How many times have we seen some historic structure in Tennessee cities or towns torn down? “Someone should have saved that place,” we say, or, with resignation, “You can’t stop progress.”
Actually, you can.
Knoxville has just demonstrated how to do it right. The Mary Boyce Temple House, built in 1907, sits on a corner on Henley Street, one of Knoxville’s main thoroughfares. Once home to a woman who helped preserve Knoxville’s Blount Mansion, the house witnessed the growth of Knoxville and the virtual elimination of single family houses in the dowtown area. Following an all-too-familiar script, the house was cut into apartments and slowly declined. When plans were announced for construction of a new Hampton Inn & Suites, it looked like curtains for the house.
Knox Heritage, Inc., a local preservation group, worked with the hotel developer to alter the footprint of the hotel and save the house. The city did its part by offering a tax abatement. A local architect bought the house and announced plans to renovate it, making the distinctive structure his home and office. The house will enhance downtown for all who see it.
Knox Heritage maintains a list, The Fragile 15, of threatened buildings. The Mary Boyce Temple House was Number 9 on that list. Having a list like this is not hard to do and can help galvanize the public and officials to maintain Tennessee’s historic buildings.