by Matt Edens
Longtime readers may remember a Metro Pulse cover story from five years ago entitled â“Thank God For North Knoxville.â” The words came from an old Todd Steed song of the same name, a blue-collar paean celebrating â“where this town still looks like itself.â” But I wonder what Steed thinks of more recent developments in North Knoxville's real estate market, such as the number of homes in Fourth and Gill or Old North now selling for a quarter million or more.
That might seem cheap to Jesse Mayshark, the cover story's author, seeing as he now hangs out in Manhattan. But back in Knoxville, such prices seemed like a preservationist's pipedream not too long ago. Indeed I can recall a time in the early to mid-'90s when a house over a hundred grand was mighty hard to find in Fourth and Gill.
Then there's the interesting tale that turns up in the middle of Mayshark's piece. In it, long-time Fourth and Gill resident Bill Murrah recounts how, in the mid-'70s, the Tyree administration declared Fourth and Gill â“too far goneâ” to be worth saving. Instead the city planned to spend most of its newly acquired Community Development Block Grant dollars â“on areas in Fountain City and further north.â”
What a difference three decades, a little determination and a lot of sweat equity can make. Because this week's featured house isn't in Fourth and Gillâ"it's in Fountain City. And I'm about to pitch it as an affordable alternative to the neighborhood that, not too long ago, many people were prepared to write off.
Don't get me wrong. I don't mean to diss Fountain City. The area remains a stable, indeed flourishing neighborhood, much as it was when the city considered it a better investment than Fourth and Gill. The commercial corridor along Broadway continues to see investment (Panera Bread, for instance), Hotel Avenueâ"Fountain City's â“downtownâ”â"remains distinctive and charming, and many of the area's older neighborhoods, such as Gibbs Drive, boast well-restored historic homes that would fit right in along Luttrell Street. Others are more evocative of Forest Heights, Westwood or even parts of Sequoyah: well-built, comfortable, cottage-style homes dating from the 1920s through the 1940s.
At 3,100 square feet, four bedrooms and three baths, this home on Elmwood Drive may be cottage-style, but it's hardly small. The handsome 70-year old house features plenty of well-preserved period touches like hardwood floors, extensive woodwork, an elegant curving staircase and a marble living room fireplace with detailed wood mantle.
Recent renovations include a new roof, central heat and air, new tile, countertops and shutters. Outside, there's an attached garage (in addition to a full unfinished basement) and a rolling lot with lots of mature trees and flowering dogwoods, azaleas and peonies. Best of all, at $69 a square foot, this home's price compares quite favorably with Fourth and Gill, and even moreso with Westwood and Sequoyah.
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