Hotel Saint Oliver Estate Sale

Hotel St. Oliver Estate Sale, Union Ave., Knoxville, January 2010

The Hotel Saint Oliver, a prominent piece of the Kristopher Kendrick legacy sold recently. A three day estate sale was held to clear out the contents and, judging from the empty or near empty rooms on the final day, it was a success.

Near empty lobby, Hotel St. Oliver, Knoxville, January 2010

This building at the southwest corner of Union and Market Square is the storied Kern’s building that in the later part of the nineteenth century held a variety of businesses owned by Mr. Kerns, who later became mayor of Knoxville, including his eponymous bakery. Rescued, as many buildings in Knox County and downtown were, by Kristopher Kendrick, the Hotel Saint Oliver was recently sold to investors who plan to updates and upgrades before re-opening later this spring.

Near empty room, Hotel St. Oliver, Knoxville, January 2010

Of interest to me is their stated desire for the hotel to be “more of a presence” on Market Square. The building does fill the corner of Market Square, but the hotel opens twenty yards away from the square on Union Avenue. The portion of the building on the square is occupied by the Market Square Kitchen and Shono’s. Unless one or both of these businesses are removed how does the hotel have “more of a presence” on the square. It will be interesting to watch. It also seems pretty ambitious to plan a re-opening so quickly. As a tour of the hotel revealed, there is major work to be done.

Today, however, was more about saying goodbye to what has been. Unable to attend the first two days, my wife and I attended the last day of the sale. We were fortunate enough to step onto the elevator with Valery Kendrick, one of Kristopher’s daughters. She told us which rooms she lived in at various times, as well as where her father and brother lived and Patricia Neal stayed. I was moved by her memories and ambivalence at the passing of time.

Free token from the Hotel St. Oliver
Most of what we might have been interested in was taken by the time we got there, but one small, free token from the hotel was given to us by a man who said he always planted ivy in the little planner. As we walked home, my wife discovered four pennies inside the planter, meaning that we made money and got a small keepsake from a historic building. It was a good morning. I look forward to witnessing the next phase in the life of this grand building.
If you would like to know more about the life and work of Kristopher Kendrick, I highly recommend a locally produced video by DoubleJ Creative. You can view it here.