The Schools of Hard Knox

There may be dozens of former schools in Knox County, in various states of abandonment or reuse, but these six seem to be mentioned most often by preservationists for their beauty and potential.

Brownlow Elementary School, 1305 Luttrell St., built in 1915. Described as a keystone to the renovating Fourth and Gill community, it has belonged to downtown developers for the last several years, but has not yet been redeveloped as residential condos as anticipated. A public auction of individual condos last October was disappointing, but developers are reportedly going ahead with the project.

Eastport School, 2036 East Bethel Ave., built in 1932. A later addition is still used by the school system; its location, overlooking cemeteries and the Walter P. Taylor housing projects, is problematic.

Flenniken School, 115 Flenniken St., built in 1919. Empty since 1994, it has recently been owned by speculative developers; one recent proposal to open a restaurant in it seems to have been shelved, partly due to environmental issues.

Oakwood Elementary, 232 Churchwell Ave., built in 1914. Located in a reviving neighborhood near St. Mary's Hospital; like some others, it has a newer addition still used by the school system. The school system is in the process of surplusing it to the county for possible private development.

Rule High School, 1919 Vermont Ave., built in 1927-38. Roughly between working-class Lonsdale and renovating Old North, Rule closed in 1991 but has been the subject of a religious group's well-meaning but apparently undercapitalized renovation effort.

South High School, Moody Ave., built in 1937. South High became a cause celebre after the county discussed demolishing it; in the last three years, two promising and seemingly well-footed proposals encountered unexpected obstacles.

McCallie School, a long-empty building off Broadway in the rapidly growing 4th and Gill neighborhood, once seemed promising to developers, but a 1995 fire destroyed it. Talman was president of the neighborhood association when it happened, and that experience seems to fuel some of his frustration. A school, once an asset to a neighborhood, can become a liability, and sometimes a real hazard.