2017 Stars of Knoxville Preservation Announced

SoKno Taco Cantina, 1701 Sevierville Pike, Knoxville, March 2017

A mixture of buildings and the people who brought them back to life were honored last night by Knox Heritage. Kim Trent, Executive Director, presided over what will be her last awards ceremony, as she has announced her intentions to leave the organization after the first of the year.

Ken Stein, President and CEO of the League of Historic American Theatres gave the keynote address, beginning with compliments regarding the city and stating that he would not mind calling it, “home.” In discussing two historic theatres and two performing arts centers in Austin, Texas, he pointed out that the place with the memories and with a story will be preferred by patrons and donors every time, making a strong case for the economics of preservation.

Kim Trent at the 2017 Knox Heritage Preservation Awards

Ken Stein, President and CEO of the League of Historic American Theatres

Faris Eid

As is always the case, many of the buildings and people honored have been featured on Inside of Knoxville. The Preservationist of the Year Award, for example, went to Faris Eid of DIA for his work on many preservation projects. I spotlighted Faris when he was similarly honored, last year by the East Tennessee Community Design Center.

While Knox Heritage focuses once each year on their Fragile Fifteen – the important historic properties they consider to be the most endanger of demolition – they take this opportunity each year to focus on their Fantastic Fifteen, some of which were once on the Fragile Fifteen list, but have been saved from pending loss by a preservation minded citizen or developer.


The beautiful remodel of a building that was previously functional, but never accused of being beautiful, has now become Wild Love Bakehouse and is both attractive and functional as a bakery and coffee shop. What was once an afterthought of a building is now a center of community activity. The plans for the shop were first announced here.

A number of homes near downtown won awards and, in particular, McMillian Flats, at 507 N. Central, a townhome which had fallen into disrepair and had been subdivided into multiple homes, has been restored and I hope to spotlight it here, soon. A similar set of homes in the heart of downtown, Kendrick Place (featured here), was honored for the residents’ precise replication of the 100 year old cornices which had deteriorated to the point of being a public danger. The residents payed approximately $140,000 to have the fabrication and installation completed over a two year period.

Kendrick Place, Knoxville, April 2017

Also recognized were buildings scattered near the center city which have been discussed here. The building housing Honeybee Coffee (spotlighted here) on Sevier Avenue, the Electric Company Lofts (spotlighted here) – which seemed to me to push the edges of what might be successful only to be a complete success out the gate, and SoKno Taco (spotlighted here) on Sevierville Pike.

Electric Company Lofts, Corner of Willow and McCalla, Knoxville, August, 2017

Also recognized was the Knoxville History Project for their work with the downtown art wraps (spotlighted here), as well as the Stair Building on Summit Hill Drive (this one got past me), which won the Greystone Award. The building is part of the campus of Lincoln Memorial.


Downtown Art Wraps by the Knoxville History Project, Catherine Wiley, Corner of Union and Gay, Knoxville, September 2017

Finally, each mayor gives one award to a developer or project they feel is particularly important in the current year. The two awards converged as Mayor Burchett recognized the work at Knoxville High School and Mayor Rogero recognized the work at the Farragut Hotel (Hyatt Place). The two have in common, the same developer, Rick Dover, who accepted the awards. He stated that the Farragut will be open in about a week, with the homes at the former Knoxville High School soon to follow.


Nights like this are important. Many of the people behind these projects aren’t rich and don’t get that way by lovingly renovating a home or a small building. Sometimes they spend their life’s savings. And in either case, the financial outcome isn’t generally guaranteed. And these buildings matter. They are the reason that Knoxville “feels” the way it does, they are the reason people are attracted to our city and they are critical to our future success.

The complete list of awards should be posted later today on the Knox Heritage Website. While there, why not donate or join?


  1. It is actually named for a cousin of the Caesar Stair family we know today. According to Steve Cotham at East Tennessee History Center, the building is named for Fred Stair, who served on the school board from 1931 to 1939 and founded Stair Tech High School at City Hall Park. He also served as Knoxville Mayor from 1942 to 1943.

  2. I am confused by the Stair Building which does not look like the photo above. The stairway is now filled in with glass, which does not seem original to the building.
    Also, BIG thanks for the handsome photo of the replacement Kendrick Place cornices. The Knox Heritage photo was disappointing.

  3. Ken Sparks says:

    The Stair building was the old City Hall before it was LMU. I don’t know if the building was named after the Stair family, but likely was since they were involved in Knoxville preservation. Dorothy Stair may know the answer to that. Or Jack Neely would know.

  4. Chris Eaker says:

    What was the Stair building before it was part of the LMU campus? Is it named for the Stair family of Knoxville?

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