urban_renewal (2005-34)

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Fourth and Gill keeps on proving itself

1231 Luttrell Street

Craftsman-Style and New

by Matt Edens

Habitat for Humanity’s groundbreaking for the worldwide charity’s 200,000th house, which happens to be in East Knoxville’s Five Points neighborhood, may have made all the headlines a couple of weeks ago. But at about the same time, there was another inner-city groundbreaking that was, in my mind and from center-city Knoxville’s perspective, a good bit more groundbreaking.

It didn’t make the papers, but the foundation being dug was for one of the three new homes being built in Fourth and Gill on the site of the old McCallie School, a wonderful old building lost to fire and neglect not so many years ago. But it’s not the site that makes these houses noteworthy, it is the fact that there isn’t a dime of public or non-profit subsidy involved (nor, that I’m aware, any sweat equity either). In fact, the builders even paid the city a premium price for the three buildable lots: $10,000 each (vacant residential lots in the inner city typically go for a quarter to as little as 10th of that, with nonprofit builders such as Habitat as the principle buyers).

The groundbreaking is more proof that Fourth and Gill’s real estate market has matured, drawing upper-middle class people who could live anywhere, but are looking for a neighborhood with a blend of small-town quality of life plus proximity to the urban amenities downtown has to offer. (Indeed, the owners of the new house being built on the McCallie site are moving to Fourth and Gill from a downtown condo.)

This classic craftsman bungalow at 1231 Luttrell St. is more proof that at least one small portion of the inner city is moving significantly upscale. After a fire in 1997 left the house gutted and abandoned, a couple of long-term neighborhood residents recently tackled the project of rebuilding the house. And they didn’t cut any corners, either. Much of the foundation has been rebuilt, there’s a new roof with all new sheathing, new Arts and Crafts-style wood windows (double pane, of course), and the new steps to the front porch are cut slabs of Crab Orchard stone.

Beyond the new, custom-made front door, there’s just as much attention to quality fit and finish. Not only have the original trim, hardware and ladder back doors been preserved wherever possible, new trim, where needed, has been milled to match the old from old-growth long leaf pine from Duke Forest in North Carolina (and in case that bothers your environmental sensibilities, don’t worry, the trees were blown down during Hurricane Hugo).

Equally environmentally sound are the new hardwood floors that replaced the fire- and water-damaged originals—the boards are bamboo—strong, rapidly renewable, and sustainable.

Nor are the materials the only things that have adapted to contemporary sensibilities. The floor plan has been modified to suit modern metropolitan living, too, with a loft-like living-room/dining room, a sophisticated kitchen filled with clean-lined custom cabinetry and Corlan tops, an immense shower in the master bath and a separate den/study to stash that HDTV in.


1231 Luttrell Street

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