtown Street Festival is being planned for September 26th from noon until 4 p.m. and will feature arts, crafts, live music and classic cars.