Man moves historic house to Old North Knoxville neighborhood to save home from demolition

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – A 120-year-old Victorian cottage house was saved from demolition Friday after it was moved from Baxter Avenue to a property in historic Old North Knoxville.

Laurence Eaton received permits from the City of Knoxville to move the home by truck Friday to his property on Oklahoma Avenue.

According to the Knoxville Metropolitan Planning Commission, the current owner of the property wants to redevelop the entire block of Baxter Avenue, which means tearing down homes built in the 1900s and building a new mixed use structure.

The house was on the 100 block on Baxter avenue, where new development is planned. It’s now been relocated to Oklahoma avenue, in a historic district.

The trip from Baxter avenue was only a few blocks, but it took quite awhile. After several weeks of preparation, 137 Baxter Street got on the road just after noon.

“We put steel beams under the house and use a hydraulic jack system that jacks everything up equally,” said Michael Mills with M&M House Movers.

The Harrogate company found the historic home to be surprisingly solid for its age. The challenge was logistics.

“Just coordinating with the police department and getting under utility wires and that’s about it. We have a few tree limbs along the way we might have to trim,” said Mills.

A small crowd gathered to watch the process, including Bobbie Driver, who lived in the house from 1952 until 1975.

“It was home. It was a good neighborhood. The kids had a good place to play. My husband walked to work at Merita Bakery,” said Driver.

Her daughters have many fond memories of growing up here.

“It’s a good thing to save, a good thing to preserve. I wish we could have saved more of them,” said Pat Phillips.

The women are grateful to local preservationist Laurence Eaton for making this move possible.

“It’s really for us and the neighborhood as well,” said Eaton.

The whole row of homes is set to be replaced with a new development. The property owner told Eaton he could have this house, the best in the bunch, if he could get it moved in time.

“It was a perfectly good house, already restored. It retained all of its elements and is structurally sound. It made sense to preserve it and keep it from going into the landfill,” he said.

Now that the home is here on Oklahoma Avenue, it’s no longer in danger, as it is now in a designated historic district, which means the house can’t be torn down.

Eaton now hopes to find a long-term tenant for the home who will appreciate its history.

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