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‘Full speed ahead’ for Farragut’s birthplace preservation group

Local residents are taking two approaches to saving the birthplace of Adm. James David Glasgow Farragut off Northshore Drive.

Nic Arning, Farragut resident and chair of the Knoxville Historic Zoning Commission, has been working to save the site for nearly two years, soon after the property owner decided to develop the land into a subdivision.

Arning said he was “still working to save the property,” largely through discussions with the property owner’s attorney.

“We’re trying to figure something out. … I haven’t given up on it,” he added.

Lylan Fitzgerald, whose late husband, John, was a prominent landowner in West Knox County, still lives on the site of Farragut’s birthplace at Lowe’s Ferry.

Earlier this month, Knoxville-Knox County Metropolitan Planning Commission gave final approval to Stoney Point Farm, the subdivision Fitzgerald plans to develop on the property.

The site contains the foundations of the cabin in which Farragut is believed to have been born, as well as a historical marker dedicated by the Bonny Kate Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1900.

Arning said saving the entire piece of property likely was completely off the table, now that the subdivision had been approved. Instead, Arning said he’d like to see public access to the DAR marker, which lies on Fitzgerald’s private property.

“If we could get it open as a part of Admiral Farragut Park, with just a walking trail in there, where no vehicles could come in, just a bike path at the very most … that should be doable,” he said.

“That’s what I’m hoping for,” he added.

Fitzgerald’s attorney, Arthur Seymour, said an extension of the park “would be up to Knox County,” although he added Fitzgerald was unlikely to sell or deed part of her property to the County to allow access to the marker.

But extending Admiral Farragut Park also is West Knox County resident Margot Kline’s goal, although she’s approaching it a little differently.

Kline is working especially close with Knox County, but is advocating Farragut’s birthplace as a site of both local and national significance.

“I think Adm. Farragut is probably the most famous person born in Knox County,” Kline said.

“And he’s more of a national figure because of his prominence in the Navy … and the Civil War,” she added.

Kline also is proud of the fact that Adm. Farragut was Hispanic; his father, Jorge, was a Spanish immigrant who was granted a license by Knox County to operate Lowe’s Ferry in 1797.

“He was one of the influential early settlers of what became Tennessee,” Kline said.

“It isn’t well known that Admiral Farragut’s father was Hispanic. … Because the Hispanic population is growing, we need to be sensitive to acknowledging that,” she added.

Kline said she’s looking at all possible venues of funding to save the site: from TVA to Knox Heritage to donations to national grant money.

“I’ve been in touch with a large number of people from the federal level to the state level to TVA who seem to think there might be some grant money out there; it’s just a question of how to tap into it,” she said.

“It’s a really significant site and is almost certainly eligible to be included in the National Historic Register,” she added.

Arning said he’d still like to see an architectural dig on the site. A previous superficial dig revealed what is believed to be Farragut’s home, built near the historical Lowe’s Ferry road, which has been closed by the County.

“[Fitzgerald] hasn’t developed all the land, and so it hasn’t been disturbed right where the cabin was,” he said.

“That’s good news,” he added.

But West Knox County land goes at a premium, and the entire farm likely will be developed if Fitzgerald’s venture is successful.

“It doesn’t matter who does it, we’ve got to try to save this if we can,” Arning said.

For more information, visit Kline’s Web site at


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