History

Ijams Nature Center evolved from humble beginnings during the early twentieth century into a natural showplace known as the Bird Sanctuary.

Developed by Harry Ijams, Knoxville’s leading bird expert, and Alice Yoe Ijams, “First Lady of Knoxville Garden Clubs”. The Ijams place has been a gathering point for birder and nature-lovers for more than a century.

Girl Scouting has been a fixture at Ijams since 1923, followed by Camp Mary Ijams, and Camp Margaret Townsend in the Smokies was created in part through Ijams and Townsend family ties. Harry Ijams also helped establish the first official campsite on Mount LeConte and used his artistry as a commercial illustrator to promote the Smoky Mountains as a national park.

In the 1960s, the Knoxville Garden Club, Knox County Council of Garden Clubs and the City of Knoxville joined forces to create the Ijams property into a public nature park. Over the years, Ijams Nature Center, as a non-profit organization, has grown in size and stature to become the region’s leading wildlife sanctuary and environmental learning center incorporating Mead’s and Ross Marble quarries, which in their heyday produced Tennessee marble used in local building and national monuments.

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Ijams Family Legacy in 2010, a visual history book detailing the Ijams family, Mead’s and Ross Quarries, and the development of the nature center as one of the southeast’s premier institutions was captured by Paul James.

The book also includes examples of H.P. Ijams’ inimitable artwork promoting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, family Christmas postcards and more.

The book is available in the Gift Shop along with  other family history tie-ins, including:

  • A Place by the River: Emmy-nominated documentary on DVD produced by the popular, award-winning, Heartland Series/WBIR TV.
  •  H.P. Ijams’ map print of the Great Smoky Mountains, circa 1936.
  • H.P. Ijams’ Great Smoky Mountains Note Cards
  • Ijams Family Christmas Postcard set