May is National Preservation Month, and Knox Heritage presented its annual Preservation Awards in a ceremony last night at the Emporium. Celebrating a wide range of preservationists and projects, the night serves as a reminder of the good things that happen in our city and region. The awards went to preservation projects and accomplishments all around the east Tennessee area. Some involved downtown, near-downtown, or downtown-related projects. I’ll highlight those here.
Mayor Kincannon presented the city mayor’s award to a home on Jefferson Avenue in Parkridge. Left derelict for years and condemned by the city, it was brought back to life by Reagan Design and Construction. She noted that the only home she has ever owned is the 1905 home she bought twenty-one years ago in the Fourth and Gill Neighborhood. She also noted the city’s commitment to preservation, mentioning the Jackson Ramps project and the preservation of the oldest portions of Saint Mary’s Hospital.
Mayor Jacobs, presenting the county mayor’s award, spoke of not only people changing the places by restoring them, but his award goes to a place that, in turn, changes people. His award recognized Dogan-Gaither Flats at 211 Jessamine Street. Josh Smith and Fourth Purpose Foundation offer a half-way house there to prisoners returning the the community. Josh thanked Sanders Pace for their design work in bringing the former hotel serving black travelers through Knoxville to its current restored state. Mayor Jacobs said the recidivism rate for former inmates in Knox County is 70%, but for those going through this program it is 10%.
Volunteer of the Year went to Caesar Stair IV for his years of work providing pro bono legal advice to the organization. The Spirit of Kristopher Award (named for Kristopher Kendrick), one of the most fun awards of the night, went to Michael Pizzolongo whose plaster work may be found in historic buildings and homes all around the city. For the last fifty-two years, Michael has applied the plaster to some of the buildings we most love, such as the Bijou and Westwood, home to Knox Heritage.
A series of Preservation Stewardship Awards, given to people and organizations across the region, who have ensured ongoing preservation of a structure for at least ten years. One downtown building and business received recognition. Home Federal Bank started in 1924 inside the Farragut Hotel (now the Hyatt Place) and later moved to a series of buildings on Market Street. One of those, 515 Market, recently had major renovations while preserving its historic features, and for that they were given a Preservation Stewardship Award. McCarty Holsaple McCarty provided the design work.
The night served as a reminder that many people are doing the work of preserving our history and our historic buildings. We lose some and it can seem we are losing more than we save, but there are always people and organizations, like Knox Heritage, ensuring victories along the way, as well.