Downtown Home Tour: options are amazing!

Jane Venable, left, and Kim Cunningham visit one of the VIP homes on the Downtown Home Tour: the lovely residence of Kim and Jim Hays in the Burwell Building, located at 602 S. Gay Street, the same structure that houses the Tennessee Theatre.

No matter what kind of housing you are seeking, you can probably find it in downtown Knoxville. Big spaces, tiny spaces, historic properties, ultra-modern vibes. Views of the river, the mountains, the city, or the ever-changing construction site of the brand new downtown stadium!

The East Tennessee Historical Society demonstrated all that once again earlier this month with its popular Downtown Home Tour. Ticket-holders could tour nine different residences. Folks who opted for the VIP version of the tour could add an additional two homes to the itinerary (plus a pretty fun reception!).

The home tour has been going on for more than 30 years. The Historical Society took it over a couple of years ago when its originating organization, City People, decided to close its doors. With more than 350 ticket-purchasers, 100 volunteers, and those 11 sets of home owners, this project has a LOT of moving parts. Kudos to everyone who helped make it happen, but especially to Gay Lyons, the chief development officer for the East Tennessee Historical Society. She’s the one who ultimately had to wrangle all those cats!

We started our day in the Burwell Building on Gay Street. It was built in 1908 and expanded in 1928.

I loved the living room of the Hays’ home on the third floor. It was one of the two VIP condos on the tour.

The beautiful master bedroom.

Check out the dresser drawers!

The extra bedroom is turned into an office.

I liked this sweet arrangement — especially the rabbit wearing glasses!

And this cat!

Our gracious hosts, Jim and Kim Hays.

Brunch fare.

And mimosas!

It was fun running into Jenny Bushkell, left, and Carole Coode there.

Up on the sixth floor of the Burwell Building, Carole Sue Thomas welcomed guests in her kitchen. “It’s the largest room in the condo,” she said. “And it’s never used! I make coffee!”

She’s in the travel industry — and it shows. Her job with Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises keeps her on the road — or on the water or in the air — a lot. Love this light fixture!

Check out the wallpaper in this guest bathroom!

And what a creative way to wedge in a sink!


Also on the sixth floor of the Burwell Building is the condo of Julie Mitchell.

Clearly a music lover, her living room features two jukeboxes and a huge CD collection!

I’ve never seen such an interesting way to display CDs.

She had a couple of these antique cone amplifiers. You place your cell phone in a little slot, and the music you select comes out of the cone! We tried it out and it works great!

A music lover’s art!

We crossed the street to enter The Holston, 531 Gay Street, where we were greeted by volunteers Anthony Wilson, left, and Tyler Janow, who also are downtown dwellers. This was the second VIP condo on the tour.

The Holston was completed in 1913 as the headquarters of Holston National Bank.

Jenny Eversole, a downtown resident who was working as a volunteer, passed out foot coverings for those entering the 14th floor condo of Jim Harness and Rick Kennedy.

Jim Harness in the kitchen. That’s Nancy Voith to the left, a fellow tour ticket-holder.

There’s plenty of room for their piano!

Living room.

The view from the deck to the northeast is awesome!

Rick Kennedy in the master bedroom.

Love it.

Art reflective of the downtown environment!

Then, I made the trek to Knoxville’s Old City and 220 W. Jackson Avenue where Fire Street Lofts are located. Originally constructed in 1925 as a warehouse in the city’s garment district, it today houses 39 condominiums.

Ryan Connor, left, and Jackson Gainer live on the second floor.

Here’s the very cool master bedroom.

Spacious living room.

Comfy dining area.

And a great little deck that they have made the most of.

Kim Henry lives on the third floor of Fire Street Lofts. She was welcoming folks in the kitchen.

Homey living room.

Great looking master bedroom.

The next stop was the all rental units at Marble Alley, 300 State Street.

Marble Alley has great amenities for its tenants. Like this convenient coffee station located in the lobby.

Fitness center.

Jennifer Higgins lives on the fourth floor.

Here’s her very inviting living room.

Bedroom one.

Bedroom two.

Down on the second floor is Danny Burale’s bachelor pad!

He has a good view of the pool.

Minimalist bedroom!

Here’s the saltwater pool to which all tenants have access. A great downtown amenity, for sure!

Across downtown is Kendrick Place, located at 508 Union Avenue. It was purchased and redeveloped in 1981 by the late Kristopher Kendrick, known as “the father of downtown.”

Only a few feet from the entrance to Chesapeake’s restaurant is the townhouse of Dan and Grace Manore. Here’s Dan in the basement space he is in the process of remodeling.

Up two flights of stairs, Grace, in the blue t-shirt, talks to guests in the master bedroom.

I thought the kitchen was great.

Living room looked restful.

Another bedroom.

I have lived downtown for 18 years, but had never been inside the residential space in the Medical Arts Building, located at 601 W. Main Street. Built in 1932 in the Gothic revival style, it used to house many well-known doctors, a dentist, accountants and other professionals. In 2014, it was turned into a residential development.

Suzanne Moll lives there and she agrees with me that the views from her 10th floor unit are the star attractions. Here’s looking southwest.

Northwest sights.

A view of the Tennessee River to the south.

Living room.

Master bedroom.

Second bedroom.


Finally, a visit to the James Park House, 422 Cumberland Ave. It’s not a residenial building, although it was built as one. It is the headquarters of Gulf & Ohio Railways.

Doc Claussen, whose family owns the building and the company, provided guided tours every 15 minutes. When I arrived in the afternoon, he said he had given the tour and the same speech 17 times that day!

John Sevier purchased the plot and began construction of the home in the 1790s. But, due to financial difficulties, he abandoned the project and moved to his farm at Marble Springs. In 1812, the lot and unfinished home were purchased by James Park, a Scots-Irish merchant who had arrived in Knoxville in 1798. Park served as mayor of Knoxville from 1818 to 1821 and again from 1824 to 1826. Park and his wife, Moody, had 12 children, some of whom were born in the house.

Conference table.

Another meeting room.

A safe in a bathroom!

This replication of a painting by Knoxville artist Russell Briscoe is called Main Street Station Knoxville, 1892. It was painted in 1972, but depicts a time when more than 100 trains arrived and departed daily, connecting Knoxville to locations in every direction.

I really liked this stained glass train art.

Claussen’s late mother, Linda, was an accomplished quilter and her work is displayed in a lot of places in the James Park House.

An employee break room.

Kitchen — with more train art!

So, there you have it. I put 16,000 steps on my Apple watch so you didn’t have to! But, seriously, I highly recommend this tour if it is offered next year.

Filed under: Downtown, Events, Historic preservation. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Downtown Home Tour: options are amazing!

  1. Zibbie Kerin, on June 24th, 2024 at 10:08 pm said:

    Beautiful pictures. Thanks Cynthia!! Outstanding home tour. Thanks Gay!!

  2. Cynthia Moxley, on June 24th, 2024 at 10:52 pm said:

    Zibbie: Thanks! As a downtown resident yourself, you know how awesome it is! Gay did a great job!

  3. Gay Lyons, on June 25th, 2024 at 7:08 am said:

    Thanks for supporting the Downtown Home Tour. It’s a lot of work–lots of moving parts. We love that people love it and hope to continue the great tradition started by City People.

  4. Diana Salesky, on June 25th, 2024 at 9:52 am said:

    Thanks for saving me the 16,000 steps, Cynthia! I remember the wonderful progressive dinner you helped me organize several years back. At the time, I couldn’t believe the beautiful homes that I saw. It’s staggering how much has been developed since then. I’m in awe of the creativity in the home decor. Just beautiful!

  5. Cynthia Moxley, on June 25th, 2024 at 2:12 pm said:

    Gay: Again, great, great job!

    Diana: Hahaha! Happy to be of service! I think you and Brian would love being downtown! Think about it!

  6. Alan Carmichael, on June 25th, 2024 at 4:15 pm said:

    Beautiful places. Downtown is the place to be.

  7. Leslie Testerman, on June 26th, 2024 at 6:27 pm said:

    Cynthia, I always look so forward to your beautiful tours of places & events! As my
    mobility is somewhat limited now, it is wonderful to view “what’s happening” in our great city

  8. Cynthia Moxley, on June 27th, 2024 at 9:18 am said:

    Alan: Agree!

    Leslie: Thanks so much for reading. I should have mentioned that even though I walked to all 11 homes on the tour — thus the steps! — there also was a free shuttle available. And, in most cases, the homes were accessible with elevators, etc. A few were not, but that was noted in the guide book so easy to skip them.

Leave a Reply