Pond Gap is proud of its history
By Mike Steely
The neighborhood of Pond Gap is located along Sutherland Avenue, between Marble City and Bearden. The residents there boast of their independence and unique history.
Named for a historic pond on Hollywood Avenue where drovers paused to water their stock, the area also has Pond Gap Elementary, many restaurants and businesses, and a very active Neighborhood Association with David Williams as president.
The Knoxville Focus caught up with Williams and asked several questions.
Tell us in general about your neighborhood.
Our boundaries are Third Creek in the east and Forest Park Blvd in the west. From railroad tracks in the south to north to Lonas Road. This includes Pond Gap Elementary and West High schools. The site of Knoxville’s first airport and first municipal airport, Ringling Bros Circus, Knoxville Drive-In Theater, Armory, and Sutherland Field are included. There is also a golf driving range and UT Apartments (now sports field).
The first time ‘Pond Gap’ appeared in records was in 1927 in a city directory as the name of a road. 1954 saw the road’s name changed to Hollywood Drive (I can find no council action for the name change). The first resident on Pond Gap Road was Tom Kelly. Many homes were built in the area before the interstate came through in the early 1960s.
With decades of traffic increasing and the community wanting a greater voice on development and related issues, a neighborhood association was formed and incorporated in 2001. The Pond Gap Area Neighborhood Association Inc. is a nonprofit public benefit corporation.
Who are the members of your neighborhood association?
For 22 years I have served as president. I am a fourth-generation resident. Charles Newman Drive is named for my great-granddad who came to the area and built a house in 1929. Roberta Potter’s family goes back to the 1960s and has a Marble City connection. Potter heads up the Marble City Historical Society. Many Marble City residents played baseball with Pond Gap players at Sutherland Field. Pat Kelly’s family sold the land for Pond Gap School. Carl Cook was a classmate of mine at Pond Gap and West. His family has commercial properties in the neighborhood. He is a student of area history.
How often does the neighborhood group meet?
We meet monthly on the third Thursday at Dead End BBQ from 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. but come early for food and fellowship. All are welcome. We publicize our meetings with yard signs posted throughout the community.
What are the neighborhood association’s goals?
We want traffic calming on Hollywood and Papermill. Intersections need to be safer for pedestrians. We want to involve students in the study of our neighborhood’s history and how to celebrate it.
We have posted neighborhood entrance signs to outline our area’s history. Banners hanging near neighborhood businesses celebrate diversity at Sutherland Field (1930s-50s). We’ve helped businesses locate in Pond Gap by going to planning commission meetings. We are looking to place banners on KUB poles and seek an area on the greenway for signage to honor Black and white baseball players at Sutherland Field and look into naming that link between Sutherland and the Bearden Village Greenway.
While failing to get the Forest Heights Bridge rebuilt, we were successful in getting out of the Bearden Village Plan so control of development went into the hands of Pond Gap folks. We are looking to work with Marble City Historical Society to honor the memory of the many small neighborhood grocery stores on Sutherland from Hollywood to Concord Street.
We have worked with the art department at West High for a neighborhood history mural at Red Onion. We want to involve more businesses in projects like banners at Emma’s and Red Onion and meetings at Dead End BBQ. The city unveiled our ‘Home Run Alley’ signage. We dedicated the Medal of Honor Monument at the Armory.
What are the attractions in the neighborhood?
Many fine restaurants populate Pond Gap- Mexican, BBQ, Middle Eastern, home style, and pizza. Neighborhood markets, auto repair, home improvement, transportation, discount, and light industrial shops dot the landscape. We do seek space for a small park.