Wednesday, January 28, 2009

artists, an old house, and a bit of kindness

If you've been in Knoxville for a while and frequent downtown, you've probably noticed two different types of artwork in various businesses and even on the plywood wall that runs on Wall Street alongside Market Square: Spindly ink drawings of cathedrals by Brian Pittman and theatrical and romantic drawings of women with bobbed hair by Cynthia Markert.

My path crossed both Brian and Cynthia's during my internship at Knox Heritage. It seems we all share an affinity for old buildings.

Before I met Brian, he was already a hero of mine because he had bought the Mary Boyce Temple House on the corner of Henley Street and Hill Avenue. When I finally met him, I asked him to tell me about his house.

He told me that he's always been enamored with the house, that he'd wanted to buy it, fix it, and live in it one day. Through a savvy business deal he was able to purchase the house from Game Day properties who formerly owned Maplehurst (the owners that wanted to tear all of it down to build condos for football fans) Once he obtained the Temple House, he tried to sell his house in South Knoxville, right about the same time as the housing market plummeted. He's been working on the interior of the Temple House but can't move forward quickly until his house in South Knoxville is sold.

If you walk in front of the Temple House, you'll notice that one of Cynthia's women is on a piece of plywood on the front porch. It's been there for quite a while. Cynthia told Brian she drew this particular woman as a reminder for him to keep on moving ahead with the house, not to give up on it, that he did a good thing by saving it.

Through all of the frustrations of renovating a house and encounters with disgruntled people over the house's state, Brian told me Cynthia's drawing has worked; He's kept on going. Though several people have offered to buy Cynthia's drawing from Brian, he resists. The crowning fixture of the Temple House will be the installation of her artwork in his renovated dream home.

17 comments:

Mickey said...

Now this is the sort of info I'll only get from the Wigshop.

I always wonder what the deal is with that house and I've stopped to take photos of the artwork several times.

I'm glad to hear someone is caring for them both.

ck said...

He's made some good progress- there used to be a 40s era addition on the back that has been demolished. Renovating a house of that size takes a while. Speaking of which, Big B you need to write up the Pickle Mansion in the Fort- it's undergoing a similar slow renovation by my friend Jon Haas. There seems to be a new generation of people in this town that are willing to make an investment in preserving the few historically significant houses that are left.

The Modern Gal said...

That is SO COOL. I absolutely love her stuff, and that story just makes my day.

I never realized who was responsible for the cathedral drawings, but I'm glad to know the Temple house is in good hands.

benjamin said...

you're a good one, beth meadows.

Anonymous said...

Now THAT'S what I'm talking about B! Keep up the great posts!

stan said...

i always hoped the artwork would be preserved in some way. now someone needs to ante up and by that man's house!

TonyN said...

As a work-related transplant to Knoxville, I know little-to-nothing about the city. Articles like this one keep The Wigshop on my Google Reader list.

I have read a number of articles here and had similar notions and probably should say "thanks" more often. Keep up the great work guys.

Anonymous said...

Ha ha! "Similarly slow renovation," indeed. I've got some 5-1/2 year old photos of the Pickle Mansion after the fire and some recent ones, and I'd challenge anyone to tell me which are which. Might have been savvy of Mr. Haas to figure out how to get the house through a lot of Demolition By Neglect threats on the former owner (we'll throw in the apartment building, too), but a renovation is not by any stretch of the imagination what is underway. By all means -- do a story on it.

Brian said...

The Temple House is my project. And I know it's taking me longer than I expected and the economy isn't helping much. But the Temple House demolition is complete and wasn't cheap or a small task. What most folks don't know is the little one story concrete house between it and the Lord Lindsay is also mine and that project is 95% complete which I think looks 100% better than it did. So I'd appreciate it folks would cut us some slack who have the guts to even attempt such a job.

It's easy to judge progress of what Jon Hass and I are doing while watching tv in their living rooms and living a normal life. It takes guts and in my opinion a little bit of craziness to chomp off this much of a challenge. But it's those of us crazy enough to try and the possible insanity it takes to try that make things better. But I feel it's a noble effort anyways.

The last thing someone who's leveraged their whole lives and fiscal security to hear is 'that it's a slow renovation". These types of projects will eat your life away and consume your finances. I'd like to think that it shouldn't take a rich man to save an old house but if folks insist that the progress is readily and easily identifiable for the typical citizen then I propose said citizen should help out or be a little kinder and give folks the time it truly takes to do a good job. I'm doing the best I can and I'm sure Jon is too. These aren't easy tasks guys....cut us some slack.

Brian

Brian said...

Sorry guys....I had a bad day and thought the 'anonymous' comment that prededed mine was kind of snarky about 'slow' progress and I felt he/she could have been nicer to Jon/Pickle Mansion. I should calm down at the end of a day before I hit the blogs.....forgive me.

;)

Brian

Todd Camplin said...

Wow, I would like to know more about the Knoxville visual artists.

Becca said...

I love the Pickle Mansion so much! When I was at UT, I used to walk up into the Fort just to scope out that place. Made me feel like a crazy house stalker, but whatever :) Kudos to anyone who undertakes such a big job

Anonymous said...

Brian -- Pickle even made it back onto your Knox Heritage's Fragile Fifteen list last year for lack of progress. Last year. What's happened since? If you want to put yourself in the same boat, I can't see why. The "subdivision process" ultimately was necessary so that the adjacent apartment building could be rented out while the house remained condemned. How does this help the house? It was a legal requirement for avoiding renovating the house.
Putting the Temple House back on the list was discussed, but it was concluded that progress was in fact being made. Actual progress versus stated intent is an important distinction, especially after 6 years.

9. The Pickle Mansion. – 1633 Clinch Avenue.
The Pickle Mansion was built in 1889 in the Queen Anne style. It was built of solid masonry construction with a brick veneer wall covering on that masonry. Typical of grand houses of the Queen Anne era, it boasted a hip roof with lower cross gables, a turret, elaborate attic vent windows, window arches, transoms and a large front and side wrap around porch.

The house was burned in a disastrous fire that occurred in August of 2002, and suffered extensive damage. The current owner was able to purchase the house from its previous owners, who were denied in their request to demolish the building. After the purchase the current owner navigated an extensive and necessary subdivision process and took steps to finance the restoration. Fire debris has been removed and roof trusses have been designed with the intent of completing a rehabilitation of the house and restoring its architectural presence on Clinch Avenue. However, although interior work to prevent additional deterioration has been completed, the house is still unroofed, and rehabilitation work has not begun.

Knox Heritage encourages the owner to move swiftly to get the house under roof and begin the long-awaited restoration of this Fort Sanders Neighborhood landmark.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure who wrote this latest comment but I suppose there is some truth to it indeed. I hate to see the Pickle Mansion get put back on the list. It's not a list one wants to be on.

But as I said it's a tough road to hoe just trying one of these projects on. But I have faith and know I'm doing the right thing even if other folks might not like how I'm doing it or how fast things get done or don't. We have lots of good friends who support us.

What I do know is the work we have done. As one person noted here we removed a three story solid brick tower that we had no intention on removing but its the right thing to do to make the house accurate even though it cost me four months, thousands of dollars, and new windows.

But the Duplex is nearly finished and livable, I think I've nailed an extremely gracious manufacturer who will donate all new windows, all demolition has been completed, all structural issues are stabilized, and the vagrants are a non-issue now. So folks can say what they will about how she looks but the grand ole dame is happy, content, and excited about her new lease on life. ...Brian Pittman

B said...

i'm happy for her too!

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