9 Lakes Region - Middle East Tennessee Tourism Council

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Historic Downtown Rockwood

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After the Civil War, Union officer and geologist John T. Wilder was traveling through Roane County and discovered an abundance of iron on Walden Ridge. He later returned with northern industrialists to begin a mining and milling operation called the Roane Iron Company in 1868. A city was established and as the population grew along with the iron company's importance, the city became known as Rockwood, named after the company's first President, William O. Rockwood. Rockwood began as a company town, and today's visitors can still see the symmetrical houses that the iron company built for its employees.

The Kingston Avenue Historic District, located near downtown east of Highway 27, represents the architecture from this rich history. This neighborhood was established east of the railroad tracks, during the time when the Roane Iron Company was just beginning to release its hold on the community. For the first time individuals could own the property on which they built their homes, independently of the Roane Iron Company. Many of these historic homes have been restored and the 1st weekend in December many of the homeowners open their doors to visitors during the Rockwood Christmas Home Tour.

Once the city had established itself as a thriving industrial center, the transformation of Kingston Avenue to the Dixie Highway brought automobile and tourist industries to the neighborhood in the forms of service stations and guest houses. For these reasons, the Kingston Avenue Historic District is significant and has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1997. This historic district includes N. Kingston Avenue, S. Kingston Avenue, and E. Rockwood Avenue.

Kingston Avenue, commonly known as the Dixie Highway and the primary road through Rockwood, became a major connector to much of east Tennessee. The Tennessee Highway Patrol built a station in 1936 in response to concerns for public safety along this route. State Troopers traveled every day by motorcycle from Rockwood to Bristol. Before radio communication became reliable, messages were left for them at local businesses by posting flags, alerting the Troopers they had messages. The station was used until 1952. Rockwood 2000, a local community group, secured a grant to restore the building and convert it into a museum. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it is believed to be the oldest THP station east of Nashville. Its architecture also makes it important. The building is Craftsman style, featuring a native Crab Orchard stone exterior and tile roof.

Downtown Rockwood draws visitors with its antique and specialty shops, home cooking and fine dining, a park in the downtown square, and an old-fashioned ice cream soda fountain from the 1890s - all within a city block. Here visitors can also enjoy Yonder Hollow, a music show where local bluegrass musicians gather every Friday night to play. Visitors will enjoy foot-stompin' fun in the style of O, Brother, Where Art Thou. The town enjoys the Thunder Road Festival in April, a fall festival in October, and during the 1st weekend in December the annual home tour complete with civil war re-enactments.

Rockwood is home to a muliple-use youth sports park that brings in local, regional and national tournaments throughout the year.

Industry continues to impact the economy of Rockwood, which is the home of the Roane County Industrial Park, a large shopping plaza, the Rockwood Municipal Airport and a newly developed industrial park - Plateau Partnership. High-end residential developments are springing up along the banks of Watts Bar Lake with breathtaking views.

Just outside the City of Rockwood nature enthusiasts will enjoy a drive up to the overlook at Mount Roosevelt State Forest. Here you will find breathtaking views of the valley, Watts Bar Lake, and the Great Smoky Mountains.

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