Although I ostensibly write a real estate column, the truth is, this column has never really been about real estate, except in the most general sense. What I’m selling is largely a lifestyle choice: urban living. The fact that, in Knoxville, that mostly means buying an old house in an old part of town is primarily a coincidence. I have, on the rare occasion, ventured out to the ’burbs to write about some “new urbanist” style development. I’d love to write about more developments like that, but someone has to build them first. And that’s rather unlikely in the current economy.
In the interim, it looks as if I’m stuck in the center city. Not that I’m complaining. There are still lots to choose from and lots to write about. Knoxville’s center city offers a range of options, depending upon what you’re looking for in a home. If you’re shopping for ’20s and ’30s Tudor or other European revival styles, Sequoyah is the safe (albeit expensive) bet, followed by Forest Heights/Westwood, North Hills/Emoriland/Fairmont, and Lindbergh Forest on the South Side (an overlooked gem). There are a few in other close-in areas south, or east like Holston Hills, but ’50s-style ramblers are more common there (and those are great houses, typically well-built with hardwood floors and such). Bungalow fans can shop everywhere from Fountain City and Island Home to Parkridge and Chilhowie Park. There are some in Old North and Fourth and Gill, too, as well as Belle Morris.
Victorians—the stereotypical “historic house” around these parts, partly because they’re about as old as it gets in Knoxville—are concentrated in those neighborhoods closest to downtown: Fort Sanders (there are, believe it or not, a few left), Mechanicsville, Parkridge, Oakwood/Lincoln Park, and Old Sevier on the South Side. But the top of the market for Victorians, historic homes, and Knoxville’s urban neighborhoods (other than, of course, downtown), has to be both Fourth and Gill and Old North Knoxville. It’s easy to see why. Not only have both neighborhoods seen high levels of investment and restoration, they also contain the highest concentration of larger two-story homes such as this one on Armstrong Avenue.
With a big wrap-around porch, projecting octagonal bay and dormers at the gables, the exterior is distinctly Victorian. Inside, the house is loaded with historic features like refinished hardwood floors and a grand total of five fireplaces with original mantles and tile. Even more amazing, priced at $75 per square foot, the “top of the market,” is still surprisingly affordable.