First Campus Site and Building

The site and building of Blount College (the original name of the University of Tennessee) was on Knoxville’s Gay Street, where the Burwell Building and Tennessee Theatre now stand. Completed and open by 1799, it was a frame structure located on the entire block—four acres of land. The trustees of the college had purchased the site from James White for $30. The deed is dated June 4, 1795.

The building was paid for by public subscription (i.e., contributions from the trustees and other citizens). The college operated in the home of its president, Dr. Samuel Carrick, before the college building was completed in 1799. When the college (by then East Tennessee College) closed for a decade following the death of its first president in 1809, a new school was opened in the building by J. N. Smith, a Knoxville minister-teacher. The school offered reading, writing, arithmetic, and English grammar. By 1817 Hampden-Sydney Academy was operating in the building, and in 1817 the building became the site of Knoxville’s first library. David A. Sherman was a library founder and the first librarian.

In 1820 East Tennessee College reopened its doors in the building as a result of a temporary consolidation with Hampden-Sydney. Rev. David Sherman headed both institutions and continued to serve as librarian. (Students could check out books upon payment of six and a quarter cents per volume.) Nineteen or 20 students enrolled in the college in 1820, and 30 enrolled in 1821. The trustees dissolved the union with Hampden-Sydney on October 7, 1826, and continued to operate in the building until the move to the Hill.

Following the opening of the institution in its new location in 1828, the Blount College building was leased to Knoxville Female Academy (1829) and then to Hampden-Sydney Academy (1830). It was sold to Hugh L. McClung in 1832.

The Daughters of the American Revolution placed a bronze tablet on the Burwell Building in 1924, commemorating the site of Blount College. The ceremony included a principal address by US Senator Lawrence Tyson.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Title First Campus Site and Building
  • Author
  • Keywords First Campus Site and Building
  • Website Name Volopedia
  • Publisher University of Tennessee Libraries
  • URL
  • Access Date May 27, 2022
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update October 7, 2018