Nestled in the Great Valley of East Tennessee between the Appalachian Mountains and the Cumberland Plateau, Knoxville is the cultural and economic center of East Tennessee.
James White settled the area that would become Knoxville at the headwaters of the Tennessee River in 1786. His original homestead, located in the heart of the city, is still a popular tourist attraction. By 1791, the city of Knoxville would be founded and named in honor of General Henry Knox, the country's first secretary of war. Knoxville would serve as the capital of the Southwest Territory from 1791 to 1796 and as Tennessee's first state capital between 1796 and 1812. The city would continue to grow and prosper before and after the American Civil War due to its strategic location along the Tennessee River.
In the 1930s, the Tennessee Valley Authority, or TVA, was established as part of FDR's New Deal. The headquarters of TVA, which has since grown to become the largest utility company in the United States, are located in Knoxville. The city also hosted the 1982 World's Fair, and its major symbol, the Sunsphere, is now the most recognizable feature of Knoxville’s skyline. Another of the city's institutions is the University of Tennessee, whose campus contains many high-rises to the west of downtown.