Hills and Hollers

Imbibe some Old North Knox culture

Urban Renewal

by Matt Edens

It would be easy to assume one need live downtown to enjoy a Sunsphere view or a short walk to the coffee shop. Fort Sanders might be an option, although between new hotels and privately run student dormitories, there's unfortunately not much left to choose from on the Fort's eastern edge. And surprisingly, you may actually stand a better chance of glimpsing the city's iconic piece of World's Fair kitsch from Old North Knoxville than Gay Street.

The Sunsphere, after all, sits in a hole. It's a little startling to see it from the top of even a moderately tall downtown building and realize you have a higher vantage point. And by a trick of Knoxville's complicated topography, you can also stand on a fair number of porches along Scott Avenue and, although barely three feet above grade, actually look down on the distant, golden orb.

The coffee shop around the corner, for this house on Scott, comes courtesy of The Time Warp Tea Room in the stretch of Central commonly known as Happy Holler. Combining a Victorian tin ceiling, vintage motorcycles, tea and coffee, it's uniquely Knoxville. There's also live music on Friday and Saturday nights. Oh, and if that's not eclectic enough for you, check out the Tai Chi Center next door, catch a drag show at XYZ club up the street, enjoy a dipped cone from the Freezo, or a frosty longneck at Toot's Little Honky Tonk.

Much has been made of the recent return of retail downtown, a result of hundreds of new residents. But almost unnoticed, things are also stirring along North Central, nudged along by the ongoing rejuvenation of neighborhoods like Old North Knoxville, Oakwood/Lincoln Park and 4th and Gill. Old North resident Dan Schuh has been doing a good bit of the nudging. His company, Knoxville Preservation and Development, has bought, restored, and resold a number of houses in the neighborhood. Don't, not even for a minute, figure him for a â“flipper,â” though.

Step into this house on Scott, with its stunning heart-pine floors and handsome back-to-back fireplaces in the living and dining rooms, and it's immediately apparent he does quality work. And those are just the parts you can see. Under the hood, this house has been totally rewired and re-plumbed as well as fully insulated. Outside, in addition to the Sunsphere view, there's a fenced back yard and a detached one-car garage. Chances are, your car may spend some time there, considering all the things starting to happen within walking distance. Schuh, currently renovating several commercial buildings along Happy Holler's northeast side, is nudging things along on N. Central, too.

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