Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Still Neighbors, After All These Years


Though no longer located in downtown Knoxville, back when Joseph Henry Harrison Ijams served as its principal up until his death in 1882, Tennessee's school for deaf students was situated at the intersection of Broadway and Henley, and Western Avenue and Summit Hill Drive.

Of course, I didn't realize that—until, that is, I followed the history of both the institution itself and the organization which purchased the school grounds in 1922.

By 1924, the school had moved from its downtown location to property in the Island Home area once developed by Knoxville entrepreneur Perez Dickinson—the same vicinity where Joseph Ijams' youngest son Harry was developing his own garden retreat. While buildings for the new school location were notably designed by Tennessee School for the Deaf alumnus Thomas Scott Marr, the principal's residence became the very home built in 1846 by Perez Dickinson

Meanwhile, back downtown—a scant four miles away—the organization which acquired the old school campus was the city of Knoxville, which converted the main classroom building into its new city hall. The city held its first meeting at the old school grounds in February of 1925, and remained at that location until 1980.

It was only through tracing the locations of the Tennessee School for the Deaf from its current location back through history, and simultaneously researching details on the institution which followed it at that downtown address, that I could find the original location of the school. That helped me determine the proximity to the old school campus of the Ijams family after Joseph's death, and that of Harry Ijams after his marriage to Alice.

While it may not have seemed necessary, in view of my purposes in researching family history, to go to such lengths regarding the old building and the new campus, that is only if we are asking the question, "Where did the Ijams family live and work?"

However, there is another question still in the back of my mind—though I doubt, from my distance, and given pandemic isolation, I'll be able to locate a satisfactory answer quite yet. That question is: was there another untold story behind the move of the deaf school from downtown Knoxville to its Island Home campus? Was it just coincidence that the school Harry's dad once directed would move next door to the home Harry established at Island Home Park?  

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