If there is a single gateway drug to downtown living that many of us share, it is the City People Downtown Home Tour. According to the information published by the group, it’s been going on since 1983. My memory of the event doesn’t go back nearly so far. I had barely learned my way around south Knoxville at that point after moving to Knoxville with Urban Woman just the year before.
Eventually we did discover the tour, probably sometime in the mid 2000s and we took the tour annually for several years often discussing what we liked and didn’t like in the various homes and imagining ourselves living in various locations. I imagined living high above the city. Urban Woman decided she didn’t like exposed duct work (though she’s recently softened her stance on the matter). The important thing, it turns out, was that we began picturing ourselves in the city. It opened the possibility and became our gateway drug.
Since we moved to the city four years ago, we’ve continued to attend the tours as well as the tours offered by the Community Design Center as well as the tours of new projects and old buildings offered periodically to members of Knox Heritage. I’m lucky enough to get a few tours because of this blog. Of course, we always enjoy getting invited into new friends’ homes downtown. These days it’s less a gateway drug to downtown living and more seeing what people do with their Urban Space that may interest us.
For this year’s tour Urban Woman accompanied me for the tours of the Glencoe, Mary Boyce Temple Home and Maple Hurst Inn and a home in that neighborhood. I decided to skip one Market Square unit which I’ve seen and written about before. I stopped in briefly to 36 Market Square, but again, I’ve been there, done that. I did look into the Armature Building even though I’d written about it not long ago. I’m glad I did. The unit offered on the tour hardly resembles the one I toured and wrote about some weeks ago. I also looked into 125 West Jackson Ave. I had seen it before, but it was several years ago, so I was interested.
The photographs today are from two buildings, both of which are in the Maplehurst Neighborhood. Some of you are likely wondering where this neighborhood is located and how its connected to downtown. It’s located, more or less, between Church Street United Methodist (the big stone church just before the Henley Street Bridge) and the river. Hill Avenue is the primary artery in and out of the area which is home to UT students and others.
The Maplehurst Inn sits at 800 West Hill Avenue and is located inside a home built by a wealthy Knoxville resident in 1917. Some rooms have been added and other changes made over the years, but much of the original home is still intact, though it now serves not as a single family residence, but as a Bed and Breakfast. The rooms vary in size and décor, but much of the furniture seems to date to the 1970s
Several features are worth noting, a couple of which are a bit odd. First, a couple of the rooms feature sunken tubs. I couldn’t figure out just what the attraction or function might be and I pictured myself struggling to extricate myself from the thing should I be so fortunate as to immerse myself in the first place without serious bodily injury. Another peculiar feature was the spiral staircase at the center of the home. It provided the only access to the dining room and while I found it kind of cool, it did raise a real question of access for people with stability or weight issues, let alone handicaps effecting mobility.
Finally, a penthouse had some pretty cool views of the river, the Henley Street Bridge, the old Baptist Hospital and the Mary Boyce Temple Home. I liked the light in that room, as well, which made for a brighter room thanks to greater access to natural light. The building as a whole could use a little airing out and freshening up. In all, there are eleven rooms, each with a private bath and Internet Service. Prices range from $79 to $149 for the penthouse.
Also included on the tour was the home of the ever lovely Cynthia Markert. You may know her art if you don’t know her name. Much of it was on display, including some of her earliest work and some of her most recent, which will soon be available for viewing and purchase at Rala on Union Avenue just off Market Square. Her home looks as you might expect of an artist living on the left bank – of the Seine.
Still, there it sits up the bluff from the Tennessee River in the neighborhood Cynthia has called home for longer, probably, than any other resident of the area. Most of her work has been produced there and her home has hosted many of the brightest, most creative and interesting people to flow through the city in recent decades. This Sunday was no exception as she was joined by poet Judy Loest, entrepreneur Andie Ray and recent political candidate, Evelyn Gill. The ladies kindly posed for a photograph beneath one of Cynthia’s lovely paintings.