By Mike Steely
The Powell Community, that little town just north of Knoxville and between Clinton Highway and Interstate 75, holds a special place in our area’s history.
Powell stretches from the ridge south of the Walmart Shopping Center on Clinton Highway north to the Anderson County line. It’s in the county, not the city, you’ll see the “Welcome to Powell” sign as you head north down the hill as you approach Emory Road.
Recently the Emory Road bypass and bridge has taken most pass-through traffic east of its “downtown” and merchants may have suffered some economic loss. Yet the community is on the verge of a huge economic upswing.
Kroger is planning a 100,000-square-foot shopping complex along Emory Road between Central Street and I-75 at the site of the former Powell Airport. The development will not only include a large Kroger store but also adjoining businesses like Academy Sports, TJ Maxx, Michael’s, Kohl’s, Ross, Petco and a Regal Theatre. The 84-acre site will bring shoppers from all around north Knox County.
Weigel’s and DeRoyal Industries are the main employers and the Levi’s plant provided jobs until it closed in 2002. The former jean manufacturer site is now the home of Crown College. Weigel’s now has 63 stores and is the largest convenience store chain in our region.
Many people realize they are passing through Powell when they see the Airplane Service Station, which has been added to the National Register of Historic Places. A search is on now to find an occupant for the historic old filling station, which is ideal for a small office.
Unlike many other communities Powell has its own “downtown” and it continues to be the hub of that north Knox County area. Archie Campbell lived there in his retirement and is buried in the community.
Powell was settled two years before Knoxville became a town. Early settlers included Stockley Donelson, a brother-in-law of Andrew Jackson. His home, the Alexander Bishop House, still stands along Bishop Lane. Manifee Fort, built by Revolutionary War veteran John Manifee, sat along what is now Clinton Highway there.
There are several historic homes in the community and some may have been used during the Civil War as troop headquarters or hospitals.
The community is widely known for the enthusiastic support of Powell High School and attendance at the football stadium built in 2009.
The Powell Business and Professional Association is active in the area and meets every second Tuesday of each month at the Jubilee Banquet Facility off Callahan Drive. You can get more information about the group at firstname.lastname@example.org.