Urban Woman and I have taken the Downtown Home Tour, I believe, since about 2005. During that time, we’ve gone from west Knoxville curiosity seekers to interested lookers and then, finally, to spies on our neighbors. It’s like HGTV only you get to really be there. It’s a great opportunity to see the amazing variety of spaces in the center city as well as to dream about improvements you might make when you return home.
This year’s tour featured ten properties, but one had to cancel. I think the number of homes represented was smaller this year than in previous years. Perhaps it was logistically impossible to cover so many. Perhaps as a result of the reduction, the Old City and the 100 block were excluded. Added this year, however, was a peak at the condos over the river and James White Fort, which I thought proved to be a pretty cool addition.
I took 150 photographs in the ten homes (we also stopped by one open house). I’ll narrow them, of course, but the result is that I’m going to cover this event in a series of blog posts. Interruptions for pressing topics (like the opening of Tupelo Honey) will necessarily interrupt. So, if this is what you’ve come to the site looking for, please return in coming days. There will be more.
Today we’ll focus on two properties: The Burwell Building at 602 S. Gay Street, unit 702, and The Glencoe at 615 State Street, unit 101. The contrast offered by the two is a fitting start to the tour. The first is better known to non-downtown residents as the Tennessee Theater Building. I’m not sure I noticed for years that a very large building rises ten stories above the theater. It sits on the dominant street in the city. The second property in the post is a small building with only five units tucked away on State Street, a much less traveled thoroughfare.
The Burwell, which dates to 1907, held the distinction of Knoxville’s tallest building at its construction. The site (not the building) once held Blount College which later became the University of Tennessee. In addition to the Tennessee Theater on the bottom floor, the building has included personal residences since the early years of this century.
The beautiful unit pictured here faces Gay Street and has a wonderful view of the city. Filled with art, light and a gorgeous grand piano, the condo is bright, joyful and full of life. Similarly to other units I’ve toured in the building, the layout is somewhat horseshoe shaped, with a hallway and rooms to the left leading to a very inviting library. A left turn opens into the kitchen and living area overlooking the city. Across the room on the south side, a narrow hallway leads to a very private master bedroom and bath.
The Glencoe is a block off the 600 block of Gay Street and faces the First Presbyterian Church. One of the absolutely most beautiful buildings remaining in Knoxville, construction concluded in 1906, a year before the Burwell around the corner and up the street. Intended to be an apartment building, it has served as residences almost its entire history. Recently it has been completely renovated and transformed to condos. Two units occupy each of the first two floors with the third constructed as one condo. The top unit sold this year to Eddie Manis, taking the building to full occupancy.
Kristin Grove hosted the tour of Unit 101. She’s lived downtown for a couple of years and has a beautiful home. The exterior of the building is beautiful and the shared entrance leading into the foyer boasts beautiful woodwork and a soaring staircase. The tile on the floor as you enter is the hexagonal tile I’ve written about before which appears in many early twentieth century homes around the city. Her doorway opens just off the foyer on the left-hand side.
Long and narrow, like many homes downtown, space is utilized very well throughout. The front end features a living area with windows overlooking State Street and a beautiful fireplace. The kitchen follows and the glass cabinets, built-in refrigerated wine storage and granite counter-tops make the room sparkle. A hallway leads to bedrooms and baths and we absolutely loved the huge shower with its overhead spray and beautiful tile.
This being only the first post of the series on the home tour, it might seem early to declare a category winner, but I have to acknowledge that Urban Woman and I agreed: the unit at the Glencoe wins the “Home we would most likely move to if we had to move into one on the tour.” Prestigious award, indeed. We absolutely loved it. Next year how about opening the top floor, Mr. Mannis? More homes another day.