Fitting that, after almost 20 years of writing this column for Metro Pulse, my final piece would be a place in Parkridge. It was, after all, a house in Parkridge that led me to write for Metro Pulse in the first place. When I pitched the column to the paper, my sole qualification as an “old house expert” was that I’d just purchased a condemned house in on Washington Avenue (more or less, anyway—my future father-in-law financed the deal, to take advantage of the tax credits available for the restoration of historic rental property).
Prior to that, Kristi and I had lived in Fourth and Gill, renting an apartment on Gratz. Fixer-uppers along Luttrell and Eleanor were running as much as $50,000 back then, so we’d decided to find the next “up and coming” neighborhood and settled on Parkridge, where run-down Victorians could be had for as little as half Fourth and Gill’s going price.
Not quite 20 years later, Parkridge is still “up and coming.” But it has also come a long way. When we bought our old place on Washington Avenue, renovated houses were few and far between and hardly anyone had heard of George F. Barber, the neighborhood resident and Knoxville-based architect who designed many of the area’s distinctive Victorian homes—duplicates of which, thanks to Barber’s prolific mail-order plan business, stand in big cities and small towns across the country.
Sure, there are still quite a few fixer-uppers (Parkridge is a big place, two or three times the size of more established ’hoods like Old North and Fourth and Gill). But there are far more restored homes, too, many of them Barber-designed houses that were in serious danger of being torn down when we moved in 20 years ago. And two of them, restored by Knox Heritage with help from HGTV and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, even generated a considerable amount of good press for the neighborhood.
But, despite all that investment—and improvements like the Cansler YMCA and Caswell Park—Parkridge still offers considerable value for a house hunter looking to buy close to downtown. And you don’t have to be a budding Bob Villa to do it, either. Twenty years of steady progress mean there are quite a few “fixed-up” homes for sale alongside the fixer-uppers.
For example, this charming bungalow on E. 5th Avenue has recently been upgraded with an all-new kitchen and new bathroom fixtures and is chock full of historic features like refinished hardwood floors and ladderback doors. But the best thing about this house is that it offers three bedrooms and two full baths, just two miles from Market Square and all for under a hundred grand. m
2078 E. 5th Ave.
1,340 sq. ft.
3 bdrm/2 bath
Contact: Shannon Foster
Coldwell Banker: 693-1111