KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Fifteen historic buildings were named as some of the most endangered places in Knox County Monday.
Knox Heritage released the list as a part of National Preservation Month. The organization created preservation strategies and plans for each location.
Knoxville College Historic District, 901 Knoxville College Drive
The organization will work to preserve many buildings on the campus, including: McKee Hall, Wallace Hall, Elnathan Hall, McMillan Chapel, Giffen Memorial Gymnasium, President’s House. Knoxville College was founded in 1875 as part of the missionary effort of the United Presbyterian Church of North America. Knox Heritage says the situation there continues to dramatically deteriorate, with several buildings either condemned or suffering from lack of maintenance. There have been several recent arsons there as well. The school has developed a redevelopment committee to examine strategies to save the core of the campus, but the task will require assistance from the city of Knoxville and other organizations.
Related story: Will historic Knoxville College reopen?
The Cal Johnson Building, 301 State Street
The Cal Johnson building was built in 1908 and originally housed a clothing factory. It was built by Knoxville’s first African American philanthropist, a rare large commercial structure built by a former slave. Johnson was also a city alderman and operated several saloons and a horse racing track.
The building is deteriorating and suffering from a lack of maintenance. Knox Heritage wants to work with the property owner to make repairs and capitalize on the recent downtown redevelopment.
The Sterchi Mansion/Stratford, 809 Dry Gap Pike
Stratford was built for Knoxville businessman and community leader James G. Sterchi in 1910. Sterchi was the co founder of furniture wholesaler Sterchi Brothers Furniture Company. Sterchi played a big role in the promotion of popular music, sponsoring some of the earliest-known country music recordings, later known as “The Knoxville Sessions.”
The mansion is a community landmark, but Knox Heritage says it has been empty and deteriorating. A lengthy foreclosure battle has left the property in limbo.
Fort Sanders House and Grocery, 307 18th Street, 1802,1804 and 1810 Highland Ave
Fort Sanders House and Grocery consists of four buildings on the southwest corner of the 1800 block of Highland Avenue in the Historic Fort Sanders Neighborhood. The buildings were purchased by Covenant Health in 2008. They are protected by Neighborhood Conservation Zoning, but are boarded up and deteriorating. Covenant Health has said it wants to tear down the buildings to “clear the corner,” but no new construction has been announced. Knox Heritage wants Covenant to work with residents and Knox Heritage to restore the properties.
The 307 18th Street building was constructed around 1923 as the W.T. Roberts Grocery Store, but was known as the 18th Street IGA for many years.
The Victorian house at 1802 Highland Avenue was built around 1891 for Ranson D. Whittle, who owned and founded the Whittle Truck and Bag Company. The Whittle Springs neighborhood is named for his family. William T. Roberts, the owner of the 18th Street grocery store, lived there for several years.
A Victorian cottage at 1804 Highland Avenue was built around 1898 and its first owner was Methodist Rev. Isaac Van Dewater.
Another Victorian home at 1810 Highland Avenue was built around 1895 for Dr. Henry Patton Coile, a prominent surgeon and physician.
The Paul Howard House, 2921 N. Broadway
The 1910 Craftsman style house was recently saved from destruction to make way for a big-box retail store, but its fate is still in limbo. Paul Howard’s heirs have listed it for sale, but Knox Heritage says there are no protections in place to keep it from being demolished by its next owner. Knox Heritage is working to get the home designated with Historic Overlay zoning and to find an owner committed to preserving the home.
Related story: Historic Howard House in North Knoxville listed for sale
The Joseph Knaffl House – 3738 Speedway Circle
This Victorian style house was built on Gay Street around 1880 and was home to art and portrait photographer Joseph Knaffl. He is best known for the 1899 portrait “Knaffl Madonna,” which has been reprinted thousands of times and used on Hallmark Christmas cards. The house was moved to Speedway Circle in 1927, the former Cal Johnson racetrack converted into a subdivision.
The house was foreclosed upon in 2012 and was sold to new owners the next year. The new owners have stripped all the original woodwork from the interior and its continued deterioration caused it to be condemned. The owners have said they want to dismantle and demolish the house, but Knox Heritage wants the city to go forward with a finding of demolition by neglect and acquire the home for resale to an owner who will retain and restore it.
Greyhound Bus Station – 100 E. Magnolia Avenue
The Greyhound Bus Station was built in 1960 with many modern conveniences of the time, including air conditioning, a cafeteria, barber shop and beauty shop. Greyhound announced in February they may move their bus terminal to a new location, making the building available for redevelopment.
Estabrook Hall – University of Tennessee – 1012 Estabrook Road
Estabrook Hall was built in 1898, named for Joseph Estabrook, the fifth president of the University of Tennessee. The building has a strong association with the engineering program. University representatives have expressed a willingness to preserve Estabrook if building code and security issues can be addressed in a cost effective manner.
Sanitary Laundry – 625 N. Broadway
The building was constructed in 1925 in the area now known as Downtown North. The building has deteriorated so much that Knox Heritage says it’s endangering surrounding buildings. The city acquired the property and issued a Request for Proposals for redevelopment. Only one proposal was submitted and it was rejected.
Burlington Commercial District
Originally located at the end of Knoxville’s first streetcar line, it was a place where people stepped off the trolley to go to Chilhowee Park and also to Cal Johnson’s Racetrack, whose oval outline is still evident in nearby Speedway Circle.
Knox Heritage recently obtained a grant to complete a National Register District nomination for the area, making the buildings eligible for preservation tax credits and other incentives for redevelopment.
Rule High School – 1901 Vermont Avenue
The school is named after a former Knoxville mayor, Captain William Rule. The building was built in 1926-1927. The school was closed in 1991. The Knox County School District owns the property, but surplussed the stadium.
Pryor Brown Garage – 314 & 322 W. Church Avenue
The parking garage on Church Avenue near Market Street was built in 1925 and 1929 by Pryror Brown. Knox Heritage says it is one of the first ramp-style parking structures in Knoxville. The organization believes the structure can help downtown.
French Broad River Corridor
The land was once home to prehistoric people, according to Knox Heritage. Homes and businesses were built on the land in the 1780s. Some buildings in the area are damaged and vacant.
The Eugenia Williams House – 4848 Lyons View Pike
The house belonged to Eugenia Williams, the daughter of one of the investors of Coca-Cola. The house was built in 1940 by John Fanz Staub.
South High School – 953 E. Moody Avenue
South High School was built in 1935-1936 by Charles Barber. Orignally, it was South Knoxville Junior High School. The last graduating class to walk through the building was in 1976. Knox Heritage says the building has roof damage and water damage.