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Mead's Quarry

Updated: May 11

It's finals week, and I have quite a few papers to grade before I sleep, so tonight I just wanted to share a few photos (and a little history) from a trail run I did at Mead's Quarry last week.

Mead's Quarry is a really cool spot in South Knoxville. Today it is a small lake surrounded by more than 40 miles of trails, but in the late 1800s, it was a deep pit from which the Ross Marble Company extracted—you guess it!—marble. The site employed hundreds of workers that used steam-channeling machines to pry blocks of stone from the rock face. It was very dangerous and noisy work.

In its heyday, Mead's Quarry and other nearby quarries supplied marble for many structures in Knoxville, as well as for iconic buildings such as the J.P. Library in New York and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. From this, Knoxville earned the nickname "Marble City." Sadly, during the Great Depression, the demand for marble drastically declined. The quarry switched to extracting gravel and limestone for a time, but by the late 1970s, it had mostly been abandoned and become an illegal dumping ground.

Thankfully, the nearby Ijams (pronounced "I'ms") Nature Center got the idea to clean up the quarry and turn it into a nature preserve. Today the quarry is part of the Legacy Parks Foundation's "Knoxville Urban Wilderness." It is a favorite spot for local trail runners, mountain bikers, and swimmers, and every summer it's used for trail races and off-road triathlons. I've done the trail half marathon here a couple times. It's a tough race!

Mead's Quarry is named after Frank S. Mead, Ross Marble Company's first president.

Sources: The Knoxville History Project , Visit Knoxville, Ijams Nature Center

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