You don’t see this outside your window in Sequoyah Hills! This is shot from Unit 201 of the J.C. Penney Building at 416 S. Gay St.
No neighborhood in Knoxville has as much variety of residential options as does downtown. That’s why the City People organization has been able to conduct a downtown home tour every year for decades. The 2017 version was this past weekend and featured 11 homes — large, small, rental and owner occupied.
On the tour, we met residents who ranged from students to retirees and working professionals. All were attracted to downtown living by the vibrant vibe and myriad social opportunities that downtown offers.
Alan and I lived in two suburban neighborhoods before purchasing our downtown condo about eight years ago. And they were considered “good” neighborhoods — Concord Hills and Sequoyah Hills. But neither felt as much like a real neighborhood as does downtown Knoxville.
In the suburbs, due to our car culture, the routine goes like this: garage door up, car in, garage door down! Even though we were friends with our neighbors, we rarely spontaneously ran into them. We’d have to make an appointment to see them or have them come over. But in downtown, you see your neighbors and friends all the time. Folks are out and about, walking to dinner or drinks, going to shows or concerts or just taking a stroll. It’s warm and interesting.
Anyway, here are the homes and the residents on this year’s tour. Come join us downtown!
Did you know there were residences in the Cable Piano building at 422 S. Gay St.? It’s the building where the Art Market is located.
Built in about 1898 after the massive Gay Street fire of 1897, this building originally housed a wholesale grocery company, according to City People research. Cable Piano moved in around 1903, selling organs, pianos and player pianos and hosting recitals and offering music lessons.
One of the teachers there was violinist Bertha Roth, later known as Bertha Walburn Clark, the founder and original conductor of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra.
Homeowner Roger Goins and his 4-pound friend welcomed us to the building.
Here’s the living room.
Master bedroom at Cable Piano building.
One of my favorite spots on the tour was this rooftop sitting area on top of the Cable Piano building.
Another rooftop view.
Our hostess, Cheryl Goins.
Then, it was on to the J.C. Penney Building where we saw two different residences.
The J.C. Penney Building also was built just after the 1897 fire. It was a furniture store in the early 20th century. J.C. Penney moved in in 1935 and occupied it for almost 50 years.
Tricia Condra-Harris opened up Unit 304 to us.
Here’s her serene living room.
Loved the dining room table.
And the master bedroom.
Down in Unit 201, we met owner Christopher Bowlin, getting ready to enjoy happy hour! He’s lived there four months. That’s his view of the Babalu sign at the top of this blog post.
He also has a cool dining room table.
Bowlin’s living room.
Master bedroom. Very restful.
The Emporium at 112 S. Gay St., was our next stop. It was built in 1902 as the flagship store of the Sterchi Brothers Furniture chain.
The Emporium features interesting architectural details in the hallways.
Another great feature of The Emporium is its beautiful courtyard that all residents can use. I’ve been to some pretty spectacular parties there.
Lindsey Cody and his friend Mary Fran Darwin welcomed us to his apartment in Unit 304. All the units in The Emporium are rentals.
His kitchen decor is circa the 1950s. “I’m all about kitsch,” he chuckled.
Cody used to play the piano for Broadway musicals and he treated us to a tune:
Next stop was Fire Street Lofts at 220 W. Jackson Ave., to see two residences.
Built around 1925, the Fire Street Lofts building originally was a warehouse for Daniel Briscoe and Co., a prosperous wholesaler of dry goods. It was part of Knoxville’s so-called “garment district,” as were the other buildings on the south side of Jackson Avenue where, at one time, an assortment of shoes, hats, suits and other articles of clothing were made.
Vickie Smith’s unit is in the basement.
Here’s the cozy living room.
And the bedroom. Love, love, love the exposed brick.
Ken and Jacci Fletcher live in Unit 201.
Here’s the spacious living room.
With a pool table.
The master bedroom.
And a sweet little balcony.
Marble Alley Lofts, with 248 rental units, is less than two years old. Its address is 300 State St., and it was built on what formerly was a surface parking lot.
Marble Alley Lofts feature many amenities apartment dwellers have come to expect. Such as this fitness room.
This gathering and game area.
And a swimming pool.
Alex Ruedas, left, and Harry Miller showed us their 670-square-foot apartment.
A view into the kitchen.
And small living room attached to the kitchen.
Interestingly, all the apartments at Marble Alley feature little shelves outside their doors. Residents customize the tiny areas. Cute idea.
Obviously, the home of a Kentucky Derby fan.
The Elliott, at 207 W. Church Ave., at the corner of State Street, was built circa 1907 and has been a residential building all its life, although housing residents of vastly different circumstances.
City People research indicates that when it first was built, it was called Whitfield Flats and was home to young professionals, including doctors who kept offices in it. During the Depression, it became Whitfield Lodge, a rooming house operated by the Knoxville Transient Bureau and containing 190 beds. By the 1950s, it was a cheap rooming house. When I worked at the newspaper located across the street during the 1980s, we nicknamed it “The Empty Arms” because of the sometimes suspicious comings and goings it hosted.
Today, it is back to its glory days.
Homeowner Jenny Eversole, left, with her interior designer, Michelle Vittetoe.
Love her kitchen.
Here’s the master bedroom.
And a guest room.
Elegant living room.
There’s even a little porch with a view of Church Avenue.
There are only 12 brand new over-the-top residences atop THE TENNESSEAN, a personal luxury hotel located at 531 Henley St. One unit already has been sold. We toured the model unit, an 1,870-square-foot beauty located on the sixth floor.
The living room overlooks the World’s Fair Park and the Knoxville Convention Center.
The master bedroom.
The lobby features this fantastic mosaic of the Tennessee River made of books.
We headed to Kendrick Place next. Located at 600 Union Ave., it was built in 1916 and renovated in the early 1980s by developer Kristopher Kendrick.
We toured Unit 602, which belongs to our friend Alan Sims, the author of the Inside of Knoxville blog. He’s writing about the home tour, as well. Check it out.
Comfy living room.
A den lined with record albums.
Finally, we visited The Pembroke at 508 Union Ave. Built in 1929, it was an office building that housed the headquarters of the Tennessee Valley Authority when TVA was created in 1933.
Here’s my friend, Sara Fortune Rose, left, with one of the homeowners, Laura Cole, in the building’s lobby.
Nice, open kitchen.
Casual living room.
The Pembroke has a pool!
Here’s host, Deno Cole.
Well, what do you think? Something for every need and taste, right? It’s a blast living downtown!
I’m going to send these pictures to Martha with the hopes of enticing her to move back to the “big city”!
Hey, Joan: Good idea! I would love it if she would come back!
Thanks for sharing! I always intend to attend the tour, but then it never makes it into my calendar. I love seeing inside all of these spaces, and I’ve learned some things about the buildings I walk by on a regular basis!
Thank you Cynthia for this wonderful article. It was an honor to have you in my home and on the tour. Your photos are amazing as are you!
Lindsey: Thanks for playing us the tune from Cats! It made your stop really special.
The revitalization that has taken place in recent years has been wonderful. I personally consider downtown to be “the” place to live in Knoxville.
Felt like I was on the tour! Thanks, Cynthia! Neat places. Brian and I lived in a high rise in Indy in the mid-90s and always said we’d move downtown again (not in Indy, but Knox now!). We loved it and hope to do it again when we’re empty nesters.
Great pictures, Cynthia!! I love downtown!!
Great photos and a bit of history, too! Love these places — and these seem more spacious and more traditional than I’ve seen in the past. Soooo good for Knoxville!!!
Cynthia, Thanks so much. Great photos and narrative!
Hey, Modern Gal: I think you would really like this tour!
Bill Horton: I totally agree!
Pam: Come on and join us! I know you would love it. And you are almost an empty nester!
Rusha: Thanks. Wish you and Bert would join us!
Monique: Thanks. Love it, too!
Bill Lyons: Looking forward to us being neighbors in the J.C. Penney Bldg. in a few years!
Loved your article Cynthia.
I regret that I missed this wonderful opportunity to see our beautiful downtown redevelopment projects. The homes are marvelous and the pictures certainly captured the imagination of those of us who could not be there.
I hope you do it again, and that I can put that into my schedule!
Thanks for this, C. I needed a Knoxville fix and love love love these downtown homes!
Beautiful and what wonderful play and way to live. Wow. Thinking. From. Charleston. SC
Great article and photographs, Cynthia. I could have saved myself some time and just linked to you. Very nicely done.
Mary Pat, Phyllis, Carol and Elaine: Thanks so much!
Alan: Thanks for putting your condo on the tour! And for your sweet comment. You did a much more in depth job on your blog than I did. That’s why I DID link to you! You should read us both, everybody!
So glad we caught up with you for our rainy day tour!
Sara: What a lucky break for me! Loved touring with you all on my second day!
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