Fort Sanders, Knoxville College top Knox Heritage's list of 'places in peril'

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Knox Heritage released its list of fragile and fading "places in peril," including spots like Knoxville College and Fort Sanders.

The association in the past has focused on 15 properties each year, but narrowed it down to six "in order to focus on the most significant properties." The number may vary from year to year. Knox Heritage said it's ready to work with property owners, developers, government officials and citizens in order to preserve Knox County and Knoxville's historic places.

Fort Sanders Historic District

The area has several Victorian-era houses and other buildings already on the National Register of Historic places since 1980. It's named for a Civil War-era Union bastion near the center of the district, and is the key site of an engagement in 1863.

Since it is close to downtown and the University of Tennessee, it's a popular area and very densely populated. Either new development or neglect have destroyed homes and the character of the neighborhood over the years.

Knoxville College, 901 Knoxville College Drive

Since the United Presbyterian Church of North America founded it in 1875, it's promoted religious, moral and educational leadership as the first African American college in East Tennessee. Several prominent figures have visited the school, like Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. DuBois and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Eight buildings on campus are part of the National Register District, but currently every building on campus is suffering from a "severe lack of maintenance" and the completely vacant area is often subject to arson fires. Knox Heritage said the school needs immediate intervention in order to save it.

Park City Historic District

This area of Knoxville off Magnolia Avenue is most commonly known as Parkridge. It formerly was a farm owned by Moses White, the son of Knoxville's founder James White. It was first developed as a streetcar suburb for Knoxville's professional class of workers in the 1890s, and more than 600 homes in the neighborhood are on the National Register of Historic Places. A high number of homes in the area were designed by mail-order architect George Franklin Barber, known for his ornate Victorian house plans.

Knox Heritage said that house renovations often are not sensitive to the historic character of the homes, making inappropriate alterations. Several properties are also neglected or torn down.

Rule High School, 1901 Vermont Ave.

Built in 1926-27, the school named in honor of Captain William Rule — a former Union Army Captain who went on to become mayor of Knoxville and editor of the Knoxville Journal — opened in 1927. It's located on a hilltop, boasting stunning views of downtown Knoxville and the mountains. It's since deteriorated because resources for its preservation are lacking. It's a surplus property now owned by the county, transferred from Knox County Schools in 2016.

Knox Heritage said similar schools, like old Knoxville High School, have been renovated for residential use and is encouraging the Knox County School Board to find a new owner who can invest in the property.

Standard Knitting Mill, 1400 Washington Ave.

The mill was founded in 1900 for 50 employees, but only one building constructed around 1945 remains. In the 1930s, the Standard Knitting Mill was the largest textile and knitting mill in Knoxville, employing 4,000 people and gaining a nickname as the "Underwear Capital of the World."

The mill currently sits in disrepair with broken windows and overgrown grounds. The current owners have plans to rehabilitate it, but no action has been taken. Knox Heritage said it should become a top priority, possibly using it as a mixed-use development for offices, retail and residential homes.

Eugenia Williams House, 4848 Lyons View Pike

Born in 1900 to a prominent physician and one of the original Coca-Cola investors in East Tennessee, Eugenia Williams commissioned childhood friend John Fanz Staub to design her residence in 1940. A Knoxville native, Staub is most well known for designing homes for the wealthy and influential in Texas, designing homes that are "an expression of the people who lived in them."

The Regency-style home was willed to the University of Tennessee in 1998, and since her death vandals and a lack of basic maintenance has plagued the home. Knox Heritage said it wants to work with UT to renovate the only Stuab-designed structure left standing in Knoxville.