history of the phoenix
418 S. Gay Street...
in his book standard history of knoxville, tennessee, published in 1900, the legendary editor and founder of the knoxville journal, william rule wrote, “the finest building of the whole is the phoenix… the highest building on gay street and, in fact, in the city of knoxville.” although the phoenix may no longer be the tallest building downtown, we think it's still one of the grandest.
like the legendary bird that rose from the ashes, the phoenix building has endured and emerged from two catastrophic fires. the original building, ornamented with a stone phoenix, was burned during what is now commonly referred to as “the million-dollar fire” of 1897, an infamous blaze that killed three people and destroyed an entire city block. the current building was erected in 1899 to house cullen & newman queensware wholesalers. other notable former occupants include a confederate prisoner of war, an fbi agent, and fowler bros. co., the iconic gay street furniture store which made its home in the building for well over 50 years.
on december 29, 1999, 11 years after fowler’s departure and 100 years after its initial rebirth, the building suffered another major fire. as a result, the top two floors of the building as well as its roof required extensive repairs. the renovations were painstakingly completed by local developers wayne blasius and skip bibb. blasius and bipp, completely unaware of the building’s original name, decided to call the newly renovated mixed-use development the phoenix. in the spirit of the developer’s original intent, the phoenix pharmacy & fountain opened in 2016 as a 1930s-era neighborhood pharmacy and authentic soda fountain. the timeless marriage of prescriptions, sundries, ice cream and soda puts downtown knoxville one step closer to a walkable, self-sustainingcommunity. in in addition to the pharmacy and soda fountain, the phoenix is now home to, prestige cleaners, clayton bank, covenant health, an urgent care clinic, paragon healthcare, the rutherford weinstein law group, and a number of private residences.