Owning a historic home isn’t for everyone. Compared to the standard vinyl box they sell out in the suburbs (brick front, optional), your typical 100-year-old home requires a bit more attention to upkeep.
For a long time, there was sort of a screening process. Years of neglect meant that buying an old house in one of Knoxville’s historic neighborhoods typically involved biting off a fairly big restoration project. The requirement to be a Bob Villa-wannabe tended to weed out the fair-weather old-house owners out there. (Which isn’t a critique, really. Some folks just aren’t cut out for it. In fact, contemplating the long list of maintenance items that ought to be addressed on our house, I wonder about myself.)
But as downtown’s revitalization took hold, the adjacent historic neighborhoods started to appeal to a broader array of folks, including quite a few who weren’t necessarily old-house enthusiasts. I mean, they may appreciate the architecture and craftsmanship, but they don’t all want to spend their weekends tearing out plaster and refinishing woodwork. What they really valued was the proximity to downtown and the walkable nature of the neighborhoods. Which meant they became old-house owners by default, due to the simple fact that old houses constitute the vast majority of the market around downtown’s pedestrian-friendly fringes.
That’s slowly starting to change, though. New, market-rate homes are now being built in the center city. Some, such as the handful that fill the old McCallie School site in Fourth and Gill, or a friend’s place currently going up on Oklahoma Avenue, are custom homes. They’re built to order, and, in many ways, they’re not all that different from the high-end subdivisions out west (with the historic district’s guidelines substituting for the often stricter deed restrictions that dictate design parameters out in the ’burbs).
Spec homes have been rare—a couple in Old North, a few more in Mechanicsville—brief forays by small builders. But I’m pleased to see that Holrob Residential, fresh from the success of a renovation project on Luttrell Street, plans to build a new “old” house on Luttrell. Designed by Brian Pittman, the architect better known for his work on downtown’s Temple House, the home’s turret and ocular window draw inspiration from the work of George F. Barber, who designed several of the neighborhood’s historic homes. The interior, meanwhile, will feature the high level of fit and finish that’s made Holrob one of Knoxville’s premier builders of high-end homes. m
Luttrell Street, Lot 418
2,560 sq. ft.
3 bdrm/2 bath
Contact: Jennifer Montgomery