This “house with many eyes” witnessed the birth and growth of Knoxville, housed Tennessee governors and prominent families, and later became slum housing on the Knoxville riverfront. It was saved by early preservationists from destruction, and survives today to tell the stories of Tennessee's birth and growth.
William Blount, a signer of the United State Constitution, chose to build his home in Knoxville after signing the Treaty of the Holston on the banks of the Holston River just a few hundred yards away from the Mansion’s location. Blount’s Knoxville mansion would serve as the territorial capitol, as well as a family home. The care in construction, and the size and shape of Blount Mansion reflects Blount’s position as a Territorial Governor, head of a prominent family, and influential land speculator.
The house was made of sawn lumber to meet Mary Blount’s requirement of “a proper wooden house.” Unlike most homes built around what would become Knoxville, Blount’s home was made of timber rather than rough logs or hand-hewn timbers. Nails were brought from the Blount family’s naillery near Tarboro, North Carolina, and glass was brought to Knoxville from Richmond, Virginia. The Mansion was originally constructed as a hall and parlor house with two rooms downstairs and half story loft. The hall was the main room for family activity and for guests, and the parlor, was private space for the family. Upstairs there was a single sleeping chamber, which was roughly finished.
Research on the historic structure and archaeology evidence suggests that the west wing was added to the Mansion first sometime after 1810. It was an outbuilding, moved from its foundation and attached to the Mansion wall, where it became the west wing. The east wing, or formal parlor, was added last sometime before 1820.
The detached kitchen is a recreation of a common eighteenth-century kitchen, located on the site of the original structure. The Governor’s Office was a typical “law office” of the 1790s, built right on the edge of State Street. The cooling shed, was excavated during an archaeological dig in the 1950s, and the shed roof was rebuilt under the supervision of the National Park Service.
President George Washington appointed Blount to be Governor of the Territory of the United States South of the River Ohio. He governed from the home of William Cobb at Rocky Mount, until he concluded the Treaty of the Holston. Then he announced his capital would move to Knoxville, a city that did not yet exist, and construction began on Blount Mansion in 1792.
For more biographical information on William Blount, please visit the National Archives.
Another good biography is on the U.S. Army's Web Site.