urban_renewal (2006-44)

Upscale living in Knoxville’s original historic district

Mechanicsville for Sale

by Matt Edens

Funded by a multi-million-dollar grant from HUD’s Hope VI program, Mechanicsville Commons may be one of the most visible center-city revitalization efforts in recent years. Even while whizzing by on I-40, it’s tough to miss the transformation wrought by the massive redevelopment, which replaced KCDC’s College Homes housing project with a mixed-income neighborhood of cottages and bungalows. But an equally dramatic, if less publicized, change has occurred in the ’hood up the hill, home to the many of the historic models mimicked by those new houses nestled at the foot of Knoxville College.

Just west of downtown and a half-block north of Western Avenue, along Deadrick, Hannah and Oak streets lies Old Mechanicville, the oldest H-1 Historic Overlay District in the city, established in 1987.  That was roughly 100 years after the “mechanics” employed by Knoxville Iron Works (whose remaining building is now The Foundry at World’s Fair Park) began building homes atop the ridge just upwind from their smoky workplace. Since then, the neighborhood has seen hard times but began to rebound in the 1980s, when it was the focus of some of the city’s first preservation efforts (including that pioneering H-1 Overlay designation).

Many of the handsome homes have been restored—from the grand Queen Annes crowning the hill to the smaller homes along Hannah, many of them more or less modified shotguns. The result is a quaint, quirky neighborhood that is home to some of Knoxville’s most notable architectural eccentricities. There’s Fire Station No. 5, Knoxville’s oldest. Then there’s “The Wedge,” an old flatiron-shaped commercial building at the corner of Deadrick and Carrick, converted into a private residence. Also on Carrick are “The Twins,” a set of mirror-image two-story cottages standing side by side.

Now, if you’re wondering why Mechanicsville homes are rarely mentioned in Urban Renewal, it’s because they rarely go on the market. The neighborhood is compact and close-knit. And should a home wind up for sale, it’s often sold by word of mouth, marketed by neighbors who know how special this small corner of the city is (not to mention convenient to both downtown and UT).

But it looks like the secret is out. The wave of upper-market revitalization that is rapidly remaking downtown and rippling out into neighborhoods like Fourth and Gill has made it to Mechanicsville. Expanding into development, Market Square-based Smee + Busby Architects are currently building three brand new, upscale homes in the heart of Old Mechanicsville (the company also has plans to construct more modestly priced, but still market-rate homes within Mechanicsville Commons).

Designed to blend into the surrounding historic homes, all three of the new houses will feature wood siding, double-pane wood windows and metal roofs. Inside, each home will have the same fit and finish buyers have come to expect for high-end condos downtown, including granite countertops and hardwood floors. Mixing 100-year-old character with modern convenience, these Mechanicsville homes are perfect for someone who’d love living in a historic neighborhood but balks at buying an old home.

New Homes in Mechanicsville