We started and ended our tour of the neighborhood at the Central United Methodist Church. I didn’t include it in the first article, both because we saw it last and because I wasn’t happy with my photographs, so I walked back to the church yesterday for a do-over. It was worth it. The Gothic Revival church, built in 1927, is beautiful. Upon its completion it was the largest auditorium in the city with a seating capacity of 1600, which meant it saw a wide variety of uses.
Of particular interest is the pipe organ, which the church purchased in 1935 from the Riviera Theater. I would never have imagined there was anything left of the Riviera or that a church would buy a pipe organ from a theater. “The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005.
From a church to a former school, two units in Brownlow School Lofts were included on the tour. Unfortunately, due to the smallness of the units and the press of the crowd, I got very few shots. Each were one bedroom, one bath and one additional room which included living space and a kitchen. Due to the size and the inclusion in the building, at least some of these homes offer a more affordable price-point for the neighborhood. I met Monet, a reader of this webpage (hi Monet) in the first unit and loved what she’d done with Christmas lights. The second unit is maintained by the parents of Sean Martin who I interviewed for the first article on the neighborhood.
The school is not named after Parson Brownlow as I might have guessed, but rather after his son, John Bell Brownlow. It served as an elementary school until the 1990s, was later used in the movie “October Sky,” and subsequently fell into a blighted state. The neighborhood, having already lost one of its historic schools, made certain the school would be saved. “Renovations began in 2007, and in 2009 the building re-opened as Brownlow School Lofts, now containing 35 condominium units.”
I’ve probably gone overboard with the photographs of the Hellner-Henry House, but it’s pretty spectacular in every direction and it’s pretty massive. Built in 1893 for John C. Hellner and his family, it was one of the earliest built that far north at the time. The house sold in 1906, 1919 and was taken from the Henry family in a foreclosure in 1941 and “auctioned from the courthouse steps.”
The next development was predictable: it began to be divided into smaller rental units. “While the Henry family had lived in the house for over twenty years, during the 20 years of its incarnation as a multi-unit rental, it accommodated at least twenty-three households.” Vacant by 1968, “it would remain so for the next 18 years. In the late 1970s, in fact, all five houses on Luttrell Street nearest to the intersection with Caswell Avenue were vacant.” It’s barely short of miraculous that they all not only survive today, but have been restored and are filled with new families.
Its renovation started in 1985 by Don Reinke who described it as, “a neglected, dilapidated shell that stood on an overgrown weed-choked lot . . .” A series of subsequent owners have repaired damage, restored details and shaped the home back into a single-family dwelling. It is now a spectacular showplace from the entertainment room in the attic to the garden in the back featuring outdoor seating, fireplace and large-screen television mounted to the back wall.
The final stop was 906 Luttrell Street, the home I described in the article last week as having experienced a devastating fire. Built in 1909, it was a rectory from the beginning, when Reverend C.B.K. Weed moved from the older rectory discussed yesterday. They sold it in 1917 and, “Mrs. Linda Cox James owned it from 1942 to 1990, living on the first floor herself and renting rooms upstairs.
In 2014 a fire erupted near the end of a complete renovation. The home remained structurally sound, but as you may be able to tell from the photographs displayed at this open house, the interior was near a total loss. I’m not sure I would have had it in me to start over, but the family did so and now the home is a beautiful showcase with no obvious evidence of the fire that nearly ended its long history.
I’ll end with a little dance note: The two free passes for dance bootcamp provided by K-Town Swing go to Mari Pucciarelli who says, “I will use it in June so I can be ready to dance at Floyd Fest in July!” Congratulations, Mari. Happy dancing.