Thursday, December 18, 2008

For Knox Heritage

Today was my last day as the Knox Heritage intern. I've been putting off writing about them and the reason I became interested in being their intern because it all hits a little close to home (pun unintended), but I thought today would be an appropriate day to tell you my feelings toward a certain urban haven in Knoxville.

I moved into Maplehurst Court about a year and a half ago. If you've ever lived there, I'm sure a whole slew of emotions is being conjured up at the moment. It's a beautiful neighborhood nestled between World's Fair Park, Henley Street, and the Tennessee River. I can see Neyland Stadium and Ayres Hall through the large plate glass window in my apartment. For Booms Day, all my neighbors and I had to do was walk down the street, and ever since I've been working in Market Square, I've only had a 7 minute commute on my bike. The trees are beautiful and large and the architecture is magical. Whereas parents' speak endearingly about their children, conversations in Maplehurst migrate toward cats. They are a common fixture in the yards and bushes, and most people know them by name. I can count on hearing the tapping foot of my upstairs neighbor as he plays his fiddle daily, and my landlord allowed my neighbor and I to start our very first organic garden right outside my door. In the summer, there are cookouts and lots of bluegrass under the dogwoods amidst three beautiful abandoned buildings.

In the midst of the beauty and eclectic nature of where I live, there is also a downside. The buildings are falling apart. Many of my neighbors' ceilings have fallen in. Over and over, they close down single apartments, then the whole building. There are three abandoned buildings that I walk by everyday, and they are beautiful. I am unabashedly in love with them.

Over the past year my friends and neighbors have hung out at night and talked about what we could do to save Maplehurst. There have been rumors for years that the owners were neglecting the buildings so that they would reach an unsalvageable point. Then the demolition of the buildings would take place and, lo and behold, a new space for large condos would become available. Why wouldn't some out-of-town developer not want to make the most (money) from such a great location?

The rumors made my neighbors and me pretty unhappy, and, to make a long story a little shorter, I ended up working at Knox Heritage to see how I could help. With no assistance from me, they announced that Maplehurst was one of their Fragile 15, a list of 15 buildings or areas that they would push to save over the next year.

Things are still up in the air for Maplehurst, but it seems that the current owners are doing their best to save what they can of the existing buildings. I realize now as I leave, preservation is far more complicated than I thought, and there are a lot of people that just don't care about it. There are also a lot of incredible people that do (i.e. Kim Trent, Becky Hancock, Hollie Cook, and now, Ethiel).

I'm sad to leave Knox Heritage but am also incredibly thankful for their work in Knoxville to preserve the beautiful and neglected structures in our city.

As a Christmas gift to them, I would like to encourage our readers to become Knox Heritage members, which can be as little as $25 a year to join.

I'll leave you with pictures of what I've endearingly called home and what I hope they can continue to help save.


The Pol said...

Love that area, my wife lived in the apartment with that cute brick arches stairway two pictures up, and i can't tell you how many of my friends lived in the spanish style one on the corner (lovingly reffered to as the stable)

here's hoping (oh and I will be joining knox heritage this coming year)

Mickey said...

Maplehurst is like its own quiet little world dropped between downtown and the stadium. The buildings there are definitely unique and deserve some attention.

Robert said...

Yep, i lived in the spanish-style one for three years. incredible. i love that house, faults-and-all (and that's including being electrocuted by the shower).

The Modern Gal said...

Maplehurst is definitely one of downtown's better-kept secrets. I didn't discover it for about three years of living in Knoxville. Glad to hear it's on the Fragile 15. I hope that translates into some results.

grantly said...

As Robert's former housemate, I have to agree. There is something special about that house (even with the leaking pipes, electrocution, etc.) and Maplehurst in general. I truly hope it doesn't go away.

max said...

Man, I hope they put a Waffle House up there when they build the condos. The one on Papermill is just too far away for me.

Seriously though. I love that neighborhood. Lots of good memories were made up there and I would hate to see it torn down. It is an uphill battle, but I think in the long run it would be worth it for someone to try and save the place. With everything going up on the south side of the river in the next few years, it will be refreshing to have a little historic gem on the hill to remind us of the good times. Santori times.

Anonymous said...

Beth, this is Brian (TempleHouse Brian).....send me your email so we can stay in touch on Maplehurst as well as other

Thanks for your efforts and attention, our lil' city needs more folks like you and ladies at KH. Brian

h. ryann. said...

Beth, I vow to you as a New Year's resolution that I will become a Knox Heritage member. Seeing your spirit and dedication to that neighborhood and just knowing your loving heart, I promise that to you.


Unknown said...

Because of its central yet hidden location, Maplehurst is one of Knoxville's best neighborhoods and one of its most endangered. I lived there for four and a half years and met a lot of great folks--and cats. When I left in 2000, the atmosphere in Maplehurst was changing due to the Gameday Condos development plans. I'm glad to hear that a nugget of the precious neighborhood I knew still exists, but it's going to take a careful and concerted effort to save some of those buildings from demolition and/or some horrible development. To me, part of preservation is saving the character of a place, and Maplehurst has tons of it. I miss looking out my window onto that huge magnolia tree!