Today I’ll wrap up the Victorian Home Tour. Urban Woman and I mis-calculated our best starting time and probably underestimated how much I like to talk with interesting people. Each of those factors conspired to leave us breathlessly attempting to finish the tour through a pretty stiff rain with a rapidly dwindling supply of time.
We wound up missing the final home which, I understand, was one of the most spectacular. It also made my picture taking a bit more spotty and resulted in our arrival at the next-to-last home, wet, tired, a long way from our car and uncertain if there would be a shuttle bus to take us home. Fortunately two very kind young men in a very large truck who were taking down the tarps under which people had waited for the shuttle, offered us a ride to our car. We continue to be deeply grateful.
The first home pictured today is a Craftsman style home built in 1924. First owned by a crane operator at a marble quarry, it later housed a train conductor, Samuel Vance, his wife and their seven children. Members of the family lived in the home from 1936 until 2004. Originally located on Eleanor Street, all the homes around it were demolished and it faced an Interstate ramp by 2004 at which point TDOT purchased it for demolition. Ms. Iva Vance solicited help from Knox Heritage who purchased the home, moved it several hundred feet and placed it on Glenwood.
The second home pictured, located at 145 Leonard Place, was built in 1908. The Queen Anne cottage features, “imbricated fishscale shingles on the second story, lattice pane windows, and a leaded glass transom over the large (front) window . . .” The home now has a beautiful interior featuring a recently renovated kitchen.
Several things struck me about this house. First, musical instruments were used to decorate the home, several hanging in various rooms. This is an excellent idea – decorate your home with functional items you can pull down off the wall and use in any room. I love it. I also loved the tile around one of the fire places. It is original to the home and I’ve never seen anything quite like it. Finally, the list, posted on the wall of what has been done and what needs to be done speaks volumes about the sacrifice so many people make to breathe new life into older homes.
The home at 1329 Grainger Avenue is new construction, built in 2005. It was built on the site where one of the oldest homes in the neighborhood once stood. It and the one next to it were bulldozed in 1983 in anticipation of building a small apartment building. The neighborhood responded by gaining an historic overlay and preventing that construction.
Developers at the time said if that historical overlay was put into place there would never be another home built there. The developer who was prevented from building the apartment building was so angry he refused to sell the lots for twenty years. In the mid 2000s this home and the one next to it were built within the guidelines and made money for the builder in the process.
The final home pictured was built at 1313 Grainger Avenue in 1900 and was originally inhabited by Luther and Emily Kearns, four additional family members and the family cook. Luther worked for a mill company whose “building once stood just beyond their backyard.”
Even though the family was an extended one, the home was a single-family home and remained as much through its entire history. This fact is largely the reason the interior of the home remained pretty much as it was built and retained much of its architectural detail, such as the “lovely original heart pine paneled staircase.”
This concludes the homes I toured at this year’s Old North Knoxville Victorian Home Tour. I know I spent a lot of time and space detailing it, but I think it is so important that we learn from these beautiful homes. Preservation isn’t always easy and it’s often harder and less financially beneficial in the short-run than demolition and new construction. But we are saving so much more than a structure. We are saving our heritage and honoring the lives and work of those who prepared the way for what we’ve become today.
I hope you’ll consider joining the tour next year and spread the word that the beautiful communities just north of downtown – Knoxville’s original suburbs – are alive and well and waiting for the next generation of families.