Knoxville works with developer to save historic house

September 29, 2006

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.

KnoxNews: Local

R.I.P. Pop Tunes sign in Memphis

September 26, 2006

Today comes the sad news that the black sign that for decades heralded Summer Avenue’s Pop Tunes will be painted over and transformed into a sign for the store that now occupies the old Pop Tunes space.

Pop Tunes, then Popular Tunes, was the record store where the young Elvis Presley, at that time a resident of nearby Lauderdale Courts public housing, would listen to and occasionally buy records. You can see a photo of Elvis in 1958 here: Cats Music – ELVIS . The store claimed to be the first place to sell Elvis records.

Pop Tunes closed several years ago, but survives on the web as Cat’s Music. The site is here: Cats Music – Home

In its day, the 40-foot tall sign, designed to look like a 45-rpm record, had neon lights around it that made the record look like it was rotating. Too bad this roadside attraction didn’t make it to a museum or Beale Street or even Graceland.

Memphis Commercial Appeal – Memphis’ Source for News and Information: Local