The Chimney: Fact or Fancy?
around 1900, this old stone chimney, worn concrete steps, and some slabs of a concrete foundation are all that remains
of what I was told was a Dance Hall, but was probably just a Socialite's house. Now the home of Fence Swifts,
birds, and field mice, it stands in quiet solitude high upon a knob over-looking
West Bristol . Actually it stands upon one of a pair of similar sized knobs,and yes, I am quite familiar with it. I was about
10 or 11 years old when some other kids first took me here. I was in awe at the sheer size of the chimney and, after
I was told "The Story", I became a bit "leery" as well.
Chapman was the kid who imparted to me the details surrounding The Chimney and, how it came to be that the house/dance
hall was never rebuilt.
About 100 years ago , this was a Dance Hall and upon one particular night, , they were having a large party here with numerous
guests from the "richer levels" of Bristol Society. A few guests had brought their children and
one bored young boy happened to see "something strange" when he gazed out one of the
front windows. A rather large and mis-shapen "Dark Shape" had crept out of the deep shadows and vanished behind a pine
tree. Moments later, it detached itself from the darker shadows near the base of the tree and , flitted over to
another tree. As the boy watched, the "Dark Shape" continued these stealthy maneuvers in an erratic course towards
the house. Soon it became too close to the side of the house and went out of the boy's sight.
long moments passed...
and then, the boy noticed an eerie glow
from near where the "Dark Shape" had last been seen. The glow grew and spread until it became a fiery blaze lighting
up the entire ridgeline. Flames licked at the sides of the frame house and ignited the wood. Smoke filled the house and the
guests began screaming and rushing outside. The house was too far from any water supply and in those days fire departments
were practically non-existent. As a result, the house burned to the ground. Fortunately, everyone escaped largely unharmed.
standing outside and watching the flaming house collapse, the boy happened to catch a last glimpse of the "Dark Shape" as
it scurried away well beyond the fire's light. He told several people of the incident , but at first, they dismissed
it as childish imaginings. Later, when the cause of the blaze was ruled to be "suspicious", the boy was questioned
about how the "Shape" looked or appeared and all the boy could say was, "it was unrecognisable...a black shape....just a vague shadowy form creeping through the woods around the house."
**The gist of "The Story" was, ( according to Junior)
some supernatural "thing" had set the blaze, some evil demon sent forth to do a foul deed, perhaps to drive the invading People
from It's woods. It's no wonder the place gave me goose bumps for years. For unknown reasons, the house was never rebuilt,
and The Chimney stands today as a grim reminder of that night , and as a haunting memory to me.
It does make for a nice story with a spooky "feel"
,though I never did learn from whence Junior got the tale.
|My Son in The Chimney @1993
ANY OF THIS TRUE?
According to Robert Loving's book, Double
Destiny, in the early 1900's, Oliver Taylor had built a recreation area and outdoor theater in the Knobs in West
Bristol. There was a picnic area, refreshment stand, and a large pavilion with a stage. The Bristol streetcar line ran to
the foot of the Knob and from there wooden walkways led to the center of the park. The pavilion could seat about 500
In 1902, great improvements were
made to the Clifton Heights Park and this statement was issued:
The purpose of the management of the Park is to furnish
Bristol and vicinity a place of innocent amusement, conducted in a first class and orderly way, where ladies and children
can go and spend their afternoons and evenings, and where picnic parties can be held."
One night during a performance
of "the Floradora Sextettes" at the Harmeling Opera House, in the Winter season, a boy came running into the manager's
office and informed Oliver Taylor that Clifton Heights Park was burning. Taylor ran to the street and boarded a
west bound streetcar. But by the time he reached the Park, it was beyond saving.
** So, there was indeed a fire and from what I can gather,
it's cause was never discovered and the Park never rebuilt.
BUT...according to Loving's
story , the Park's location was where Roy McClure later built his home (which still stands today) , on a high Knob over-looking
the Anderson School on 9th St. The Chimney is on westward down the ridge line above 24th Street's intersection with
some additional clarification...Seems a Doctor Kimmons owned a large portion of the Knobs and had a house built
upon the knobs in the West portion of Bristol. He named the house "Twin Peaks" and was known to have parties
on a regular basis. The house burned to the ground during one such party and (reportedly), Roy McClure built the
house that presently occupies the site. You won't find much mention , if any, about Doc Kimmons in most of the local
history books. Seems he was a man's man, and a ladie's man, and was much disliked by the
other local doctors. His practice was shunned and disdained by many - Kimmons was an abortionist, Bristol's first.
|1910 View from 12th St Water Tower
|2204 West StateSt. - where I grew up (1948-66)
What's this have to do with bottles?
Given the "history" of The Chimney,
as a bottle collector I had to go up there and look around. I located a brick-lined privy, which was empty. Scouted around
a bit and located broken circa 1900 druggists bottles. I never did find any signs
of a real dump, but while looking around the place I couldn't help but recall Junior's "Story"....and the hairs on
the back of my neck stood up (once again).
*** When I was about 13 or 14, & living
at 2204 West State St., a fire broke out one afternoon in Pete Moore's storage shed, also located in the Knobs and about
mid-way between the Clifton Park/McClure House site and The Chimney. We could see the blaze and smoke from our yard.
I would imagine that back upon that night when Clifton Heights Park burned it was a sight for all Bristol to see.
NEXT PAGE >>>>
Sources - Bibliography
i) Library of King College, Bristol,Tenn.
- Newspaper Microfilms
ii) Bristol,TN-VA Public Library - Newspaper
Microfilms & City Directories
iii) 1904 Bristol Herald Industrial
iv) Bristol-Goodson Industry &
Resources in 1885 -W.F.Henry/Reporter
v) Witness To An Epoch -
vi) Double Destiny
- Robert Loving
vii) Historic Sites of Sullivan County
- Muriel Spoden
viii) Bristol Tennessee-Virginia : A History
- V.N. "Bud" Phillips
ix) Spirits & Medicinal Bottles
of Bristol, Tenn.-Va. - Charlie Barnette
x) The Passing Years
- Bristol Historical Association
xi) City of Bristol @ 1915
xii) A Pictorial History -
Bristol Historical Association
xiii) Whiskey, An American Pictorial History
- Oscar Getz
xiv) Prohibition, 13 Years That Changed
America - Edward Behr
xv) The Shadow Of The Bottle -
Review & Herald Publishing Co.
xvi) Historic Sullivan - Oliver Taylor
xvii) One Year At A Time - Bristol - 1907
- Lonnie & Kim Blevins
xviii) Honoring Our Heritage: Faces & Places
From The Past -
& Kim Blevins and Roy & Carolyn Williams
xvix) Between the States: Bristol Tennessee -
Virginia During the Civil War - V.N. "Bud" Phillips
xx) Pioneers in Paradise - Bristol,
Tenn-Va. - V.N. "Bud" Phillips
xxi) A Good Place to Live - Bristol,
Tenn-Va. - V.N. "Bud" Phillips
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