According to local Knoxville legend, the part of town now known as Bearden got its name from a bear den that early pioneers stumbled across in the area. Apparently somewhere along the way someone got pretty drunk, because they started pronouncing it “BEER-den” instead of “BARE-den.”
In fact, the West Knoxville community of Bearden isn’t named after bears at all. Or beers. Or bare beer-drinking bears for that matter.
Bearden gets its name from Marcus DeLafayette Bearden, a former Knoxville mayor and Union veteran. Bearden also went on to help found Lakeshore Mental Health Institute, which lies on Bearden’s south side. Bearden (the man) should not be mistaken for his cousin Marcus DeLafayette Bearden (yes, they had the exact same name). The second Bearden (the man) was a railroad investor and steamboat captain who was also part-owner of a paper mill on what is now Papermill Road in Bearden (the town).
Confused? Don’t worry. Bearden has a simple solution to your troubles. Go shopping.
Though it’s probably more accurate to say that West Knoxville begins in Sequoyah Hills to the east, Bearden unofficially begins Knoxville’s western shopping district. That’s not to say that South, East and North Knoxville don’t have excellent retail shopping. They do. But West Knoxville can affectionately be described, as local songwriter Todd Steed put it, as “where the mall never really stops.”
Bearden shopping is a bit classier than it is in other parts of West Knoxville. You’ll find quaint, upscale, suburban-looking strip malls in Bearden that invite a closer look. Shopping centers have names like Homberg Place and Colony Place and Mercedes Place. The shopping here is varied, with lots of antiques and collectibles and interior shops. Galleries and restaurants are also plentiful, many of them midrange to upscale. Several of the designs (or redesigns) of commercial shopping centers in Bearden are less than 10 years old.
Bearden stretches down Kingston Pike, the primarily east-west highway that travels from downtown Knoxville to the western edge of Knox County. Although where Bearden begins and ends is largely debatable, the core of the community extends from about the top of Bearden Hill to the west to the edge of the Sequoyah Hills area further east (approximately the 6600 block of Kingston Pike). Atop Bearden Hill is Knollwood, an antebellum house constructed for Major Robert Reynolds in the mid-19th century (Confederate Gen. James Longstreet used the home as his Civil War headquarters in 1863).
Shopping isn’t the only way to keep yourself occupied in Bearden. If you’re looking for exercise that doesn’t involve sliding your credit card, you might consider the 2.1-mile Bearden Village Greenway, which connects West High School and Bearden Elementary school along Sutherland Avenue. The Bearden Village Greenway in turn connects to the 4.5-mile Third Creek Greenway.
Off Lyons View Pike, you’ll find Cherokee Country Club. This full-scale country club offers golf, tennis, bowling, swimming, food, beverages and exquisite views for everyone in the family.
If you’re looking for a home, you might consider one of several subdivisions in the Bearden area. The residential streets are hilly and thick with trees. The area north of Kingston Pike has attractive post-World War II homes in subdivisions like Forest Hills, Forest Heights and Highland Hills.
But if you’re looking for bears, you’ll probably need to take a trip to East Knoxville to the zoo. Bearden doesn’t have many.