Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Touring the First Planned City

So, we're sitting in a hotel in Fairbanks, Alaska, talking about our plans to travel the Crooked Road when we hear another person say, "I know the Crooked Road."

This began a conversation with Betty McLain that wove among the activities of a nine-day Elderhostel program last November. We learned that Betty is from Kingsport, TN, and we received several suggestions about things to do when we reach the Bristol, TN/VA-Kingsport, TN portion of our Crooked Road travels.

We made it a point to get together with Betty (left, in the photo) as soon as I was healthy. After watching hummingbirds feed and play in her beautiful, wooded back yard and benefitting from Betty's Southern Hospitality in her warm, comfortable home, we toured the historic portions of Kingsport.

Known as the "Model City," "Kingsport (with its unique layout of areas for commerce, churches, housing, and industry) was the first professionally planned and privately financed city in twentieth-century America" (Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture). The main street through the downtown shopping district leads from the old train station (right) directly to a round-about known as Church Circle with its "spoke and wheel" street pattern. Here, four large, brick churches with beautiful white steeples line the circle. Two of them are pictured below (First Baptist, left; First Presbyterian, right; not shown are the Broad Street Methodist and the First Methodist churches).

In the four blocks between the two cornerstones of the district are restored and renovated stores, from antique shops to up-scale restaurants.

The blocks have combined restored buildings with sculptures at each intersection. Here the State Theater, which is in the early stages of restoration, is shown with a work of Hanna Jubran entitled "The Four Elements." Combined with the trees that line the wide street, the result is a very pleasant setting that makes one want to linger in the area.

While I lingered, I noticed the artwork on the buildings along this stretch. The small touches, such as the figure on the top of the Progress Building and the colorful designs in the brick storefronts, become significant additions to the beauty below.

Similarly, the logo shown at the right stood out even with its subtle tones of gray because of the peaceful settng below.

The banners hanging from the buildings state "Downtown Synergy;" the work occurring below the banners fulfills that message.

No comments: