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On Wednesday, May 15, at 11:00 a.m., Knox Heritage will announce its 2013 list of the most endangered historic buildings and places in Knoxville and Knox County – The Fragile Fifteen. The announcement will take place at the historic Walker-Sherrill House, located at 9320 Kingston Pike. The media and public are invited to attend this announcement. Suggested parking is in the northern end of the parking lot adjacent to Academy Sports (145 Moss Grove Boulevard off Kingston Pike, 37922).
The Walker-Sherrill House is an excellent demonstration of the positive impact of historic preservation. Many have wondered about the fate of the stately antebellum home on Kingston Pike just west of Cedar Bluff Road, across from Home Depot. Named for the families that have owned it over the last 165 years, The Kennedy-Baker-Walker-Sherrill House is one of the few surviving examples of Federal architecture in Knox County. The Sherrill family sold the house and surrounding 104 acres to an out-of-state developer in 2007. As part of the rezoning to allow the surrounding land to be developed for retail, office, and residential uses, the developer agreed to protect the house with historic overlay (H-1) zoning and restore it for a new use. The overlay zoning was put in place, but because of the downturn in the economy and other factors, the restoration has not yet happened. The house has deteriorated, left standing open to the elements and vagrants.
After working almost seven years on its preservation, Knox Heritage is proud to report the house finally has a bright future. The house, apart from the modern development going up around it, has been sold to a new owner, Bill Hodges, who is carefully planning a comprehensive and historically sensitive restoration, despite formidable obstacles and considerable expense. Bill is an experienced developer with sincere love of history and historic buildings. Many will know of his work at Franklin Square, with such businesses as The Chop House and Spa 9700, and the Harrison Keepe subdivision. Bill is pursuing the Walker-Sherrill restoration with his daughter, Katie Hodges. Their experience in commercial real estate development was crucial in finding a solution to this complicated project. The Walker-Sherrill House will be converted into office space.
Every May during National Preservation Month, Knox Heritage releases its list of the most endangered historic buildings and places in order to educate the public and local leaders about the plight of significant historic resources. Often, the endangered buildings and places are representative of issues that endanger similar parts of our heritage across the community.
The historic places included on the list are selected by the Knox Heritage Board of Directors from nominations received from members of Knox Heritage and the general public. The list provides a work plan for the organization over the next 12 months. Preservation strategies are developed for each site on the list and can include working with current property owners, government officials, citizens and/or potential new owners to preserve these important parts of Knox County’s heritage.