urban_renewal (2006-42)

Take this beauty for a test drive

Low Mileage

by Matt Edens

Convincing someone to buy a historic home and selling them a used car usually have little in common. (Funny, isn’t it, how we never think of home sales in terms like “used” or even “pre-owned”?) But for some reason, this week, I find myself falling back on the old car-salesman’s cliché about the proverbial little old lady who only drove to church on Sundays. You see, this house was previously owned by a little old lady. She never drove it to church, though. In fact, it’s only been driven once.

Let me explain. After being in one family’s hands since 1936, the elderly lady who’d called it home for most of her 80-some odd years sold it to TDOT about a year ago. Originally the state had slated this house for demolition, due to the massive I-40 project through downtown, since it sat just east of the overpass that carries Glenwood across the long Broadway ramp.

Sat, by the way, isn’t a typo. Today it sits a good bit further east, thanks to those pesky preservationists at Knox Heritage. Altering its location was the first project of Knox Heritage’s J. Allen Smith Endangered Properties Fund, established to facilitate alternatives to demolition of historic buildings; the preservation group acquired the house from TDOT and then trucked it onto the vacant lot next door, out of harm’s way (the “low mileage,” in this instance, being considerably less than a mile.)

Then, in keeping with East Tennessee tradition, the preservationists put the old clunker up on blocks and started tinkering with it under the nearby shade tree. Although in this case, “blocks” added up to a brand new, brick-faced foundation and “tinkering” to a full-blown restoration. Not only has the house been brought up to code by replacing the roof and installing new electrical, plumbing, and heat and air systems, but Knox Heritage also stripped off the vinyl siding to restore the exterior back to its original 1924 appearance, complete with original three-over-one divided light windows and new Craftsman-style columns for the front porch. Meanwhile, the south-facing back porch has views of both the mountains and downtown. Inside, the house has a brand new working fireplace, beautifully refinished oak floors and carefully restored, kitschy-cool 1950s vintage cabinets in the kitchen.

Downstairs, tucked behind that brand new foundation is an extra 850 square feet of heated and cooled space with windows on three sides and electrical and plumbing roughed in (including for a second full bath). With a small amount of additional work, the space could easily be transformed into two more bedrooms, a stunning master suite or studio, playroom or workshop. There’s even more fully accessible storage space under the front porch.

So swing by the open house on Thursday, Oct. 19, from 4-7 p.m. and take this beauty for a test drive. Tell Knox Heritage I sent you and I bet they’ll even throw in the undercoating.

241 E. Glenwood