urban_renewal (2005-45)

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Not-So-Haunted Houses

by Matt Edens

Sure, Dracula has his castle and the mummy his crypt, but in America, Egyptian tombs and medieval fortresses are few and far between. Around here the haunted house is the classic Halloween holiday image. And the archetypal haunted house is almost invariably Victorian (or, to be even more specific, the Second Empire style in the case of the Addams Family’s home. Norman Bates’ mom’s place, too, come to think of it…). The stock Hollywood image is a creepy conglomeration of spooky spires and towers silhouetted against the full moon, an old decaying mansion that’s a mass of broken windows and peeling paint. 

Circa 1980, Knoxville’s Victorian-era neighborhoods had more than their fair share of those urban undead, rundown relics that had largely been abandoned and forgotten by most folks.

Fast-forward 20 years and the image many of Knoxville’s old Victorian neighborhoods conjure up is historic, not haunted. Sure, the pristinely restored houses behind picket fences and well-pruned hedges in neighborhoods like Fourth and Gill and Old North Knoxville still harbor more than a few eccentrics, but the atmosphere is more family-friendly than Addams Family. Norman Rockwell, not Norman Bates. 

Celebrating this resurrection of interest in Knoxville’s historic homes and encouraging it to spread are the primary motivations behind Knox Heritage’s second annual Old House Fair. The event, being held Saturday, Nov. 5 at the Jacob Building in Chilhowee Park, is tailor-made for old-house owners/enthusiasts from Knoxville and around the region.

Whether you already own a historic home or are contemplating a purchase, the fair offers all sorts of useful information. For anyone wanting to plunge into city living, a half-dozen historic neighborhoods have booths to help you in your search, and there are workshop sessions devoted to real estate and financing. For homeowners, there are workshops on planning and managing restoration projects and another session on historic landscape design. In addition there’ll be booths with realtors, lenders, architects and contractors, as well as antique dealers and experts on everything from lead abatement to insurance. Professional antique appraisals will also be available throughout the day.

There’s also a free lunchtime lecture on the history and impact of the prominent local architecture firm of Barber McMurry and an art exhibit featuring designs of the firm’s founder Charles Barber. And, for an extra $10, you can take a guided trolley tour of Charles Barber-designed homes in Holston Hills, including an inside peek at the Barber-designed Holston Hills Country Club.

No word on whether that clubhouse is haunted.

What: Knox Heritage’s Old House Fair

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