Fountain City is one of those neighborhoods that actually still feels like a neighborhood.
Despite being intersected by bustling Broadway Avenue, the North Knoxville community manages to hold on to that small town feeling. Perhaps that’s because Fountain City was a small town until 1962, when it was annexed by Knoxville.
Fountain City was established in 1788 by John Adair, a Revolutionary War veteran who went on to serve in the Senate, U.S. House of Representatives and as governor of Kentucky (fortunately for him, not all at once). The settlement was originally known as Adair’s Fort. It was used as a depot for protecting emigrant families traveling west to settle in what is now Nashville.
Today Fountain City still maintains that historical pride (markers and signs telling the former town’s history aren’t hard to find). But if you aren’t a history buff, you’ll still appreciate the quaint charm and family-friendly appeal.
The streets of Fountain City are walkable and filled with small businesses, schools and churches. One could easily spend a morning here shopping at locally-owned businesses, followed by a meal at a lunch spot and a lazy afternoon in one of its many parks. Litton’s Market and Restaurant is a fixture here, with burgers and deserts that people have been raving about for decades.
Fountain City Lake may be the neighborhood’s most notable attraction. Designed by civil engineer F.G. Phillips, the heart-shaped body of water features a large fountain gushing water skyward at its center. The lake attracts hand-holding couples who aren’t afraid of inhaling gnats or of the water’s murky top layer of feathers. Its serene banks may also be the only place in Knoxville where you’ll ever harbor secret fears of being devoured by waterfowl (and the fish swimming in the water easily rival the ducks in size). But be warned -- controversy still exists in some quarters over whether to call this water a lake or a pond. Choose your wording carefully or you could be going for an unplanned swim.
A stone’s throw away is Fountain City Park, another premier destination. This large eight-acre park was used for religious camp meetings at least as early as the 1830s. Union veterans of the Civil War were also known to use the park for reunions. Today it’s a perfect place for a picnic, to walk your dog or to bring children to play. The park has swing sets and a colorful playground with slides and monkey bars. Covered pavilions are surrounded by ancient maples and oaks. And the stream flowing through the park is meant for your wading pleasure. The park is circled by a paved walking path, with freestanding “porch swings” punctuating the route. (Just make sure you don’t bring a skateboard — God help you if you skateboard.)
Other Fountain City attractions include Fountain City Ballfields, with seven baseball and softball fields, four tennis courts and a batting cage; Fountain City Recreation Center, featuring indoor basketball; Fountain City Art Center, where you can take such classes as oil painting and bookmaking; and the forthcoming Fountain City Skate Plaza, a proposed 7,200-square-foot, two-level park that will be usable for skateboarding, BMX freestyle bike riding and inline skating.
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