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Circle of Thought.

Smarthenge: The Circle of Thought

Field review by the editors.

Knoxville, Tennessee

Baxter Gardens is a private estate, but every April it opens its grounds -- rich with ornamental plantings -- to the public. While most visitors come here to see the dogwoods and flowers, the Gardens offers one oddity worth noting: a fifty-foot-wide ring of varicolored granite pillars, each topped with a slightly mossy marble bust of a smart person, surrounding a disk in the ground labeled "Circle of Thought."

Carl Sagan.
Carl Sagan.

The busts are divided into four groups: ancient Greece and Rome, the Renaissance, the American Revolution, and Modern Times. Aside from the title plaque in the middle and a last name under each head, the Circle of Thought offers no guidance to casual visitors, who may feel lost because these VIPs are not everyday celebrities. Lucretius? Niebuhr? Is the Circle of Thought a test of intelligence?

Standing in the center, surrounded by marble-enshrined minds, an admirer might sense a faint echo of their ruminations. Visitors we saw, however, seemed satisfied to just snap selfies with Abe Lincoln and Albert Einstein.

The Circle of Thought has only 25 members, and a club this exclusive is bound to include representatives that leave you scratching your head. We won't get into who's here that arguably shouldn't be, but if we were rich enough to own a private estate, our Circle of Thought -- unlike this one -- would at least find room for Leonardo da Vinci and Bill Shakespeare. And maybe Groucho Marx.

Ayn Rand.
Ayn Rand.

Also see: Hall of Fame for Great Americans

Smarthenge: The Circle of Thought

Baxter Gardens

3901 Sam Cooper Lane, Knoxville, TN
Baxter Gardens. Park in the lot, then follow the paved path/mini-road to the right. When you reach a line of tall boxwoods on the right, you'll see a narrow, straight rock path between two lines of more tall boxwoods. Follow the path to the fountain. The heads are just past the fountain, on the left.
April only, daily 9-dusk. Closed May-March. Local health policies may affect hours and access.
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