West Knoxville grew explosively in the 50 years after World War II, much of that along a 1790s route known as Kingston Pike. The road to Kingston, county seat of Roane County, it was long the first leg of the trip to Nashville, but also a semi-rural residential address for families, several of them affluent. By 1920, the old road served as a junction of two national routed, the Dixie and Lee Highways, leading from the upper Midwest to Florida, and from Washington to New Orleans, respectively. For decades, much of the Pike’s business was tourist-related, motor courts and eye-catching restaurants. Today, it’s East Tennessee’s most commercial 15-mile strip, but if you look beyond the chain-franchise signage, you can see glimpses of the past, like a few antebellum houses and mid-century motels now used for other purposes.
The best -preserved historic part of Kingston Pike is the tree-shaded mile just west of UT, between Neyland Drive and Lyons View, which includes several century-old brick homes. With only a few exceptions, most Kingston Pike past there is emblematic of America’s commercial sprawl, through a few spots, like Homberg Place and Bearden Hill, make interesting exceptions. West Town Mall (1972), the region’s first covered shopping mall, is still in business at Kingston Pike and Morrell Road. Other westerly routes include 19th-century Middlebrook Pike, jus to the north of I-r0–it has no particular destination, but empties into the Pellissippi Parkway area–and Western Avenue, which angles to the north just enough to become Oak Ridge Highway, the World War II-era route that connects to the once-famous Atomic City.