South Knox landmark burns

A fire rips through the upper floors of the Parkway Hotel building in South Knoxville early Saturday morning. Source: KFD

Nearly 70 years of memories were gutted by an overnight fire that tore through the upper floors of the historic Parkway Hotel building in South Knoxville, authorities said Saturday.

The five-story building in the 3600 block of Chapman Highway had been a local landmark for generations. It hadn’t operated as a hotel, however, for several years and was believed to be vacant.

The blaze was reported at 12:25 a.m. Saturday and firefighters arrived to see flames shooting through the roof and thick black smoke pouring from the third-floor windows. 

Efforts to extinguish the blaze required all lanes of Chapman Highway to be temporarily closed, according to Knoxville Fire Department Capt. D.J. Corcoran. 

No one was injured in the fire, he said.

Built in 1951, the Parkway Hotel’s original owners hoped to tap into the vast numbers of tourists who were beginning to flock to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park as the nation entered its post-World War II economic boom, said Jack Neely, executive director of the Knoxville History Project. 

“It was a remnant of the era when Chapman Highway was the nation’s main route to America’s most popular national park, long before there were lots of hotels closer, in Pigeon Forge,” Neely said.

As more and more accommodations were built closer to the park in Sevier County, however, the Parkway was forced to transition to a residential hotel that primarily served the disabled and transient populations. 

Architecturally, the trapezoidal masonry building has always been something of an outlier among the strip malls and restaurants that line Chapman Highway. 

“It’s a pretty simple building. I’ve never been inside it, but the outside doesn’t look like they wasted a lot of money on design,” Neely said. “It’s different from most motels on Chapman Highway, though, mainly in its height. Maybe the only multi-story urban-style building on Chapman Highway. Built right by the street, like a downtown building would be.”

Corcoran said the structure was likely a total loss.

The cause of the fire was under investigation. 

J.J. Stambaugh can be reached at 

Published on August 23, 2021

Smoke and flames pour from the upper windows of the Parkway Hotel building. Source: KFD

KFD Battalion Chief Robby Copas, Incident commander during the Parkway Hotel fire.

Source: KFD

Published on August 21, 2021.