urban_renewal (2007-16)

Keepin' it in the hood, for good

2007 Fourth and Gill Home Tour

Fourth and Gill Forever

by Matt Edens

In these days of cutthroat corporate personnel policies, cross-country moves and cookie-cutter subdivisions, the idea of settling into a neighborhood and staying for years and years seems like old-fashioned nostalgia. But a new generation of folks is putting down those sorts of roots in some of Knoxville's most old-fashioned neighborhoods.

It works like this: A young couple (or occasionally a young single) will buy a modest home in one of Knoxville's historic districts and, as their situation changes--marriage, maybe, or the birth of a child--they'll trade up to a larger home within the same neighborhood. Chances are that house isn't always a fixer-upper, either. In many neighborhoods renovated homes now dominate the resale market.

The fact that people are "movin' on up," rather than moving out, says two things about Knoxville's historic neighborhoods. First, people are comfortable there. They like the surroundings, the network of neighbors, and, rather than flee at the first opportunity, they aren't afraid to follow up their initial investment by settling in for a longer stay. Second, unlike the typical new subdivision targeted at a specific price-range, most historic neighborhoods offer the opportunity to move from a small house to a larger one within the same 'hood--often on the same street or even the same block.

To see what I mean, I suggest you check out this Sunday's historic home tour in Fourth and Gill. Not only are there a variety of homes ranging from one-story bungalows to massive colonial revivals on tour, as one of the most revitalized of Knoxville's historic neighborhoods, the "trade-up" phenomenon is a well established tradition.

Just off the top of my head I can name more than a half-dozen families on their second, or even third, home in Fourth and Gill, including two who have houses on the tour. Bob and Melynda Whetsel, for instance, first moved to Luttrell in 1980, making them among the first folks to restore a home on the street. Their new home, purchased from an absentee landlord in 2005 and restored in time for this year's tour, was one of the few remaining unrefurbished homes in the neighborhood.

Oh, and just because the surroundings are old-fashioned and the neighbors mostly know one another, don't think that folks in Fourth and Gill aren't open to newcomers and new ideas. To get a feel for how creativity thrives in this progressive community with a high percentage of people who came from out of town, drop by Birdhouse Laboratories, the final stop on the tour. Housed in the former Fourth and Gill community center, Birdhouse is home to work, display and performance space for arts and artists of all types.

2007 Fourth and Gill Home Tour