The 2023 Fragile & Fading list spotlights significant properties and neighborhoods still in need of preservation strategies. The goal of this list is to strengthen community advocacy and support to initiate change before these historic places are lost forever. Together, we can conserve resources, protect beautiful architecture, sustain the local economy by creating jobs and growing heritage tourism, and connect our community to our shared and irreplaceable history.
West View Cemetery District – Keith Avenue
In response to individuals attempting to visit loved ones on Mother’s Day 2022, a renewed interest to clean up the West View Cemetery District was initiated by local citizens. Denzel Grant, Executive Director of Turn Up Knox, and additional community members have worked diligently on finding solutions. Funds raised by the community and a matching contribution from a local church have enabled Turn Up Knox to purchase lawn care equipment and other necessities needed to keep up the Crestview section of the district for a full calendar year.
In February 2023, the Beck Cultural Center hosted an open meeting, with representatives from the West View Community Action Group, Turn Up Knox, and Knox Heritage in attendance. The conversation is ongoing and Knox Heritage remains committed to working with the community to find sustainable solutions for the preservation and maintenance of these sacred sites.
Located in the West View Neighborhood along Keith Avenue, West View Cemetery District is a group of three abandoned African American cemeteries – Southern Chain Cemetery (est. 1898), Longview Cemetery (est. 1915), and Crestview Cemetery (est. 1922.) It is estimated that there are over 15,000 burials between the three cemeteries, though unrecorded burials may make that figure much higher. Combined, these cemeteries are the final resting place of educators, authors, doctors, musicians, lawyers, and business owners.
In the 1960s, ownership of the three cemeteries was the responsibility of Crestview Cemetery, Inc, a perpetual care cemetery. During this time, hundreds of Knoxville’s Black citizens, feeling secure in the owners’ promises and obligation to maintain the site, purchased burial plots. By 1984, all three cemeteries were abandoned, overgrown, and had become an illegal dumping ground.
Efforts to save and maintain the cemeteries have been attempted throughout its almost 40-year abandonment, with small successes over the years. Crestview proved to be easier to clean and maintain because it was the only cemetery of the three set up as a business at its inception, which meant it fell under the jurisdiction of the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance. This allowed the department to acquire the cemetery in 1993 through legal action and the West View Community Action Group took over the maintenance and advocacy of the historic cemeteries using all volunteers, but they could never unravel the legalities and ownership issues.
Although West View Community Action Group does not have legal control over the cemeteries, they maintain watch over them and mostly rely on family members and volunteers to help care for sections of the cemetery. For several years, through a partnership with the West View Community Action Group and the Knox County Department of Corrections, Crestview was mowed and maintained. But due to the COVID-19 pandemic this partnership ended.
Giffin School – 1834 Beech Street
In late 2021, a new developer came forward with plans to purchase and restore the historic Giffin School, and construct new buildings on the property for affordable housing. Historic Giffin, LP purchased the property in December 2022. Knox Heritage still holds the preservation easement on the property and will be working closely with Historic Giffin, LP throughout the redevelopment. We are excited for this new opportunity, and we hope to share more updates with the community in the coming months.
Located in the South Knoxville’s South Haven neighborhood, Giffin School was named for Andy Giffin, who donated the land for the original building. The original section was completed in 1920 and designed by the local architectural firm, Barber & McMurry. Due to overcrowding, an addition was constructed in 1928, also designed by Barber & McMurry. After several years, once again the school building proved to be too small, and a new addition was added in 1950. This addition added six more classrooms, a gym, and a cafeteria. The final addition was designed by Bruce McCarty (1920 – 2013) of Rutherford and Painter Architects and is speculated to be McCarty’s first solo design.
For years, the building was occupied by the non-profit group Remote Area Medical and was owned by Knox County. In 2015, Knox Heritage purchased the property and placed a preservation easement on the building and released a competitive RFP (Request for Proposals) for the adaptive reuse for the property. Giffin Senior Community, LLC purchased the building in early 2016 and the school was placed on the National Register of Historic Places later that year. Unfortunately, several years went by with continued neglect and no movement on redevelopment plans.
Fort Sanders Historic District
Fort Sanders suffers from popularity. Its close proximity to downtown Knoxville and the University of Tennessee makes it an ideal location for dense housing developments which are not part of the traditional streetscape. Many homes have been destroyed over the years, either for new development or from neglect. Increasingly dense development, inappropriate renovations, and teardowns are destroying the character of this charming neighborhood. Additionally, parking is a growing challenge as many home renovations emphasize the highest quantity of rentable bedrooms in each property while using public street spaces.
Knox Heritage continues to encourage sensitive development and construction best practices that respect the character of the neighborhood. We are committed to offering technical assistance to all developers renovating houses within the district and providing alternative design solutions to accommodate the growing need of student housing.
With pockets of original homes located west of Fort Sanders Hospital – without the protection of the Fort Sanders Historic District NC overlay – Knox Heritage is also committed to advocating for district expansion from 21st Street to 23rd Street along Clinch Avenue, Laurel Avenue and Highland Avenue.
Fort Sanders is named for the Civil War-era Union bastion that once stood near the center of the neighborhood and was the site of a key engagement in 1863. During the 1880s, several of Knoxville’s wealthiest residents built notable houses in the area alongside more modest dwellings for plant managers and workers employed in factories along Second Creek. Fort Sanders’ residents included some of Knoxville’s leading industrialists and politicians, as well as professors from the University of Tennessee and the author James Agee. Today, the neighborhood still contains a notable number of its original Victorian-era houses and other buildings which were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980 as the Fort Sanders Historic District.
Park City Historic District
While there is a trend of housing renovation taking place in the Park City Historic District, too often these renovations are not sensitive to the historic character of the structures. In addition to inappropriate alterations, there are many neglected properties and occasional teardowns, particularly of secondary structures that were once used for housing and contribute to the National Register district.
Knox Heritage is committed to providing technical assistance and to supporting current homeowners in their efforts to advocate for renovations within the National Register district and to adhere to best design practices.
The Park City Historic District, most commonly known as Parkridge, is located east of downtown Knoxville off Magnolia Avenue. The area was once part of a vast farm owned by Moses White, the son of Knoxville founder James White. Originally developed as a streetcar suburb for Knoxville’s professional class in the 1890s, the neighborhood provided housing for many workers at the nearby Standard Knitting Mill.
In 1990, over 600 houses were listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Park City Historic District. The neighborhood contains one of the largest concentrations of houses designed by George Franklin Barber (1854–1915), a mail-order architect known nationwide for his ornate Victorian house plans.
Diverse architecture, walkable streets, and its notable history make this district an important part of the city’s development story.
Lord Lindsey – 615 W. Hill Avenue
Empty and underutilized for many years, this iconic downtown structure is located in the Hill Avenue Historic District H Zoning and is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. Knox Heritage is committed to providing assistance to the current owner to find a viable use for the building and offer business concepts that would benefit the historic structure. We also advocate for the structure to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places, which opens up potential grants and eligibility for Historic Preservation Tax Credits for redevelopment.
Knox Heritage has spoken with the current owner, Shailesh Patel, who shared that plans to renovate the building as an event space were thwarted by the pandemic. Patel shared that for the past year or so, “we have had interest by other parties to purchase Lord Lindsey for office or restaurant use. We know the future eventual improvements will be well received and are excited for the future of this historic landmark.” Knox Heritage will continue conversations and will keep the community informed of any important updates.
Lord Lindsey, the iconic Hill Avenue building located in downtown Knoxville, was originally built as a private residence in 1901. The home was built by businessman and civic leader, A. Percy Lockett (1870-1926) and was designed by local architect, Leon Beaver (1847-1905.) In 1919, the home was purchased by Lockett’s mother, Margaret Augusta Lockett, who lived in the house until her death in 1925.
The congregation of the First Church of Christ, Scientist (organized in 1899) purchased the house in 1926 and renovated the house into its new church. The congregation moved to a new location on Kingston Pike in 1976.
In 1979, the building became the restaurant, Lord Lindsey’s, that was owned and operated by renowned Knoxville preservationist, Kristopher Kendrick (1935-2009). As a restaurant, catering service, and eventually a nightclub, Lord Lindsey’s has been important to many people in Knoxville who have attended functions there and admired its architectural details, associating important events in their own lives with this beloved space.
Standard Knitting Mill – 1400 Washington Avenue
After a fire in January 2022 that severely damaged the front section of the building, the current footprint still comes in at over 400,000 square feet, and the circa 1945 building is the only remaining structure associated with Standard Knitting Mill.
The current owners, W-R-S, Inc. have continued to work with the City of Knoxville and a local architecture firm on redevelopment plans. Knox Heritage has reached out to the property owners multiple times for comment, but we have not gotten a response at this time. We will continue our efforts to foster a discussion around preservation strategies for the remaining structure.
Standard Knitting Mill was founded in 1900 with 50 employees. The largest textile and knitting mill in Knoxville, Standard employed over 4,000 Knoxvillians by the 1930s. At one time, Standard produced over one million garments a week and inspired Knoxville’s title as the “Underwear Capital of the World.”
Knoxville College – 901 Knoxville College Drive
Knox Heritage has spoken with Knoxville College leadership and we offer support in researching pathways to re-accreditation in order to gain eligibility for grant funding for the stabilization of these historic structures. We encourage more community partnerships to emerge that can work together to save this significant site.
Knoxville College was founded in 1875 as part of the missionary effort of the United Presbyterian Church of North America to promote religious, moral, and educational leadership among freedmen and women. The campus was the first African American college in East Tennessee and hosted prominent figures such as Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. DuBois, and Martin Luther King, Jr.
While pursuing their education, students assisted in the design and construction of these historic buildings and used bricks made on campus. The National Register District is composed of eight contributing buildings. The historic buildings, with their fine craftsmanship and solid design, deserve to be restored and used again. Currently, many campus buildings are condemned and suffering from a severe lack of maintenance. Arson fires and the fact that many buildings are completely vacant have heightened the critical need for immediate intervention.