Permanent Public Art

Downtown Kingsport

Downtown Kingsport is the setting for the majority of the city’s outdoor sculptures crafted by local and national artists from a variety of fascinating materials.

Sculptures

Murals

Kingsport Carousel

Inside the Pal’s Roundhouse, you’ll find a vintage, menagerie-style carousel with more than 30 hand-carved animals ready to take kids on a spin for just a dollar per ride.

Click here to for operating times and rental information for the Kingsport Carousel.

Traffic Control Boxes

Archive Photos

Broad & Center Street

Three views are featured on this box.

  1. View of Downtown Kingsport taken from Cement Hill.
  2. View down Broad Street – you can see Church Circle!
  3. Main Street businesses – some of the earliest buildings in the city.
Clay & Center Street

The old building for the Public Works Department. Kingsport city workers pose with an early model water tank and street flusher. Undated

Revere & Center Street

Pal’s Sudden Service, Pal’s for short, is a regional fast food restaurant chain located in northeast Tennessee and southwest Virginia. Most of the stores are concentrated in the Tri-Cities, Tennessee area. Pal’s was opened by Fred “Pal” Barger in 1956. The first location was Revere Street in Downtown Kingsport.

In 2001, Pal’s became the first restaurant chain in the country to earn the Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award.

Clinchfield & Center Street

The Texas Steer, known for their giant hamburger, was originally owned by Bill Harrell and opened for business at 420 W. Center Street in 1950. Guy Williams became owner of the business around 1953. The Texas Steer was a popular place for local teenagers to hang out at night.

Patrons could eat in the restaurant or in their cars in the 60 outdoor spaces with two-way speakers and menus.

It closed in 1975.

Press & Clinchfield Street

The Kingsport Hosiery Mill was incorporated on March 13, 1917. The four story building was located on the corner of Press (formerly Reedy) and Clinchfield Streets. When the plant began operations, it employed around 85 people and could produce over 26,000 pairs of finished hose daily. Unlike other industries being established in Kingsport at the same time, the hosiery mill provided employment to young women.

Employment at the hosiery mill continued to increase and by 1928 the plant employed more than 400 people of which 296 of those employees were women. The lunch counter at the mill served free hot coffee daily at noon. In 1932 the Kingsport Hosiery Mill closed and the building was taken over by the Miller-Smith Hosiery Mill, which remained in operation until 1943.

The hosiery mill property was bought by Dobyns-Taylor Hardware in 1945 and was used as a warehouse for the store. Dobyns-Taylor also rented out parts of the building to the Kingsport Press. Dobyns-Taylor closed in 1985 but the company continued using the building as warehouse space. The mill was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2020.

West Sullivan & Clay Street

The Homestead Hotel, built in 1919 by the Grant Leather Company, served as a clubhouse for employees and executives of the company. The clubhouse had 85 rooms and operated their own cafeteria. The building was located on the corner of Sullivan and Clay Streets. It was later remodeled into a hotel and housed guests for several decades. The Homestead Hotel was torn down in the 1990s.

Press & Clinchfield Street

Kingsport Press

The Kingsport Press is a prime example of this integrated industrial production. A book published by the press could be considered the ultimate Kingsport product. The paper used at the Kingsport Press was made across the street at Kingsport Pulp (later Mead). The book cloth used was made by Holliston Mills which was located adjacent to the Kingsport Press. The book cloth made at Holliston Mills was manufactured from the gray cloth produced by Borden Mills.

In 1922, the J.J. Little and Company of New York established a book manufacturing plant in Kingsport under the trade name, Kingsport Press. Louis M. Adams was president. The plant was built to produce and distribute a series of small clothbound non-copyrighted classics to Woolworth’s. The books were sold in the chain of five and dime stores and by mail order for 10 cents a copy.  The Kingsport Press initially began in vacant buildings that had been constructed by the Simmons Hardware Company to manufacture harness and saddlery. The Kingsport Press purchased the property and buildings as a home for their new book manufacturing plant. The property, the size of a city block, was bound by Center, Clinchfield, Roller, and Reedy Streets.

Once in operation, the Kingsport Press was able to manufacture low cost books for mass distribution. In January 1923, the Kingsport Press received their first order; 50,000 copies of the New Testament. Around 1925 the company was reorganized and became The Kingsport Press, Incorporated. It was at this time that Colonel E.W. Palmer succeeded Louis M. Adams as president of the company.

The Kingsport Press once produced “America’s Smallest Book.” The miniature books were designed by employee Hal “Red” Newman in 1927 as part of a training class. Students were required to plan and prepare a project before graduating from the course. Management was impressed with the small book and recognized it would make a clever novelty item to use as advertisement.

In July 1969, the Kingsport Press merged with Arcata National Corporation, the nation’s second largest printing firm. Operating under the same management, the Kingsport Press became an autonomous, wholly owned, subsidiary. Headquartered in Menlo Park, California, Arcata National Corporation provided printing and information services. The company also managed Arcata Redwood Company, a timber holding and lumber processing operation.

In 1985, Arcata National Corporation changed its name to Arcata Graphics. Arcata Graphics was purchased by Quebecor Printing in the 1990s. Through this purchase Quebecor also acquired the Kingsport Press. Quebecor, founded in 1954 and headquartered in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, was an international printing and communications company. Quebecor Printing merged with World Color Press in 1999, creating Quebecor World.

The Kingsport Press closed its Hawkins County Plant in 2001 and closed the Kingsport plant in 2006. In 2007, Quebecor donated the Kingsport site, which included the 1 million square-foot facility and 20 acres of land, to the City of Kingsport. The property was redeveloped and is now home to the Kingsport Farmers Market, the Kingsport Carousel, and various businesses.

Youth Artists

Young artists from Dobyns-Bennett High School have made bland traffic control boxes around the city far more interesting with colorful, vibrant paintings!

The Learning Curve

“Learning Curve” was commissioned by the Public Art Committee and executed through a partnership with Kingsport Tomorrow. Lynn Basa from Chicago, Illinois, is the lead artist and designer. The site-specific work provides benches and a shade canopy along a curving and expanding path. Materials used in production of the piece reference the traditional materials manufactured in Kingsport including brick and concrete. The bricks for the piece were repurposed from several buildings of the historic Kingsport Press. The shade canopy features Eastman Chemical Company’s latest monomer Tritan in vibrant hues of blue, yellow, and orange. The shade canopy casts a shadow on the surrounding area as the sun shines through. The pattern of the canopy reflects the historic design of Kingsport’s center of town as designed by planner John Nolen in 1917. Likewise the paving pattern in the sidewalk plaza references the path of education leading to broadened horizons. The installation was completely crafted by Kingsport artists including Appalachian Ironworks, Limestone Masonry, and Solid Living Design.

In her proposal, Lynn Basa commented, “Materials are symbolic, that’s why, for Kingsport, I would like to create an artwork that weds the town’s past with its present and future. One of the first things that clued me in to the fact that Kingsport was no ordinary small town was when I came upon the 1919 street plan [designed by John Nolen], as elegant and rational as any world capital. As I researched further, it became evident that a direct line can be drawn between the strategic thinking of Kingsport’s leaders 100 years ago in creating the country’s first modern industrial town plan and the 2001 ‘Educate and Grow’ initiative as a solution to the changing economy – well in advance, it should be noted, of today’s economic crisis.” Basa has designed public art projects throughout the United States including “The Great Circle Route,” terrazzo, ceramic mosaic, and fiber art in the Indianapolis Airport; the Glendale, Arizona History Walk, glass mosaic; the Grove Mosaic and Shade Canopy, glass mosaic and laser-cut aluminum; among many others. Basa is also the author of “The Artist’s Guide to Public Art” and is a regular instructor for the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

The Kingsport Public Art Committee was able to announce completion of this public art installation piece in 2010, through Kingsport’s Percent for Art for the Kingsport Higher Education Center and surrounding Academic Village. Location: the corner of Clay and Market Streets and at the Kingsport Higher Education Center.

Renaissance Arts Center & Theatre

1200 E. Center St. Kingsport TN 37660

(423) 392-8414