There aren’t many activities that Urban Woman and I enjoy more than touring old homes. There’s something magical about a structure that has seen more history than any of us will see in a lifetime. Love, anger, bitterness, joy, lovers, families and all the range of human emotions have had their moments within those walls. Somehow, it seems to me, those lives inform the structure itself in a similar manner to an old guitar whose sound gets better with age as its wood absorbs each note played.
The fact that we currently live in a Victorian era home belies the fact that we have a particular fondness for structures of that age. Add in holiday decorations and it doesn’t take much convincing for us to sign up for a tour. This year marks the twenty-fifth year for the Historic Old North Knoxville Victorian Holiday Home Tour and we made our plans last weekend accordingly.
I want to give proper attention to the homes we saw and we saw most of what was offered. In all there were eleven homes, a church and Happy Holler. As much as I love Happy Holler, we didn’t feel the need to take that part of the tour. We saw all the homes but one – the very last on the tour.
We got a late start and the steady rain didn’t exactly aid our speed as we walked, so we came up a bit short. My advice for anyone taking the tour next year is to allow at least three hours, though we walked almost all the way by choice – there was a bus making the circuit. I also tend to slow us down by talking too much. I’ll look at a couple of the tour homes and a bonus home today and then I’ll sprinkle in others as I have spots on the blog in the coming days.
These first photographs were taken outside and inside 1417 Cornelia Street. Built in 1893, it’s called the Fair-Hiscock Cottage in honor of two of the earliest residents. The most remarkable part of its history, however, comes in its most recent years. The home fell into disrepair, was subdivided into a duplex and seemed destined to fall apart from lack of care. Just when things looked bad, they got worse: In 2007 the home burned, leaving the interior hopelessly charred and exposed to the elements via a hole in the roof.
That’s when the story takes a beautiful turn. Neighbors decided this home had worth and that remaining in its burned-out dilapidated state or becoming a vacant lot would not be in the best interest of the community. So they bought it, restored and renovated it and achieved LEED and Energy Star recognition in the process. We loved the kitchen and, especially, the front door which was salvaged from another site. This home was featured earlier this year on DIY series “Uncondemned.” Thanks to their vision, it is now home to the Wojcik family.
The second home on the tour was also a Queen Anne style home, built in 1898. It’s called the Charles DePue House in honor of its first resident. He and his wife lived there only for five years at which point he died and the home reverted to his family from whom the lot had been given. The family lost the home to foreclosure in 1908.
The wrap-around porch practically begs for a lazy summer afternoon and we loved it. Another highlight in this home, as in so many of the homes on the tour was the fireplaces. Many of them have original metal covers and they, along with the mantels are often both beautiful and unique.
Finally, the bonus is a random home we passed as we walked to the next stop. A great way to spend a beautiful afternoon would be to walk around Old North, Fourth and Gill, Parkridge or one of the other ring neighborhoods to downtown. Nearly every street holds at least one jewel. I can get lost really quickly drifting from one to another if I don’t watch myself.
As I said at the beginning, I’ll sprinkle more homes from the tour in as I get the chance. (update) I had intended to attend the Tour de Lights tonight, but realize I have another obligation. I’d still love to run phtographs of the tour tomorrow, but I need a photographer or photographers. Want to see your photos on Inside of Knoxville? Email them to me as soon as the event is over at Knoxvilleurbanguy@gmail.com. In the absence of that, we’ll likely look at a couple of other homes from the tour tomorrow.