Last House Standing

Amid the fast food signs, a beautiful craftsman home still stands on North Broadway

Dear Doc Knox:

There is a wonderfully preserved arts-and-crafts house on N. Broadway Avenue. It's a large green house that sits immediately north of a similar, but much smaller and less detailed house that is also green. This arts-and-crafts house of interest is located immediately next to (on the northern side) of Centerpoint Baptist Church (2909 N. Broadway) and located sort of across from the Wendy's (3000 N. Broadway).

I've wondered about the home's history. I'm just curious about local buildings. I appreciate any info you can share.

Jill Dunn

My Dear Mme. Dunn:

North Broadway might be famous for its architecture if only it weren't for the rest of North Broadway. There are so many billboards and chain-burger signs and strip-mall parking lots you have to pay attention to notice the great houses. We congratulate you on noticing this one.

A note to our good readers: Residential house research is often interesting to the current owner or resident, and he or she may find it fascinating to spend a few hours at the library learning what can be found there. Only occasionally is a house interesting enough historically, and well-known enough to the populace at large, to send our minions to the library. This one is a particular standout, both historically and in terms of its architecture and familiarity to nearly everybody that drives up and down Broadway. However, we must say, it strikes our perhaps mundane retinas as yellow and brown, not green.

Researching its history is a bit of a challenge, because the street number changed in the 1950s, at the same time many street numbers on the north side did. But it was originally 2121 N. Broadway.

It's just about 100 years old now, built around 1910, by building contractor Lynn Hayes, to be his family residence. At the time, Broadway north of Gill was mainly residential, and was home to many affluent citizens. Lynn A. Hayes was one. He served as Knox County Trustee, 1916-20. He lived there with his wife, Elizabeth, and their three children. Son Harold became a prominent real-estate man.

Usually we have to guess about who the architect was, but not in this case. A promotional book about Knoxville called Greater Knoxville Illustrated, published about 1910 and on file in the Calvin McClung Collection, touts a photograph of this house as one of the city's appealing and modern new residences. It describes its architect, Charles A. Hayes. Through other reference sources we found thanks to the offices of Hollie Cook of Knox Heritage, the architect was a native of Jonesborough and a 1901 graduate of UT. Charles Hayes (1878-1954) apprenticed with famous Knoxville residential architect George Barber, then moved to Atlanta, where he became a respected architect in his own right, working mostly as a member of the firm of Bruce, Everett, and Hayes. He designed, or helped design, the Rhodes residence and St. Paul's Methodist Episcopal Church. But according to the item in the promotional book, he "was not content with his success in Atlanta and, returning to his native state, he located in its fairest city...." Meaning Knoxville.

Here Charles Hayes kept his office on Market Street, just north of Market Square. But only for a couple of years. He did design a few other houses in Knoxville, including one on Kingston Pike. Soon after city leaders boasted he was living and working in town, he suddenly left. He remarked that "the city was rather crowded at the time with architects...."

He found dependable work with the Mobile and Ohio Railroad Co. (later, the Gulf, Mobile, and Ohio), building railroad structures. By 1912, he'd moved to Mobile.

The entry does not remark on the coincidence of the last name. We'll get back to that.

The next resident was Charlton Karns, a downtown businessman who had his fingers in several pies, including banks, dairies, and real estate. During a vigorous progressive spell in the 1920s, he became Knoxville City Manager for a year, and in the 1930s was twice elected to City Council.

By 1938, Broadway was less fashionable as a residential address, perhaps partly because by then it was noisy with traffic, as part of the Dixie Highway that led from the Midwest to the Deep South. Roadside tourist hotels sprang up in surprising places, and the old Hayes home became the Minton Tourist Home, and remained a fetching place to stop and rest until sometime during World War II. During the war it seems to have become a duplex, and not necessarily a home for the affluent like Karns and Hayes. Its main occupants in the 1940s were an army man and a bricklayer.

It has been, for the last 60-odd years, the home of the Howard family, and at one time was the base of their plumbing, heating, and air conditioning operation. Houses used in connection with a business rarely seem to be able to retain their historic look, but we should be grateful for this exception. The Howards seem to have kept it up well. It's a a tribute to the city in 2010 that this house the city seemed proud of as an exemplar of suburban residential design in 1910 is still in good shape.

But back to Hayes and Hayes—the architect who designed the Broadway house and the contractor who lived there first. We spoke to the granddaughter of Lynn Hayes, the house's first resident. A gracious lady, Elizabeth Hayes McCarty actually remembers being in the house when the original owner still lived there. "It was a fine, fine house," she says, adding that she hopes it will be honored with get some sort of historical-overlay protection. She remembers singing for her grandfather at Christmas time, sometime in the latter 1920s, "We Three Kings of Orient Are." She remembers when her grandfather was an active home builder, in the 1920s—she remembers one of the early houses on Cherokee Boulevard. Architect Charles Hayes, who was sometimes known as "Gus," was his older brother.

And calling Mrs. McCarty about an accomplished architect involves a funny coincidence. For the last 65 years, she has been married to Bruce McCarty, the modernist who is Knoxville's best-known living architect.

Yr. Obt. Svt.,

Dr. Z. Heraclitus Knox