In 1908 Theodore Roosevelt was in the White House, the Wright Brothers had just successfully flown their first heavier-than-air machine, and the University of Tennessee campus was little more than a handful of buildings atop what is today known as “The Hill.” Ayres Hall would not be completed for another ten years. Only a few years earlier Cumberland Avenue and Kingston Pike had been dirt roads, just recently paved to the country line.
Twenty years earlier, in 1888, what is now Fort Sanders and the University of Tennessee campus had been separately incorporated as the City of West Knoxville, before being annexed by Knoxville in 1897. The area of old West Knoxville south of Cumberland to the river and east of “The Hill,” extending west to the railroad overpass, was still largely undeveloped farm land. By 1908, however, a few roads had been cut into the cow pastures and cornfields and a handful of homes had been built. In optimistic anticipation of future growth, an elementary school had recently opened.