urban_renewal (2006-39)

When the Old City was new

101 W. Jackson Ave.

Urban Flashback

by Matt Edens

Back when I started at the University of Tennessee in 1987, downtown Knoxville really wasn’t a place people went in the evening. Students, in particular, were only dimly aware that downtown existed at all. But the seeds of revival had already taken root. Down on Central, a small cadre of adventurous pioneers had discovered a hip, happening little joint called Annie’s. 

Market Square may be buzzing today, but the Old City is where Knoxville first got reacquainted with urban flavor. After Annie’s came Manhattans, Planet Earth, Patrick Sullivan’s. People danced, partied and played music. They scoured Big Don’s for swanky vintage clothes and bought cool postcards and candy at Old City Mercantile. Maybe it was because it was all so new. Maybe it’s because I was so young. But there was an energy to those days in the late ’80s—edgy, underground, like you’d just stumbled across a well-kept secret, or discovered something most people didn’t even know existed.

And then this place opened up on the corner of Central and Jackson. A mixed-use hodge-podge called Hewgley Park, I’m not sure that Knoxville had ever seen anything like it. There were stores selling funky furniture, musical instruments and more, plus a smoky, low-ceilinged nightclub named Ella Guru’s, whose impresario, Ashley Capps, booked the most amazing acts (wonder whatever became of him?)—all under one roof.

But the best thing about this building may have been the lofts. Sure, a handful of hardy souls lived downtown in the Pembroke, Ryan’s Row and Kendrick Place, but it was in the Old City that true loft living really took hold, thanks to the high ceilings, bare brick and exposed rafters of homes like this one—elements that, more than a decade later, are still the de-rigueur backdrop to downtown living.

But this two-level loft with 30-foot ceilings and 10-foot windows overlooking Jackson Avenue and additional, artfully framed views of Sullivan’s Saloon across Central is anything but off the shelf. First off, there’s a real working fireplace in the living room, definitely a rare luxury downtown. Immediately adjacent is a custom-built oak bar with marble inlay and recessed lighting leading to a recently updated kitchen with new stainless steel appliances. Other updates include custom tile and a whirlpool tub in the master bath. With rooftop access, roomy and arranged for entertaining, this loft is perfect for parties, but it also has plenty of amenities for day-to-day living: free parking in the adjacent lot, tons of storage, a stack washer/dryer and a secure callbox at the entry.

Oh, and there’s always the added amenity of all the shops, restaurants and nightlife just around the block, or even next door.

101 W. Jackson Ave.