urban_renewal (2006-26)

Picnic baskets not included

The Holston, 531 S. Gay St.

Krutch Park East

by Matt Edens

Gay Street’s Holston Building may not be the tallest in downtown’s skyline, but it is certainly one of the most distinctive. In 1913, when skyscrapers’ steel skeletons were hidden behind traditionally detailed brick and stone, the Holston’s original architects took all the elegance of a classic English country house and reinterpreted it as a 12-story office tower. The top two floors were added later, in 1928, but the original 12 were enough to make it the tallest building downtown, nudging the out neighboring Burwell Building by a few feet. The marble-clad lower floors and the weathered copper belting, complete with Greek key design, also make for one of the handsomest skyscrapers Knoxville has ever seen.

The Holston is one of the more historic, too. After the building’s namesake bank went belly-up in 1930, a victim of the stock market crash, its successor, the Hamilton National Bank, was a bastion of the local banking industry for decades. Acquired in 1975 by an upstart Union County boy by the name of Jake Butcher, reorganized and renamed the United American Bank, for the next eight years it grew at a furious and, as it turned out, fraudulent pace. 

It was Knoxville’s biggest bank when the feds shut it down in 1983 and sent Butcher to jail. The old building weathered the fallout and was the home of Charter Federal Bank for several years before shuffling into a new century as a shabby office building with little to offer other than cheap space.

That is until development partners David Dewhirst and Tom Grace bought the building last year. Currently under construction, it will soon reclaim a good bit of its original glory, reborn as a mixed-use building with upscale condos on its upper floors. Taking full advantage of the building’s sleek profile with windows on all sides, Dewhirst and Grace are developing floors three through 11 into distinctive condo units, ranging from one-bath homes of about 1,000 square feet up to 2,100 square-foot, three-bedroom, two-bath condos (two bedroom, two-bath units will make up half the total).

Three quarters of the units will have balconies overlooking Krutch Park, while all will feature the usual upper-end fit and finish: hardwood floors, solid core doors, porcelain tile and solid wood vanities in the baths, and more solid wood cabinetry, granite tops and stainless appliances in the kitchens. All units will also have access to a private workout facility, a landscaped rooftop terrace and meeting and party rooms, plus the privacy afforded by a secure building with a doorman in the lobby. But the real pinnacle of living at the Holston will have to be the three top floors, which the developers are offering as single-unit, custom condos.

Rising above the trees of Krutch Park, with a doorman downstairs and luxury penthouses up top, it’ll be a little bit of Central Park West, within minutes of Market Square.

The Holston, 531 S. Gay St.