The History of Westwood

In 2013, the Aslan Foundation donated the beautiful residence known as “Westwood” to Knox Heritage after purchasing it from a fourth-generation family member. The home was built in 1890 for John Edwin Lutz (1856-1920) and his wife Adelia Armstrong Lutz (1859-1931) a talented young woman who had emerged as a highly regarded artist and leader in the arts community.

Adelia Armstrong was born in 1859 to a father who had a passionate interest in the arts. Adelia followed in his footsteps and showed significant talent at an early age. Adelia’s education became a priority for her father who sent her to study at Miss Pegram’s School in Baltimore and later the Augusta Female Seminary in Staunton, Virginia. Adelia went on to study at both the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia and the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C in 1885 and 1886.

By the time she was 25 years old, she was considered to be an emerging star and earned prominent exposure in larger cities. She exhibited at the 1884 World Cotton Centennial in New Orleans and over the next few years her work received praise from several major newspapers. In 1886, Adelia returned to Knoxville to teach art at a downtown studio where she and a friend offered lessons in painting, drawing, and embroidery to women from many of the city’s most influential families. She met her future husband, John Lutz, while teaching and they married in February 1886. When the couple married and began planning their new home, Adelia’s artistic talent became fundamental to the process.

John and Adelia commissioned Knoxville’s first and best-known architectural firm, Baumann Brothers, to design Westwood. The result was an impressive Queen Anne style house unusual among its peers in that it was constructed of brick and included Richardsonian Romanesque elements in stone. Adelia’s painting studio was by far the grandest room in the house. Designed specifically for an artist, the studio had ample space for materials and paintings, a fireplace, a cathedral ceiling, tall windows, and an impressive skylight.

Adelia collaborated with artist and close friend C. Mortimer Thompson (1858-1939) on fresco paintings that covered the interior walls and ceilings of the house. The gardens were noted for their many flowers, especially hollyhocks which were a favorite painting subject.

In 1898, Adelia played a central role in the formation of the progressive new Knoxville Art Club, later renamed the Nicholson Art League (NAL) in 1901. The NAL was the city’s first visual-arts organization and was unusual among artistic or intellectual associations of the era for including both men and women. Adelia often hosted NAL meetings and lectures in the Westwood studio. Adelia served as president of NAL in 1903 and often served as a board member or chair of various NAL committees. Adelia remined active in NAL until her death in 1931.

Adelia’s work was exhibited at the 1893 Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition, the 1897 Tennessee Centennial Exposition in Nashville, the Appalachian Expositions of 1910 and 1911, and the National Conservation Exposition of 1913. An 1896 gallery exhibit in Louisville, Kentucky earned her praise as a painter of flowers. She would often return home to write and speak about art exhibits and frequently wrote for publications and local newspapers.

Westwood features the largest collection of her paintings on public display along with family memorabilia and other interesting examples of her painting skills. These include: a hand-painted book cover; hand-colored family photos; the studio fireplace tiles on which she painted portraits of some of her favorite poets and authors; and the dining room wainscoting which exhibits a delicate bouquet of flowers.

Westwood shares Adelia’s story and artistic talent with the world. We tell stories of not just Adelia and her family, but of her civic and professional life, along with her lifetime committed to the local art community. Westwood also shares our commitment to telling the story of other contemporary female artists. In the formal parlor, we have on exhibit two paintings by Eugenia Dulin (1869-1961) and a hand-crafted grandfather clock by Ellen Bolli Van Gilder (1875-1958), both friends, colleagues and fellow members of the Nicholson Art League. Sharing these stories allows our interpretation of the overall history of Knoxville female artists to lead to more conversations about these creative talents that have been lost for so many years.

Visitors experience Adelia’s artwork in the grand studio in which it was painted. A glance through the windows reveals evidence of the flowers and trees that provided her with inspiration. Westwood is a significant part of the Knoxville arts and culture community and preserves an important piece of the city’s architectural heritage.

Our organization routinely partners with the Historic House Museums of Knoxville coalition, the Arts & Culture Alliance, the Dogwood Arts organization, Knoxville Museum of Art, the Museum of East Tennessee History, the McClung Collection, and the University of Tennessee.

Debuting at the apex of the Gilded Age, Adelia’s Westwood was central to a life built on a love for all things beautiful. Her spirit calls us to pay closer attention to the world around us:

“If we only look for it, we are surrounded by the beautiful always. Cherish it, love it. Take it into your hearts and it will be your very life”.

Westwood makes a strong statement about the importance of preserving places that have the power to transport us to another moment in time.