urban_renewal (2006-05)

Old house, new location

Mobile Home

by Matt Edens

Knoxville’s commitment to historic preservation and neighborhood revitalization hasn’t just turned the corner; it’s crossed the street. Central Street, to be exact, as you may have noticed the other day when this house was trucked from one side of the busy thoroughfare to the other.

The change of address—from West to East Scott Avenue—is due to the fact that, hemmed in by encroaching commercial development and unprotected by historic zoning, the rundown house’s future was decidedly uncertain in its old location. On site, I doubt the market value of the finished product would have paid for a full restoration of the 115-year-old structure, reportedly designed by local mail-order architect George Barber. And, considering the shape it was in, even a quick and dirty rehab for rental purposes probably wouldn’t generate significant cash flow (which may explain why the lot it once sat on was sold off to a non-profit food pantry in the first place).

Now, ensconced on its new site on East Scott, the house’s future seems fairly secure, a testimony to the preservation-based resurgence of Old North Knoxville’s real estate market. After 25 years of steady increases, the neighborhood’s post-renovation sale prices are now pushing $100 per square foot—a threshold that makes the expense of moving and renovating a home such as this one feasible—if just barely.

And the cost of carting the two-story structure across Central and clearing its path through a tangle of utility poles and wires isn’t the only thing eating into developer Sean Bolen’s profit margin. A neighborhood resident who is restoring his own Victorian on Oklahoma and has renovated and resold another, after moving the house a block and a half, says he’s planning to go the extra mile to make sure that the place truly shines in its new location astride one of Old North’s principle entryways.

On the outside, plans call for replicating the home’s original elaborate Eastlake-style front porch (for the sake of history and the downtown and mountain views from the new hilltop site) and replacing the anachronistic, off-the-rack replacement windows with new double-hung, double-pane wood windows that mimic the originals. New stained-glass windows will also replace the louvered grates in the gables, to light the new third-floor home office housed in the attic (there’s 1,100 sq. ft. of finished great-room space in the basement, too).

Inside, the house will be a mix of modern where it needs to be—electrical, plumbing, HVAC—and century-old craftsmanship where you’d want it to be. Not only is Bolen planning on fully restoring the home’s intricate Eastlake staircase, he’s having custom millwork made to extend it to the attic. More custom woodwork—quartersawn oak trim and flooring on the first floor—comes courtesy of an old-growth tree in the yard lost due to the move.

All in all, the finished product promises to be so nice that, if you were ever forced to leave, it’d be tempting to take it with you.

115 East Scott Ave.

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