urban_renewal (2006-14)

An Old North Knoxville work of art

1520 Fremont Place

Bohemian Rhapsody

by Matt Edens

It’s inevitable, I suppose. As the neighborhoods near downtown become increasingly upscale, many of the folks who first moved in five, ten, fifteen years ago will eventually move on. Often artistic, unafraid and willing to go out on a limb and embrace an alternative lifestyle, they’re the folks who settled in before downtown lofts were selling for a quarter-million or more, back when friends and family were probably a little skeptical about this whole crazy center-city thing.

Now, of course, things are a bit less bohemian than they used to be. There are attorneys as well as artists. The Volvos in the driveways are as likely to be brand-new V70s as battered old 240s. And creating the kitchen of your dreams, adding an extra bedroom in the attic or building a new garage, cleverly disguised as a hundred-year-old carriage house, is a job for home equity, not sweat equity. 

Bourgeois respectability doesn’t, however, mean that the bohemians have been run-off like so much riff-raff. Some remain rooted in place, perhaps grumbling about the gentrification they helped give rise to. Others have moved on voluntarily, timing their move to take advantage of the rising real estate market. (Besides being bohemian, buying a house in Old North or Fourth and Gill 10 years ago was also a good investment.) Although, rather than mercenary, the motive may have simply been to move on in search of a new discovery.

That’s certainly true of the owners of this house on Fremont in Old North Knoxville. A social worker and faux-finish artist, they first found this place six years ago. After months of hunting for a home, this quaint cottage spoke to them as soon as they walked in the front door: “It is very sunny feeling and warm—golden floors, lots of light, flowing floorplan…. By the time we made it back there to the kitchen (a minute and a half?), our realtor was filling out the paperwork. She looked up and said, ‘So how much do you want to offer?’ She hadn’t even asked us what we thought! It was that clear!”

They spent the next five years fixing it up, but now have a new love, a fabulous old farmhouse in South Knoxville, with a little land and a separate art studio. So they are looking for someone who’ll appreciate their old home as much as they did, which shouldn’t be too hard. First built in 1915 and extensively remodeled in the ’30s, this sunny cottage has lots of charm, thanks to features like the casement windows across the front, the double French doors flanking the fully functional fireplace in the living room, loads of built-ins and the lovely faux-finishes in the living room and foyer. In fact, they never would have left if they hadn’t “had the fabulous fortune to find another house that grabbed us the same way…. What can you do when that happens but follow it?”

1520 Fremont Place