Saturday, February 16, 2013
Downtown Morristown's "Skywalk"
Morristown is a city in and the county seat of Hamblen County, Tennessee, United States. The population was 29,137 at the 2010 United States Census. It is the principal city of the Morristown, Tennessee Metropolitan Statistical Area, which encompasses all of Grainger, Hamblen, and Jefferson counties. The Morristown metropolitan area is also a part of the Knoxville-Sevierville-La Follette Combined Statistical Area.
The first European settler of what eventually became Morristown was farmer Gideon Morris. It is recorded in Goodspeed's "History of Tennessee" that Gideon, along with an unspecified number of his siblings, arrived in the area of present-day Morristown from the Watauga Settlement, a short-lived semi-autonomous settlement located in northeast Tennessee that was originally leased from the resident Cherokee tribes during the 1770's.
Records in North Carolina indicate that the Morris clan moved to the Watauga Settlement from North Carolina. According to Cora Davis Brooks, author of "History of Morristown 1787 - 1936":
"Gideon Morris was listed as one of the signers of the petition to annex Watauga to North Carolina in 1775, and in the Fall of the same year he served in Colonel Christian's expedition against the Indians. (N. C. Colonial Records, Vol. 10, p. 708) ( King's Mountain Men by Miss Kate White.)"
"In 1778 Gideon Morris appeared in court and swore allegiance ('History of South-west Virginia', by Summers). Lands were granted by the State of North Carolina to Gideon Morris in Washington, Greene and Hawkins counties. He probably settled on portions of these grants either in 1787 or 1791, which was included in Jefferson county and now in Hamblen county."
The settlement founded by Gideon has, as far as is known, always been called Morristown. No known records exist demonstrating land grants in the area to anyone aside from Gideon and his extended family. Jefferson County, located southwest of Hamblen County, possesses a record in the Jefferson County Court House of the results of the execution of Gideon Morris' will, which includes property deeded to John Morris in 1817 for a 400-acre (1.6 km²) tract of land originally granted to Gideon by the State of North Carolina, and presumably comprising only a portion of the original grant due to the known size of the Morris family at that time. The record further details the fact that Gideon lived on the 400-acre (1.6 km²) tract of land until his death, and the inference that he was buried in the Morris family graveyard ends the record.
The Morris family graveyard was located near the original family home. It is located on what is now called East Louise Avenue, south of Main Street in east Morristown, southeast of the Morristown-Hamblen Library. Today it consists of a single acre (4,000 m²) enclosed by a fence of iron, and has a simple sign affixed to its gate with nothing more than 'Morris' on the plate. The oldest date recorded on the burial slabs is for one John Morris, born in 1770. His wife, Rachel, is recorded nearby as having been born in 1786. Another notable stone marks the resting place of Mary Spoon, listed as born in 1779 and died in 1882, which would make her over one hundred three years old at the time of death.
Gideon was known to have had three sons with him when he arrived in the area of present-day Morristown. Their names are recorded as John, Gideon, and Shadrack.
One daughter of Gideon's by name of Elizabeth, is listed in official records as having married a man with the name of Hurst, and their son was James Hurst. At the present time, the name Hurst is fairly common in Hamblen and surrounding counties, with many of those bearing the name in prominent positions in those counties.
Morristown’s Main Street area, with an approximate area of a square mile, grew up directly above a main line railroad and a waterway known as Turkey Creek. In 1962, the creek flooded, nearly wiping out the downtown commercial district. At the same time, a suburban shopping mall on the city's west side was ruining the historic downtown district, and the city developed a plan to modernize Main Street by creating an "overhead sidewalk" that would turn the second floor of the existing buildings into a new "street" while serving as a canopy for the sidewalks below. Building owners spent nearly $2 million upgrading their properties and linking them to the ramp, while the government contributed over $5 million to build the ramp and place Turkey Creek underground. The project was completed in 1969, and the city fathers hoped it would turn the dilapidated central business district into a bright and enticing commercial haven and aesthetically place the downtown on par with any shopping center. In the end, however, the Skywalk was no match for air-conditioned and enclosed suburban shopping malls, and it has served as little more than a roof over the sidewalk and a remnant of the idealism of 1960's urban renewal. However, the overhead sidewalks still stand.
Morristown is embarking on a resurrection of the Skywalk as a social and commercial hub. A newly accessible ramp has been built up to the walkway, and it has been made a key element in a greenway master plan for the region. In an effort to renew public interest, city officials, the Downtown Morristown Association and the Morristown Area Chamber of Commerce hold events in the city's downtown or the "Skywalk District" throughout the year, mainly during the warmer months of May to September.
According to the 2010 Census, the city has a total area of 20.9 square miles (54.1 km²).Some of the area is covered with water, specifically Cherokee Lake, an artificial reservoir built by the Tennessee Valley Authority in the 1940's.
Morristown falls in the humid subtropical climate zone (Köppen climate classification Cfa), although it is not quite as hot as areas to the south and west of Tennessee due to the higher elevations. Summers are hot and humid, with July highs averaging 89 °F (32 °C), lows averaging 68 °F (20 °C), and an average of 44 days per year with temperatures above 90 °F (32 °C). Winters are generally cool, with occasional small amounts of snow. January averages a high of around 50 °F (10 °C) and a low of around 32 °F (0 °C), although low temperatures in the teens are not uncommon. The record high for Morristown, since 1991, is 103 °F (39 °C), while the record low is −2 °F (−19 °C). Annual precipitation averages around 46.8 in (1,189 mm), and average winter snowfall is 10.3 inches (26 cm).
Usage in Popular Culture
The 1981 film The Evil Dead was filmed in Morristown off of Kidwell's Ridge Road. The cabin featured in the film has since burned down, though the chimney remains.
The 2005 film Five Across the Eyes was filmed in Morristown.
In 1985 and 1987, Morristown had teams qualify for the Little League World Series; the 1985 team finished third. The two Morristown teams, the team from Nashville (1970), the team from the city of Jackson (1974), and the team from the city of Goodlettsville (2012), are the only Tennessee teams to advance to the series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
In 2007, Morristown won the Little League Softball World Series.
Notable Natives and Residents
Michael Abbott, Jr. – Stage and screen actor. Appeared as Cleaman Hayes in the award winning film Shotgun Stories.
Mark Bell – Award-winning journalist; grew up in Talbott and attended high school in Morristown.
Davy Crockett – Pioneer; grew up in and around Morristown, born in nearby Greene County, Tennessee.
Mike Ford – Former NASCAR crew chief for Denny Hamlin
Elaine Hendrix – Animal rights activist and award-winning TV/movie actress; attended middle and high school in Morristown.
Tim Horner – Professional wrestler
Josiah Leming – Contestant in the seventh season of American Idol who was eliminated in the top 50 but subsequently signed a recording contract with Warner Bros. Records.
Frankie Randall – Boxing star first to beat Julio César Chávez; has held 3 world titles; was raised in Morristown.
James "Little Man" Stewart – NFL player from 1995–2003, for the Jacksonville Jaguars and Detroit Lions; was raised in Morristown and played for Morristown Hamblen High School West and the University of Tennessee.
Uncle Am Stuart – early Country music fiddle player
Jane Wagner – Playwright and actress who wrote The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe
John A. Willis – Theatre and film book editor, theatre awards producer, actor, and educator. He is best known for editing the long-running annual publications Theatre World and Screen World.
Panther Creek State Park
Morristown-Hamblen High School East
Morristown-Hamblen High School West
Main campus of Walters State Community College
Satellite campus of King College
The Morristown-Hamblen Public Library website
Posted by Palmer at 3:51 PM