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602 S. Gay Street
Knoxville, TN 37902
I was very happy to see my area of residence featured in last week’s Metro Pulse. [“Local Color: Sutherland Avenue,” photo story by Shawn Poynter, text by Jack Neely, Feb. 7, 2013] In the article, my neighborhood was referred to as “the Marble City section of Sutherland Avenue.” Although it may have been called that by some, permit me to provide a bit more information about our little burg, as we in the Historic Sutherland Heights Neighborhood Association like to call it.
Yes, we have a vivacious neighborhood association, which we started up just a couple of years ago. Several of our residents have lived here for 50 years or more, working hard and steadily to raise their families and send their children to college. And do they have stories to tell! Children running in and out of each other’s homes, parents knew all the kids and were friends with their parents; tricycles, bicycles, scooters, skateboards, and all kinds of mobile toys safely playing in the streets; boys and girls swimming in the spring-fed pool that welled up next to Tobler Lane. And, yes, one senior resident mentioned a bootlegger east of us off Sutherland just at our last meeting.
The neighborhood was built a la tract-home style in 1944 as part of the national movement to provide housing for the thousands of returning World War II veterans who needed homes. An article in the Sentinel Sunday Magazine dated July 30, 1944 titled “New Metropolitan Knoxville Arises as Hundreds of FHA Homes Are Built” by News Sentinel state editor Warner Ogden describes the construction of several subdivisions in fields on the outskirts of town. Ogden writes, “The old Knoxville of prewar days is vanishing. A new Metropolitan Knoxville is being created.”
We think nothing of it now, but in those days, people had never seen such efficiency and speed in home construction. The masons came through and built the foundations and chimneys, then, entire exterior walls were raised by a dozen or so carpenters; the roofers then came to top off the homes. The event was so new that people came by just to watch.
Sixty-eight years later, the homes are still here—intact as they were originally built. Some have room additions. No matter what you might think about prefab-style homes, those exterior walls, the floor joists, the hardwood floors have withstood the test of time. I guess even though corners might have been cut to increase efficiency, quality was not compromised.
We are a mixed group in HSH—from our seniors to young families with one or two children to couples to single men and women. We are young- to- middle-aged professionals. And we love our homes. We are minimalists to a certain degree because the original homes are about 800 square feet. Most of us control our accumulation of junk, and we like it that way. Our utility bills are affordable. We have easy access by bus, bike, or car to UT and downtown and to Bearden shops. We can walk to the hardware store, two grocery stores, two produce stores, and all the restaurants on Sutherland.
The neighborhood association will have signs up soon designating who we are. We are a success story for the community and for the city because we became proactive in preserving the neighborhood, preserving this piece of our past, when we lived in simpler and perhaps even happier times.