Downtown Knoxville Classic Victorian Tile Entryways

Tile is placed at 36 Market Square, Knoxville, December 2011

The other day as I walked past 36 Market Square I noticed a man and a woman placing tile in the entryway of that building. It’s fascinating, painful and tedious work. I don’t think they were used to having their pictures taken.

Original tile entryway, north side of 36 Market Square

Have you ever noticed the tile entryways to a number of downtown buildings? I’ve always thought they were interesting. A while back I noticed that a number of them included hexagonal shapes. The first one that really caught my attention was on Wall Avenue in the northern doorway to that same building at 36 Market Square. That particular entryway includes a central flourish encasing the names of what I assume are the original proprietors of whatever establishment originally called that address “home.”

Beautiful tile entrance to the Bijou, Gay Street, Knoxville

 It was after that I noticed the entrance to the Bijou had the same hexagonal tiles in its beautiful entrance. I assumed them to be a turn-of-the-century fashion given the approximate age of the buildings downtown. Even though the Bijou is older, its front entrance was originally a basement and became exposed when the street was lowered which, I’m guessing, was somewhere in the Victorian era.

Keystone Building, Church Avenue, Knoxville

Tile in Keystone entryway, Church Street, Knoxville

 I’m sure Jack Neely must have written on this subject at some point, but I couldn’t find it archived online. I wonder if a good bit of the work, particularly that with the hexagonal tiles wasn’t done by the same artisan. I knew I’d noticed it elsewhere around the city and I decided to walk the streets and see just how much of it I could find. I didn’t find as much as I expected.

Tiled entrance to Night Owl, Old City, Knoxville

 I found one entryway off Gay on the top of the steps leading into the Keystone Building. I found one in the Old City at the entrance to Night Owl. I know there must have been more at one time and I may have missed some of them, but I looked everywhere I thought I would likely spot them. I really thought there were more. Perhaps you can think of some I missed.

Tiled entrance to my home, CA 1916, Knoxville

One reason these tile entryways are so interesting to me is because there is one inside my home. The entryway would date to 1916 and, while the design isn’t as ornate as some of the others, it includes the same hexagonal tiles. It is part of the structure we are not allowed to alter because of the building’s historical designation.

Finished Product: Tiled entryway at 36 Market Square, Knoxville

 As the lead picture indicated, all this was brought back to me by the sight of a man and a woman laying tile at the Market Square entrance to 36 Market Square. I’m not sure if this was a required part of the restoration or if the owner simply wanted to add a touch common to other buildings downtown and in sync with the entrance on the other side of the building. This entrance and the one on the northwestern side of the building are both nicely done, though they do not include hexagonal tiles. Maybe that’s just as well: let it be a marker of an artisan of a past era, a small portion of whose work we continue to enjoy today.

Do you have more information? A link to a Jack Neely article? Are there other entryways I’ve missed? Tell us in the comments below.