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Practical Reasons To Save Old Buildings

The antebellum Walker-Sherrill house, one of the last antebellum buildings on Kingston Pike, was almost lost. Preservationist group Knox Heritage began trying to work deals to save it five years ago, as an array of developers attempted to remove or compromise it. During long controversy, thieves stole the house’s valuable mantels—but the house’s woodwork and elegant staircase are still intact. By a compromise okayed by City Council last week, it will be renovated by West Knoxville developer Bill Hodges for offices.

Photo by David Luttrell

The antebellum Walker-Sherrill house, one of the last antebellum buildings on Kingston Pike, was almost lost. Preservationist group Knox Heritage began trying to work deals to save it five years ago, as an array of developers attempted to remove or compromise it. During long controversy, thieves stole the house’s valuable mantels—but the house’s woodwork and elegant staircase are still intact. By a compromise okayed by City Council last week, it will be renovated by West Knoxville developer Bill Hodges for offices.

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  • The 1927 Daylight Building on Union Avenue may be the young century’s most surprising success. Slated for demolition and overlooked by most preservationists, it has become one of downtown’s busiest buildings, a successful mixed-use project for Dewhirst Properties. An unexpected bonus, muffled beneath decades of paint, was the copper façade.
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  • Just Ripe organic grocery and cafe at the Daylight Building.
  • Union Ave Books at the Daylight Building.
  • ReRuns boutique at the Daylight Building.
  • Old buildings gracefully serve multiple uses. Above, on World’s Fair Park, the Candy Factory, a former industrial building and warehouse, housed a beehive of restaurants and shops during the fair. It then served as a city-subsidized arts center, and is now an upscale residence—but still also houses a large chocolate-making shop.
  • The L&N, the train station closed since 1968, hosted restaurants and offices for many years but now serves a specialized public high school for students gifted in the sciences. Meanwhile, most of the buildings built anew for the 1982 fair, like the large U.S. Pavilion, have long since been torn down.
  • The antebellum Walker-Sherrill house, one of the last antebellum buildings on Kingston Pike, was almost lost. Preservationist group Knox Heritage began trying to work deals to save it five years ago, as an array of developers attempted to remove or compromise it. During long controversy, thieves stole the house’s valuable mantels—but the house’s woodwork and elegant staircase are still intact. By a compromise okayed by City Council last week, it will be renovated by West Knoxville developer Bill Hodges for offices.
  • Preservation’s Exhibit A may always be Market Square. Established in the 1850s, it was less valued in the 1950s, when some pragmatic modernization proposals called for replacing it with parking. Though its original Market House was demolished, its 30-odd buildings, most of which date before 1930, have been preserved separately, and most house successful modern businesses.
  • Coffee and Chocolate off Market Square.
  • Some modern businesses, notably busy Mast General Store, which in 2005 occupied a long-vacant building on Gay Street, prefer historic buildings.
  • Boyd’s Jig & Reel, Knoxville’s first Scottish-themed pub, draws a crowd even on a Sunday.
  • Knoxville’s first modern-era coffee house, Java, still a home away from home for many.

Much of downtown Knoxville's recent resurgence is due to developers' abilities to refurbish its once-empty old buildings and give them new uses.

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