East Tennessee Historical Society, Downtown Home Tour, Brings Hundreds Out to Explore Downtown Living

Downtown Home Tour. James Park House-422 Cumberland Ave, June 2024
Downtown Home Tour. June 2024

Saturday marked the second annual Downtown Home Tour to benefit the East Tennessee Historical Society. The weather was perfect, and the homes were inviting, eclectic and interesting. It was a great day for walking the city or catching a ride on one of the trolleys that took home tour participants from stop to stop.

Downtown Home Tour. June 2024

Urban Guy kicked us off last week with a preview of one of the VIP homes listed on the home tour. Ticket sales were $25($35 on the event day) or $100 for VIPs, including the additional homes on the tour and a VIP reception hosted at The Arcade Building on Thursday.  

I started with a home that has been on my radar for quite a while. The James Park House captured my curiosity with its simplicity and long history in Knoxville. I was thrilled to see it listed as one of the homes on the tour.

Downtown Home Tour. James Park House-422 Cumberland Ave, June 2024
Downtown Home Tour. James Park House-422 Cumberland Ave, June 2024
Downtown Home Tour. James Park House-422 Cumberland Ave, June 2024

The brochure included information on the James Park House and all others on the tour. “The James Park House sits on what was originally Lot 59 in Charles McClung’s 1791 plat of Knoxville.” Inside, in each of the three hallways of the home turned headquarters for Gulf and Ohio Railways, the floors are painted to represent what the plats looked like over every 100 years in Knoxville’s history.

Downtown Home Tour. James Park House-422 Cumberland Ave, June 2024
Downtown Home Tour. James Park House-422 Cumberland Ave, June 2024
Downtown Home Tour. James Park House-422 Cumberland Ave, June 2024
Downtown Home Tour. James Park House-422 Cumberland Ave, June 2024

John Sevier originally started building what is now the James Park House in the 1790s. He ran into financial issues and abandoned the home’s construction to move his farm to Marble Springs. You can see the difference in stone from the original build to the next one that was finished in the first room we visited. James Park purchased the unfinished house in 1812, completed it, and added a second wing, giving it the L-shape we see today. Park served as Knoxville’s mayor twice. President Andrew Jackson stayed at the home in 1830. It was used by the Red Cross during WWI and became a medical clinic after that. In 1945, the Knoxville Academy of Medicine purchased the home and renovated it to fit their needs, and in 2002, Gulf and Ohio Railways CEO Pete Claussen and his wife Linda purchased the home to use as a headquarters and restored the house to its 19th-century appearance. It still serves as that headquarters today.

According to Don Claussen, son of Gulf and Ohio Railway CEO Pete Claussen, who gave the tours, this room is the oldest room in Knoxville, in the second oldest building.

Downtown Home Tour. James Park House-422 Cumberland Ave, June 2024

I had never been inside the Fire Street Lofts and only recently noticed this tucked-away development was condos. Formerly a Daniel Briscoe and Company warehouse, renovations were completed in 2006, and Fire Street Lofts was born. In the heart of the Old City, this building offers a variety of floor layouts and views for the residents. I toured the lovely loft of Kim Henry, who has lived there since its opening in 2006, and a slightly larger 2 bedroom home of Jackson Gainer and Ryan Connor, who have lived there for eight years, completing a major renovation to their condo four years ago after water damage from a unit above. Each space had a distinct feel and warmth to it.

Downtown Home Tour. Fire Street Lofts- 220 W. Jackson Ave. Host-Kim Henry, June 2024

Marble Alley Lofts was on the roster last year and appeared again this year with two units to view. This development by Buzz Goss offers many amenities to its residents, such as a saltwater pool, grilling station, fitness center, clubhouse, game room and pet spa. It is all rental units.

Downtown Home Tour. Marble Alley Lofts- 300 State St, Resident Amenities, June 2024

My first stop was the well-appointed bachelor apartment home of Danny Burale, who moved to Knoxville in 2023 from Orlando. His one-bedroom unit is on the ground floor and overlooks the pool and firepit recreation area.

The second unit, hosted by Jennifer Higgins, is a tastefully decorated two-bedroom, two-bathroom unit with a serene balcony view toward Mast General.

Kendrick Place Condominiums, the first downtown home to Urban Guy and Urban Woman, had a lovely development for a tour in the home of Dan and Grace Manore. A beautiful skylight and access to the quaint courtyard, along with light colors in the home, give an open and spacious feel. Kendrick Place was purchased in 1981 by Kristopher Kendrick, who gutted the row houses and turned them into what remains today.

Downtown Home Tour. Kendrick Place- 608 Union Ave, Hosts- Dan and Grace Manore, June 2024

The Medical Arts Building is a Gothic Revival style building with original, ornate finishes and architectural accents we don’t see elsewhere. It was built in 1932 and was home to many medical offices. It had a pharmacy, bank, beauty shop, florist, restaurant, bowling alley and putt-putt golf course to entertain residents. I felt like stepping back into the past when I walked through the doors. Historic terrazzo flooring and barrel-vaulted plaster ceilings have been restored, and the marble floors, East TN granite walls, and mahogany doors let you know there are many stories to tell in this building.

Downtown Home Tour. Medical Arts Building, 601 W. Main St, Host- Suzanne Moll, June 2024

The host for this building was Suzanne Moll. The 2 bedroom unit was cozy and featured my favorite views of the day out onto the river.

 

These tours can be life-changing if you are like Lisa Skinner and her husband, Stephen. It was one of these years ago, when hosted by City People, that the Skinners began their journey to living downtown. Residents now, for many years, there is little they miss from traditional living. They now enjoy the easy access to amenities, events and the downtown community they have.

If you are interested in volunteering or hosting your home on next year’s tour, contact Gay Lyons at lyons@easttnhistory.org.