Knox Heritage releases 2012 Fragile 15 list

6:40 PM, May 15, 2012   |    comments
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Knox Heritage has announced its annual list of the most endangered historic buildings and places in Knoxville and Knox County.

Every May during National Preservation Month, Knox Heritage releases its list of the most endangered historic buildings and places in Knox County to educate the public and local leaders about the plight of significant historic resources. Often, the endangered buildings and places are representative of issues that endanger similar parts of our heritage across the community.

2012 Fragile Fifteen:

1. Kennedy-Baker-Walker-Sherrill House - 9320 Kingston Pike
This house is a two-story brick, three-bay Federal style residence built in a T-shape in 1849. The Kennedy-Baker-Walker-Sherrill house is one of the few surviving examples of Federal architecture in Knox County. Knox County deed records indicate that James Kennedy and his wife, Jane Cox Kennedy, owned the property in 1840. Family tradition in the Cox family indicates that the house was built in 1849.

In 1858, Dr. William J. Baker (1800-1865) bought the estate from Kennedy and settled with his family in the house. In part, he wished to be near his brother, Dr. Harry Baker, who lived in the house known today as the Baker-Peters House (9000 Kingston Pike). Dr. William Baker was appointed a trustee of East Tennessee College in 1836, and was a member of the Board of Heath established for Knoxville in 1849. Dr. Baker moved to the estate, then called "Cedar Grove," in 1859. He added the one-story wing to the west of the house for an office. Dr. William J. Baker had no children, and when he died in 1865, the property was willed to his niece, Katherine Elizabeth Baker and her husband J.W. Walker. The house remained in the Walker family until it was sold in 1942. The house and land belonged to the Sherrill family from 1953 and until December 2007. At that time, the house and the 104 acres it sits upon were sold to out-of-state developers, Andrews Properties.

As part of the rezoning to allow the surrounding land to be developed for retail, office, and residential uses, the developer agreed to protect the house with historic overlay (H-1) zoning and restore it for a new use. The overlay zoning was put in place, but the restoration has turned out to be a promise that's not been kept. The house has been allowed to deteriorate to a level that is shocking and has been allowed to stand open to the elements and vagrants. Knox Heritage calls upon the current owners to follow through on the commitments made to secure their rezoning and either restore the house or transfer it to a new owner who will save this critically important part of Knox County's history. We also call upon the City of Knoxville to enforce the building codes that have been flagrantly ignored for by the current owner, and to apply the City's Demolition by Neglect ordinance so the house will be stabilized and protected from further deterioration.

2. Magnolia Avenue Corridor
The Magnolia Avenue Corridor began with the industrial expansion that followed the 1855 construction of the East Tennessee & Virginia and East Tennessee & Georgia railroads. Workers drawn by that economic boost located in newly developed residential neighborhoods east of downtown. The development of Lake Ottossee (now Chilhowee Park) in 1875 urged urban expansion further to the east.

In 1890, Fernando Cortes Beaman, with William Gibbs McAdoo, extended an electric streetcar line to Chilhowee Park, with additional lines along McCalla Avenue to Burlington, and the conversion of a horse drawn line to electric streetcars on Washington Avenue. Park City became a strong residential area, with Chilhowee Park as a venue for concerts and fairs. It also hosted baseball and football games, including the 1907 Kentucky-Tennessee game. Magnolia was lined with large homes, and schools and churches also located in the corridor, including Park City Junior High School (1925) and Standard Knitting Mills (1910). Exclusive apartment complexes such as the Aston (2736 E. Magnolia) and the Lakewood (2736 E. Magnolia) were also built in the trolley era.

The next era of growth for the corridor came after World War II, when automobiles and their related commercial uses eclipsed the use of trolleys. Magnolia was designated a Federal Highway (Asheville Highway) and businesses such as the Pizza Palace (3132 E. Magnolia) and the bus terminal (100 E. Magnolia) are reminders of that transition.

The construction of I-40 split the neighborhood, separating Park City from other neighborhoods that had grown up along Broadway and were from the same era, and removed a large portion of the traffic that had created the demand for auto-oriented business. That isolation has continued; the corridor awaits reinvestment and redevelopment, with a focus on preserving the significant historic buildings that remain.

Representative Properties:
a. Magnolia Avenue United Methodist Church - 2700 E. Magnolia Avenue

This 1927 building is the third home for the Magnolia Avenue Methodist Church; the congregation relocated to the corner of East Park (now Magnolia) Avenue and Harrison in 1902 and constructed the current building when the original church building on that site was destroyed by fire. Generations of prominent Knoxvillians have belonged to the congregation, including actress Patricia Neal.

Members of the congregation nominated the building to highlight the need for additional resources to maintain the important building and make needed repairs to its roof. In addition to church services, the congregation provides services to the low-income and homeless Knoxville residents.

b. Rabbit & Poultry Barn - Chilhowee Park - 3301 E. Magnolia Avenue
The Rabbit & Poultry Barn was built in the 1930s and incorporated wood salvaged from the dismantled roller coaster built for the 1910 Appalachian Exposition and reused windows from the 1910 Exposition Building. A section added in the 1950s housed the rabbits. The existing wood floor was laid over a pond and fountain that provided a location for fish and ducks.
During the 2011 Tennessee Valley Fair, the barn housed approximately 1,300 poultry exhibits and over 400 rabbit exhibits. The current Poultry/Rabbit Barn is approximately 9,000 square feet and is one of the most visited buildings during the Tennessee Valley Fair. Through this site, the public gains an educational awareness of poultry and rabbit farming.
The building is now in need of significant repairs in order to continue as one of the most recognized and visited historic structures remaining in Chilhowee Park. The building is owned by the City of Knoxville. Knox Heritage encourages the City of Knoxville to include funding for those repairs in its capital improvements budget.

3. Cal Johnson Building - 301 State Street
Cal Johnson, Knoxville's first African American philanthropist, built this State Street building c. 1898 in the Vernacular Commercial style; it is a rare example of a large commercial structure that was built by a former slave, and originally housed a clothing factory. Cal Johnson also served as a city alderman during his extensive career, which included the operation of several area saloons and one of Knoxville's most popular and durable horse racing tracks. It could be a featured site in efforts to encourage heritage tourism related to Knox County's African American residents and their ancestors.

The building is threatened by long term, ongoing deterioration and a lack of maintenance. The building is owned by the Jack Dance family. Knox Heritage seeks to work with the property owner to make necessary repairs and capitalize on the current level of downtown redevelopment in order to spur the reuse of this important structure before it is too late. If the property owner continues to allow the building to decay, the City of Knoxville must intervene through stringent codes enforcement and application of its Demolition by Neglect authority in order to save this extremely important piece of Knoxville's African American history.

4. Sanitary Laundry & Dry Cleaning Building - 625 N. Broadway
The Sanitary Laundry & Dry Cleaning Building was built in 1925. V.L. Nicholson served as engineer and building contractor, using mill work furnished by Knoxville Lumber & Manufacturing Company.

The building has been allowed to deteriorate to a point that it is endangering surrounding structures and detracting from the revitalization efforts underway in Downtown North, which has been designated as a redevelopment area by the City of Knoxville. In addition, the owner, Scott Brady, owes nearly $200,000 in delinquent property taxes to the City of Knoxville and Knox County. Knox Heritage calls upon the owner to stabilize and rehabilitate this highly visible property, but if he is unwilling, the City of Knoxville should intervene with all the tools available through Downtown North Redevelopment Area designation.

5. French Broad River Corridor - Frazier Bend & Seven Islands

The French Broad River was a significant settlement area for prehistoric peoples, and was one of the earliest settlement paths in Knox County after European-related settlement began. By the mid 1780s, early homes and industries were located on both sides of the river. It was the settlers' highway for commerce and social interaction, with ferry landings on both of its banks. Francis Alexander Ramsey settled in this corridor and the stone Ramsey House still stands today. There is evidence to suggest that James White built his first house in the area. In The Annals of Tennessee by Dr. J.G.M. Ramsey, the French Broad Corridor is described as the home of Alexander Campbell; the large Georgian style house he built still stands. On both sides of the French Broad are some of the most intact architectural examples of early Knox County including a mill, churches and early cemeteries and ferry landings.

The French Broad River corridor, because of its relative isolation and lack of urban infrastructure, has retained its historic places, scenery, breathtaking views and vistas and its glimpses of Knox County history during the 18th and early 19th centuries and for centuries before. Some of its buildings are well-maintained, and still utilized by descendants of the families prominent in the 18th and 19th centuries. Others are vacant or deteriorating; if they are lost, a large portion of this portrait of early Knox County will also be lost.

The East County Sector Plan approved by Knox County Commission calls for protection of the river corridor's historic resources through historic overlay zoning. The Metropolitan Planning Commission is in the early stages of implementing this important tool and Knox Heritage encourages them to make that process a priority in order to protect this endangered treasure in east Knox County from being destroyed by rampant development.

Representative Properties:
a. Riverdale Plantation Barn - 6917 Thorngrove Pike

Built ca. 1870, this heavy timber two and one-half story barn is associated with the former Riverdale Plantation and was part of the Kelley Dairy during the mid-twentieth century. The original hand hewn timbers are mortised and pegged and the load bearing members are set on limestone rock. The upper portion of the barn contains a large loft. The barn was featured in the 1984 Jane Fonda film, The Dollmaker.

The structure is being allowed to deteriorate significantly and Knox Heritage encourages the current owners, descendants of Francis and J.B. Kelley, to make needed repairs before its structural integrity is lost forever.

b. The Amos Pickel House - 3127 Frazier Road

Built circa 1845 in the Federal style, the Amos Pickel House is a two story frame building with many of its exterior features remaining. The house is in deteriorated condition and vegetation has grown up around it, making a portion of the exterior inaccessible. It is one of the more deteriorated buildings in this section of the French Broad corridor, and one of the most significant architecturally.

The structure is being allowed to deteriorate significantly and Knox Heritage encourages the current owner, the Cunningham family, to make needed repairs or make it available for purchase by a new owner who can preserve it.

c. The Bowman House - 3327 Frazier Road

Built ca. 1870, the Bowman House overlooks the French Broad River, and is surrounded by hayfields. Built with Italianate detailing, the two story frame house is now in deteriorated condition and used for storage.

Knox Heritage encourages the current owner, Clifford Cruze, to make needed repairs or make it available for purchase by a new owner who can preserve it.

d. The Huffaker-Gose House - 7311 Huffaker Ferry Road

The original two-story, heavy timber frame structure was built circa 1830 in the Georgian style and has later, architecturally significant, Victorian vernacular additions. Catherine Huffaker and her sons lived in the house and ran the nearby ferry connecting Seven Islands to the Frazier Bend community. Her descendants continued to live in the house and operate the ferry for over 100 years, until 1935, when the parents of Lewis Gose bought the house. Mr. Gose took over the ferry operation in 1937. The Huffaker Ferry sank during the filming of All the Way Home in 1964. The house and ferry landing remain, providing insight into commerce and life along the French Broad River.

The house received a reprieve from destruction last summer after the owner, Dr. William Hovis, called off plans for the house to be burned in a training exercise by a local volunteer fire department. Knox Heritage encourages the owner to restore the house as a valuable asset to his farm or make it available to a new owner willing to restore this rare 1830s structure.

6. The Lloyd Branson House - 1423 Branson Avenue
This house was built in 1920 by local artist Lloyd Branson (1853-1925). In his later life, Branson developed the surrounding tract of land. The street was named for him. An American artist best known for his portraits of Southern politicians and depictions of early East Tennessee history, Branson was one of the most influential figures in Knoxville's early art circles. He received training at the National Academy of Design in the 1870s and subsequently toured the great art centers of Europe. He was a mentor to fellow Knoxville artist Catherine Wiley and is credited with discovering twentieth-century portraitist Beauford Delaney. Branson reached the height of his career in 1910, when his work, Hauling Marble, won the gold medal at Knoxville's Appalachian Exposition. Branson died suddenly on June 12, 1925. His funeral was in the house and he is buried in Old Gray Cemetery.

This home, just off Broadway in North Knoxville, is currently for sale, vacant and in a state of disrepair. Continued neglect will cause the loss of another structure associated with one of Knoxville's top talents, just as we lost historic homes once occupied by James Agee, Nikki Giovanni and Cormac McCarthy. Knox Heritage encourages the current owners to stabilize the blighted property in order to make its sale to new owners more likely.

7. The McClung Warehouses - 501-525 W. Jackson Avenue
These highly visible buildings on Jackson Avenue were originally built as wholesale warehouses and are a reminder of the era when Knoxville was one of the leading wholesale centers in the Southeast. The buildings at 517-521 were built in 1911, and 525 was added in 1927. The buildings were wholesale warehouses for C.M. McClung & Company, a regional wholesale and hardware company.

Over five years after an inferno destroyed half of the McClung Warehouse complex on Jackson Avenue, there has been little progress made to rescue Knoxville's most visible endangered buildings. The fire illustrated the worst-case scenario for vacant and blighted historic buildings. Three historic buildings were lost, at least hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage was caused and one thriving business owner lost everything and was displaced. The opportunity still exists to redevelop the remaining buildings and land into loft and retail space, thus improving the tax base for all Knox County residents.

A second structural analysis of the remaining buildings recently conducted for the City of Knoxville will hopefully reveal they are still sound and suitable for redevelopment. The current owner, Mark Saroff, was forced into bankruptcy last year, but the bankruptcy trustee has delayed a resolution for the buildings. Knox Heritage calls upon the trustee to act quickly to sell the buildings to a developer capable of restoring and revitalizing these important downtown structures. If he refuses, the City of Knoxville should use all the tools at its disposal through the Jackson Avenue Redevelopment Area to acquire and resell the properties. This will encourage further investment in the surrounding Jackson Avenue corridor.

8. University of Tennessee

Founded as Blount College in 1794, designated East Tennessee College in 1807, then East Tennessee University in 1840, and eventually the University of Tennessee in 1879, this local institution is tightly woven into the history and geography of Knoxville. Its first home was on Gay Street, but in 1826, construction began atop "The Hill" just west of downtown. The Civil War devastated the campus and its buildings were occupied by both Union and Confederate troops, but it survived and by 1904, there were 16 buildings on the campus. The 20th century saw a rapid expansion of the campus as it overtook surrounding historic residential neighborhoods and many historic buildings were demolished. As a result, even though the university boasts a campus with a 185-year history, only four buildings under its control remain that were constructed before 1900, two of which were originally private residences.

Recent efforts, such as the restoration of Ayres Hall; the completion of a Getty Trust-funded Campus Preservation Plan; and the nominations of Ayres Hall, Tyson House and Hopecote to the National Register of Historic Places, show an apparent evolution in the university's appreciation for its architectural history, but historic buildings on and off campus are still threatened with demolition or neglect and the preservation plan has not been truly integrated into the new UTK Campus Master Plan.

As UTK strives to enter the ranks of the top 25 public research institutions in the country, it should be noted that preservation is a priority for the majority of those top universities and a significant factor for students as they choose where they will study. History and preservation add a weight and sense of place to university campuses and can create strong bonds with alumni and donors considering financial support of those institutions. In addition, in the current economic environment the maintenance and re-use of existing structures is a fiscally prudent path to take considering the amount of taxpayer funding used to finance construction on campus.

Historic buildings are valued and utilized by top universities around the world and the University of Tennessee should work to change its financially and culturally costly "new is better" culture and see the value its historic structures can bring to its admirable plans to become a top tier institution. Knox Heritage is eager to work with the administration and the State of Tennessee to devise innovative and cost effective strategies that will preserve the campus while enhancing the learning experience for students and benefiting the entire Knoxville community. Included in those strategies must be rehabilitation that is architecturally sensitive to the historic structures that are its subject, a diminishing role for demolition, and a commitment to ongoing maintenance that values the architectural features of the remaining historic buildings on campus.

Representative Properties:
a. Melrose Hall - 1616 Melrose Avenue
Built in 1946 and designed by Knoxville architects Barber & McMurry, the building serves as a dormitory and offices. Melrose is one of the last great Collegiate Gothic designs at the university. It represents an important part of the university's expansion west of the Hill in the postwar era and reflects the increase in student enrollment following World War II. The UTK Campus Master Plan calls for the demolition of Melrose Hall. We call upon the university to work with experts in the reuse of historic academic buildings to determine a course for incorporating the historic structure into the university's plans.

b. Cowan Cottage - 701 16th Street
This charming Queen Anne style cottage was originally a part of the estate of James Dickinson Cowan, which once occupied an entire block of the neighborhood, then known as West Knoxville. It stood near the Cowan's massive Second Empire style home that was built in 1879 and then demolished in 1954 for Clement Hall. Cowan Cottage stands at the corner of White Avenue and 16th Street. It is one of only four 19th century structures still standing on property controlled by the University of Tennessee.

The cottage is vacant after decades of serving as a private residence and then housing UT student organizations. The building suffers from long term neglect and lack of maintenance. It is another example of limited resources causing the potential loss of historically significant structures owned by the University of Tennessee. There have been encouraging discussions about preserving it as part of the Strong Hall expansion, but no firm plans have been announced. Knox Heritage calls upon UT to review the current condition of the structure and work with interested parties to develop a plan to preserve and reuse the building.

c. The Eugenia Williams House - 4848 Lyons View Pike
Eugenia Williams was born to Dr. David H. Williams and Ella Cornick Williams in January 1900. Dr. Williams was a prominent physician and one of the original financial backers who introduced Coca-Cola to East Tennessee. In 1940, Eugenia commissioned her childhood friend, John Fanz Staub, to design her new residence. Staub, a native Knoxvillian from one of the city's prominent families, is best known for designing homes for many of the wealthiest and most influential Texans, with a little over half of his design work located in Houston. He was also the architect for the well-loved Hopecote on the UT Knoxville campus. Miss Williams' Regency-style home sits on 24 acres bordering the Tennessee River and Lyons View Pike and features a three-car garage with automatic garage door openers, which was a novelty in 1940. In 1998, the house was willed to the University of Tennessee as a memorial to Eugenia's father.

For many years after her death, Miss Williams' house was plagued by vandals and a lack of basic maintenance, but its character-defining details remain and the house is still solid. We strongly encourage UT to move forward with plans for this signature property and maximize its benefit to the University and the Knoxville area before it is too late. Specifically, Knox Heritage stands ready to assist the University in navigating the legal means available to sell the property to a private buyer interested in fulfilling Miss Williams' wishes that the house and property be preserved.

d. Morgan Hall - Agricultural Campus/2621 Morgan Circle
This prominent agricultural facility is named for Harcourt Morgan, a former UT President and TVA Director. It is a key building of the Ayres-Morgan era for the Agriculture Campus. Morgan Hall was built in 1921 by the architectural firm Miller, Fullenwider & Dowling. According to UT, Morgan Hall "requires a sensitive historic renovation similar to that recently completed of Ayres Hall, and will also require an addition of approximately 50,000 square feet to recapture space lost to modern code requirements." Knox Heritage commends the university for its renovation plans and looks forward to working with them to insure the rehabilitation, as well as the large proposed addition, are compatible with the historic character of the building.

e. Henson Hall - 1618 Cumberland Avenue
Henson Hall was designed by Barber & McMurry and built in 1930 with a donation from the estate of Martha C. Henson, who left the university $200,000 for the completion of a woman's dormitory. It housed about 150 women originally. In 1943, Henson Hall became the dormitory for Air Corps Cadets training for World War II. It now houses the College of Social Work. The building is threatened by possible demolition called for in the UTK Campus Master Plan.

f. Carolyn P. Brown University Center - 1502 Cumberland Avenue
The University Center was built, in part, with funds from the estate of hardware store owner John Brown in honor of his wife Carolyn Brown. The building, which was the largest on campus when constructed in 1954-1955, was designed by Knoxville architectural firm Barber & McMurry. The building also features an expansive ballroom mural by New York artist Marion Greenwood, "Song of Tennessee." The contemporary styling marked that campus expansion to the west would not follow the Collegiate Gothic motif of the Hill. The building is scheduled for demolition as part of the construction of a new student center.

g. Aconda Court - 1103 Volunteer Blvd.
Built circa 1920, Aconda Court was purchased by the University in 1938. The structure, originally named Alumni Hall, served as both faculty housing and a dormitory. Architectural details include stone quoins in the attic level, tile roof, stone cornices, and a stone belt course below the attic level. Aconda Court was later modified for office use and classroom space. The building is scheduled for demolition as part of the construction of a new student center.

h. Temple Court - 804 Volunteer Blvd.

Temple Court was originally built in 1927 as an apartment building, and was later converted into university office space. Some alterations were made to the offices when that conversion occurred, but some original interior details remain. The building is scheduled for demolition as part of the construction of a new student center.

i. Student Counseling Services/Weston Fulton Residence - 900 Volunteer Blvd.
This two-and-one-half story bungalow is a reminder of the prosperous residential community, West Knoxville, that developed along Volunteer Boulevardd (then called Temple Avenue) and the surrounding area. Weston Fulton built and lived in the house (then 820 Temple Avenue) in 1913. A native of Alabama, Weston Fulton was one of Knoxville's leading industrialists and was one of the founders of the highly successful Fulton Company in 1904. Fulton was vice mayor of Knoxville in the 1920s and was active in the Great Smoky Mountains Conservation Association. He also served two terms on Knoxville City Council.

In 1927 the house was given to the University as a memorial to Fulton's son, Weston M. Fulton Jr., who was killed in a car accident shortly before entering UT. The house became the Weston M. Fulton Jr. Memorial Hospital and served as the student health center beginning in 1931. The house is now used as the Student Counseling Services. In 1928 Fulton commissioned local Knoxville architects Barber & McMurry to design his new home on top of a prominent ridge off Lyons View Pike - Westcliff. In 1930, Fulton sold his company and retired. In 1967, Westcliff was razed and replaced by apartments, so this is likely the last Weston Fulton residence still in existence in Knoxville. The building is scheduled for demolition as part of the construction of a new student center.

j. Academic Support Programs - 812 Volunteer Blvd.
This Colonial Revival two-story house is a reminder of the prosperous residential neighborhood of West Knoxville that developed along Volunteer Boulevardd (then called Temple Avenue) and the surrounding area. This house was built in 1927 and housed the university's first Black Cultural Center. The structure currently houses the Academic Support Programs, but is scheduled for demolition as part of the construction of a new student center.

k. Sophronia Strong Hall & Cafeteria -1621 Cumberland Avenue
Constructed on the grounds of the former Cowan-Briscoe Estate, the first unit of this facility was built in 1925 and originally housed approximately 50 women. Partial funding was provided through an endowment by Benjamin Rush Strong, who left his estate to the university and wished that a women's dormitory be erected in honor of his mother, Sophronia. Five additional units and a cafeteria were added to Strong Hall in 1939, financed out of general operating funds and subsidized by the Works Progress Administration. The new UT Campus Master Plan calls for a major expansion of the building that threatens to destroy almost all of its original historic fabric. We encourage the university to revisit its design in order to preserve the majority of the historic structure.

9. Isaac Anderson Cabin -Creekrock Lane - Shannondale Valley Farms
In 1802, Isaac Anderson's family constructed this two-story log house on their land in north Knox County. He had recently been named the pastor for Washington Presbyterian Church. During his tenure at Washington Presbyterian, Anderson built a large, two-story log school building on the site that has since been demolished. He named his school Union Academy, but it was known to many as Mr. Anderson's Log College. The academy operated there until 1812 when Anderson moved his school to Maryville and became pastor of New Providence Presbyterian Church. He went on to found Maryville College in 1819.

The hewn-log Anderson cabin survived for the next 200 years before residential development literally encircled it and put its future in jeopardy. It now stands in the backyard of a modern suburban house. Recently, there has been an effort to move the Anderson Cabin to the Maryville College campus in order to protect it and its place in the college's history. Although moving historic buildings is rarely recommended, Knox Heritage supports the efforts to move this building, since it is unlikely to survive in its present location, and encourages East Tennessee residents to work with the preservationists spearheading this effort to identify funding to relocate and restore the structure.

10. Standard Knitting Mill -1400 Washington Avenue
This circa 1945 building is the only remaining structure associated with Standard Knitting Mill. Standard was founded in 1900 with 50 employees. By the 1930s Standard was the largest textile and knitting mill in Knoxville, and employed over 4,000 Knoxvillians. Standard eventually produced over one million garments a week and inspired Knoxville's title as "Underwear Capital of the World."

The future is uncertain for the remaining building of the Standard Knitting Mill complex. Located in the industrial swath of land between the historic Parkridge and Fourth and Gill Neighborhoods, the original portion of the mill was in place along Washington Avenue by 1903. Later additions almost doubled the size of the complex, but the earliest portion was destroyed in the early 1990s. The current footprint still comes in at over 400,000 square feet and was the home of Delta Apparel until 2007.

When Delta relocated, the building was donated to the Mid-Atlantic Foundation and The Landmark Group announced plans to purchase the property from the non-profit and create a mixed-use development. Since that transfer, the mill, a highly visible landmark along I-40 on the east side of downtown, has stood dark and empty. Back in the summer of 2007, there were no plans for the new owners to maintain the sprinkler system and the roof had already developed several leaks. The deterioration of the building has continued, unchecked, since that time.

It is past time for the Mid-Atlantic Foundation and the community to ensure the future existence of Standard Knitting Mill. The Mid-Atlantic Foundation must secure the building and make the sprinkler system operational immediately. The building is currently for sale and since the Mid-Atlantic Foundation has made little to no financial investment in the structure, they should sell the building at a price low enough to entice a preservation-minded developer to take on the huge project. As it sits now, it is nothing more than a liability to the Foundation and the surrounding neighborhoods. Its sale and redevelopment will add to the city's tax base, and spur on the renaissance underway in the surrounding historic neighborhoods.

11. The Pickle Mansion - 1633 Clinch Avenue
The Pickle Mansion was built in 1889 in the Queen Anne style. It was built of solid masonry construction with a brick veneer wall covering of glazed brick. Typical of grand houses of the Queen Anne era, it boasted a hip roof with lower cross gables, a turret, elaborate attic vent windows, window arches, transoms and a large front and side wrap-around porch.

The house was the victim of a disastrous fire in August of 2002, and suffered extensive damage. The current owners, John and Kara Haas, was able to purchase the house from its previous owners, who were denied in their request to demolish the building. After the purchase Haas navigated an extensive and necessary subdivision process and took steps to finance the restoration. Fire debris has been removed and roof trusses have been designed with the intent of completing a rehabilitation of the house and restoring its architectural presence on Clinch Avenue. However, the house is still unroofed and suffering continuing deterioration. Recently, an exterior wall collapsed, further endangering the structural integrity of the building.

Knox Heritage calls upon the owner to move swiftly to get the house under roof and begin the long-awaited restoration of this Fort Sanders Neighborhood landmark, or to sell the building to an owner willing to undertake the restoration. If neither of these avenues is followed, the City of Knoxville should proceed with stringent codes enforcement and employ the city's Demolition by Neglect Ordinance.

 

12. Historic Knox County School Buildings

Knoxville High School - 101 E. Fifth Avenue
Opened in 1910, Knoxville High School's Neoclassical design with Beaux Arts influences is an icon for the generations of Knoxvillians who walked its halls, including James Agee, Patricia Neal and John Cullum. Designed by the local firm Baumann Brothers and a part of the Emory Place National Register District, it was the first school to serve white students throughout the city and was the only public high school for white students for many years. At the end of the 1950-1951 school year, Knoxville High was closed and converted into administrative offices for the Knoxville Board of Education. Today it is owned by the Knox County School System.

Knoxville High School is showing signs of stress and deterioration due to years of deferred maintenance. Years of tight school budgets have required the Knox County School Board to make tough choices and, of course, the priority must be the classroom. However, it's time to take a fresh look at historic buildings owned by local governments and devise a new strategy for preserving the historic buildings owned by taxpayers. Knox Heritage looks forward to working with the Knox County School System to devise a plan for preserving our community's heritage while being good stewards of these valuable assets.

Oakwood Elementary School - 232 E. Churchwell Avenue
Built in 1914 and designed by L.C. Waters, this building suffered from years of neglect after it was closed in 1995. A local development group has submitted a proposal to Knox County that will result in the restoration of the school for use as a senior assisted living facility. If that plan is finalized, the building could be returned to the tax rolls, provide needed senior services, and provide employment. Knox Heritage supports the developer's proposal and encourages government officials to cooperate to bring this project to completion.

South High School - 801 Tipton Avenue
South High was designed by noted local architect Charles Barber and was built in 1935-1936 as South Knoxville Junior High School. The school opened in 1937. Barber was the primary architect of 14 schools in Knoxville and Knox County prior to 1940. South High served as a junior high school and a high school until the last graduating class in 1976. The building sustained serious roof damage over the next three decades and that water infiltration has harmed the structural integrity of parts of the building.

Preservationists and residents of South Knoxville began their efforts to save historic South High in 2002. In 2004 the Knox County School Board surplused the building to Knox County so it could be redeveloped as a community asset. County Commission voted to auction the building to the highest bidder in 2008. The high bidder at the June 2008 auction was Bahman Kasraei. Mr. Kasraei expressed his intent to preserve the building, but construction was delayed. The roof of the building has been replaced, but it is just the beginning of the construction process and the rear of portion of the building is open to vandals, so the potential for arson is high.

After Kasraei announced his intention to demolish the building, the Knoxville City Council intervened with a request for historic overlay zoning; that request was approved, so the building is protected from demolition. However, it remains vacant and continues to deteriorate. Knox Heritage calls for Mr. Kasraei to proceed as quickly as possible to complete the rehabilitation of the building or sell South High to a developer capable of completing the project. If he is unwilling, we encourage the City to invoke the Demolition by Neglect ordinance to secure and stabilize it.

Rule High School - 1901 Vermont Avenue
Rule High School was named after Captain William Rule, a former Union Army Captain who went on to become the mayor of Knoxville, as well as publisher and editor of the Knoxville Journal from 1885 until his death in 1928. Rule High School was built in 1926-1927 and opened in the fall of 1927. The school closed in 1991 and is currently owned by the Knox County School Board which leases it to a non-profit organization. The school continues to languish in a deteriorated state and the resources for its preservation are lacking. Knox Heritage encourages the Knox County School Board to review the existing lease arrangement and identify potential users or a new owner with the financial ability to preserve and reuse the structure.

13. WNOX Studio & Auditorium - 4400 Whittle Springs Road

In November 1921, WNOX signed on the air as WNAV, the first radio station in Tennessee. It is now one of the ten oldest stations in the country. The early WNAV studios were located in the St. James Hotel, which once stood near Market Square. Within the span of its first 19 years, the station's call letters changed to WNOX. After its purchase by Scripps-Howard in 1935, the station moved to the Andrew Johnson Hotel on Gay Street, with its main offices located on the hotel's 17th floor. After that WNOX relocated to a small tabernacle building at the north end of Gay Street, where it remained for several years.

In the 1950s and 1960s, WNOX was home to the popular lunchtime program The Midday Merry-go-Round and weekend program The Tennessee Barndance, which were both influential in the early days of country music. Legendary station manager Lowell Blanchard hosted the programs for many years in downtown Knoxville, and lunch crowds packed the station's auditorium to see the daily programs. Seeking a bigger performance area, WNOX moved its studios to Whittle Springs Road in north Knoxville. The company poured thousands of dollars into the Whittle Springs building to make it a top-notch radio-TV studio combination. The Whittle Springs facility, built in 1955, included a large auditorium for live performances and television programs, but after the move from downtown, the live crowds diminished and the dream of the television station was never realized.

For more than a decade, the Mid-Century Modern building has been home to religious ministries, but now the building is vacant. The current owner, Stetler Cross Ministries, has no clear plans for the structure as it continues to deteriorate. The building is now for sale. Knox Heritage calls upon the owner to keep the building secured until a new owner emerges.

14. Fort Sanders Houses & Grocery - 307 18th Street; 1802, 1804, 1810 Highland Avenue
These historic structures on the southwest corner of the 1800 block of Highland Avenue comprise one of the few remaining dividing lines between the concentration of residential and medical uses in the Historic Fort Sanders Neighborhood. They all were purchased by Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center in February of 2008. Though the houses are protected by Neighborhood Conservation (NC-1) Zoning and have been boarded up, the future of the historic structures is still uncertain.

A revival of long-range neighborhood-planning efforts requested by neighborhood residents and facilitated by the City of Knoxville was a step in the right direction, but those efforts have faltered in recent months. Any long-range planning should promote preservation of these historic structures that have managed to dodge the wrecking ball over the last 50 years. These four properties offer the opportunity for a new era of cooperation between Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center and neighborhood residents. The hospital should partner with Knox Heritage and residents to preserve the buildings. The best solution will be the retention of the neighborhood grocery while restoring the residential properties for single family occupancy. That outcome will further stabilize the neighborhood, as opposed to the permanent damage that will result from the demolition of these four highly visible historic buildings.

307 18th Street
This Commercial Vernacular style building was constructed circa 1923 as the W.T. Roberts Grocery Store, but over the years Fort Sanders' residents have known it as the 18th Street IGA. Roberts owned and operated the store from 1923 until 1950. During that time he had a short commute from his home at 1802 Highland Avenue just around the corner. In 1950 the store became the Fred McMahan Grocery Store and the owner had an even shorter commute. He lived on the second floor of the building.

1802 Highland Avenue
This Victorian style house was built circa 1891 for Ranson D. Whittle who was a well known manufacturer and founder of the Whittle Trunk and Bag Company. Whittle was also a prominent member of the family for which the Whittle Springs community in North Knoxville is named. From 1914 until 1950 William T. Roberts, owner of the neighborhood grocery store around the corner, lived in the house.

1804 Highland Avenue
This Victorian Cottage was built circa 1898 and the first owner was Reverend Isaac Van Dewater.

1810 Highland Avenue
This Victorian style home was built circa 1895 for Dr. Henry Patton Coile, a prominent surgeon and physician. Coile lived in the house from 1895 until 1900. In 1900 his son Samuel A. Coile, the first pastor at Fort Sanders Presbyterian Church, became the owner of the family home. It shares many architectural features with homes designed by George Barber and could be the work of Knoxville's most famous Victorian-era architect.

15. Martin-Russell House - 11409 Kingston Pike
Located at Campbell Station on the site where David Campbell built a blockhouse in 1787, this brick, Federal style house was built for Samuel Martin in 1835 (or earlier) as an inn. During the Martin family era the inn gained popularity and was visited by President Andrew Jackson, a close family friend. Just before the Civil War the inn was sold to Avery Russell who converted it into his family's residence. During the war it served as a hospital for soldiers injured at the Battle of Campbell's Station. The house has remained in the Russell family for six generations and stood watch as Knoxville sprawled toward it and the town of Farragut sprang up around it.

The Martin-Russell House has remained at its original location for 175 years, a rare feat in this part of the world. Its location was determined by the modes of transportation employed during the era it was built and it still stands at a heavily traveled crossroads. But its future is uncertain as the Russell family plans to sell the house. Even though it is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, there is nothing to prevent a new owner from demolishing the house and building a commercial structure in its place. At a minimum, the house should be protected by local historic zoning or a preservation easement to prevent its demolition. That will provide the opportunity for it to become the focal point it should be for the Town of Farragut as town leaders look to enhance the community and embrace its history.

We strongly urge the Town of Farragut to abandon plans to move the house from its historic location to the grounds of the town hall. The move will cause the house to lose its National Register designation and its significant historical setting, and likely cause physical harm to the structure. Rather, the town should pursue a course that incorporates the house into a town center style development that will enhance and define the heart of Farragut. Knox Heritage stands ready to work with the Russell family and the Town of Farragut to preserve and reuse this rare example of Knox County's earliest history.

 

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