White Lily Tour a Fascinating Gift from Knox Heritage and David Dewhirst

White Lily Building, North Central Street

One of the great perks of being a member of Knox Heritage is the early preview opportunities they offer of buildings that are going to be or are in the process of being renovated. Last week such an opportunity was offered by Knox Heritage, courtesy of David Dewhirst, in the form of a tour of the White Lily Building on Central just across the tracks from the Old City. The Knoxville News Sentinel has run a couple of good stories on the project this week and they are linked at the bottom of this post.

Old electronic games piled in the entrance


Looking in through the front door

First floor of the White Lily Building, North Central Street, Knoxville

The entire factory, which closed several years ago, is massive. The portion of the factory purchased for this project includes the older brick portion on the front (North Central Street) side of the building. This portion includes about 50,000 square feet of the 300,000 square feet factory. Plans are to include around 40 new residential units which will be offered for lease. The possibility of some retail space has not been ruled out for the ground floor.

Second Floor of the While Lily Building, Knoxville


Conveyor Belt Man-lifts, White Lily Building, Knoxville

 The word being passed around that night was that this building is in better shape than most of the buildings Mr. Dewhirst has taken on as projects. The “bones” of the building seemed to be a focus. I’m sure that’s true, but it is still a marvel to me to see the inside of one of these buildings and understand how certain people look at abandoned buildings and see possibility where I see decay. I’m glad we have people like that.

Third Floor, White Lily Building, Knoxville

The floors – and I think there were four of them all resemble the others. They are predominantly open and large with an intricate network of exposed pipes covering the ceilings. The floors are patchy. Portions have what could be valuable hardwood while other portions appear damaged or covered over with plywood. Man-lifts (at least that’s what we called them in my factory days.) serve each level. These are continuously moving conveyor belts which, once pounced upon, carry the man (or woman) to another floor where the person is expected to reverse pounce. I presume elevators will replace some of these and the others will disappear.

View from an upper floor

View of Downtown from the roof of the White Lily Building

View across the tracks from the roof of the White Lily Building

 Some of the units will have views of the rail yards, with a slice of the city in the distance. Up close they will have a view of the parking which, apparently, will be part of the deal if you lease one of the units. The best views, however, are from the roof, which I don’t think was on the official tour, but I had an obligation to my readers, so . . . I couldn’t resist checking out the guts of the machinery and the views of the city from the top.

Interior view of the machinery in the bowels of the building


View of the silo areas from the room of the White Lily Building


Southern side of the larger factory

 The northwest corner of the block is covered by what appears to be a large metal building, which may be a candidate for removal. I’m not sure about the silos and other mechanical parts. In any case it will be a very cool, historic building with plans for reasonable rates (see the articles below). Unfortunately, it will not be a quick project, and will not get underway for a couple of years at which point the first units will not likely be ready for another year.

White Lily Building from Depot/Central – Portion to be renovated to the right

 As I wandered out of the building, my attention was drawn to West Depot Avenue and possibilities sprang to my mind. I’ll discuss that in the next post.

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