933 Luttrell Street, A Stop on the Upcoming Fourth and Gill Tour of Homes and Secret Gardens, Knoxvile, March 2023
The Fourth and Gill Tour of Homes and Secret Gardens is scheduled for five weeks from this weekend, Sunday, April 30, from 1:00 pm to 6:00 pm. This year’s tour features seven historic homes, two historic structures, and “eight open gardens for guests to enjoy. The gardens, long a feature of the neighborhood have become a point of emphasis over the last two years.
While Urban Woman and I enjoyed downtown home tours starting somewhere around 2,000, it wasn’t until we moved downtown in 2009, that we discovered this beautiful neighborhood just to the north of downtown and this great walking tour. It was one of the first spots the city expanded to, making it one of the first suburbs. As the trolley reached out to Emory Place, it became easier to walk a few blocks, and catch the trolley into downtown for work.
That would have happened in the latter moments of the 19th century, and so the homes in Fourth and Gill closest to downtown are built in the style of that era, mostly two-story Victorian homes built from about 1880 to 1915. It’s the best neighborhood in the city to walk outward from downtown and see the decades of construction styles as the city moved from Victorian homes to Craftsman homes from about 1915 to 1930.
The home pictured here, 933 Luttrell Street, will be on the tour this year for the first time since I photographed it in 2015. Owners Lisa Sorensen and Scott Schimmel (who also own Bliss) were gracious enough to open up the beautiful 4,028 square foot home to be photographed and shared as a sample of the kinds of architecture you’ll be able to explore as part of the tour. The three-story Victorian includes three bedrooms, two-and-a half baths and a recreation/bonus space in the former attic.
The Hellner-Henry House was 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.”
Afterward, as was the case with so many of the larger homes int he neighborhood, it was 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.” (From the 2015 Home Tour Guide)
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 current owners continue to care for the old home, providing maintenance, and adding new touches.
It’s truly a miracle so many of the homes like this one have survived. More than surviving, the neighborhood has thrived, moving from a large percentage of derelict properties in the 1970s to one of the most sought-after neighborhoods fifty years later. While cherished today, many of the older homes, Victorians particularly, were seen as ugly once they were no longer in style.
Join the tour on April 30 and enjoy one of the city’s jewels. Tickets are $20 until the day of the event, at which point the price increases to $25. Children twelve and under are free. You will find tickets here.