Preserving Our Past

In 1941 Knoxville’s River Front Plan called for the creation of a historic preserve to protect Blount Mansion and nearby houses. But it was many years later before a major citywide effort to preserve historic structures began.

In 1971 the city’s zoning ordinance was amended to include historic overlay districts which allow the city to regulate new construction, renovation, and demolition within a specific area. Such activity within these districts is enforced by the Historic Zoning Commission.

Revitalization efforts increased after 1982 when MPC received a grant from the Tennessee Historic Commission to systematically look at pre-1935 buildings using maps from the U.S. Geological Survey and the city tax office. The process took three years and served as the basis for the first version of “The Future of our Past”—a cultural resources plan that has since been updated. A second update is now underway, and will include properties built in the 1950s which are now over half a century old.

The initial survey recorded more than 13,000 buildings, and a quarter of them were deemed eligible for listing on the national or local historic register (the remainder were not historically significant or had been altered too much). Register listings are for individual buildings as well as entire districts, including:

  • Market Square in Downtown Knoxville
  • Old North Knoxville
  • Fourth and Gill
  • Edgewood-Park City
  • Adair Gardens in Fountain City
  • Island Home and Lindbergh Forest in South Knoxville
  • Fort Sanders near the University of Tennessee
  • Forest Hills Boulevard off Sutherland Avenue
  • Concord near Farragut
  • Hodges Ferry in East Knoxville

MPC is allied with various groups working on historic preservation issues—Knox Heritage Inc., East Tennessee Community Design Center, East Tennessee Historic Center, Beck Cultural Center, and McClung Museum—and MPC staffs the city and county Historic Zoning Commissions. The city commission also enforces requirements for Neighborhood Conservation Districts—a new overlay added in the 1990s that is less strict than the Historic District. Both districts are requested voluntarily by property owners or through local legislative action.

To be successful, preservation must be a community-wide effort, and MPC plans to continue partnering with other groups to protect our area’s rich cultural heritage


The Weigel House at 2721 Asbury Road is an example of a restored Victorian house in East Knoxville. It is listed on the National Historic Register.


Wiegel house


The Tennessee Theatre and the Bijou Theatre were recently restored through community efforts.

Tennessee Theatre


A Neighborhood of Historic Significance: Architects Alfred and Jane Clauss designed houses at several Knoxville locations. Their work represents the International Style, and was widely discussed in architectural journals in the 1940s. Above is one of their houses in “Little Switzerland,” a small neighborhood built in the 1940s east of Chapman Highway.


Little Switzerland
1302 Luttrell Street in the Fourth and Gill Historic District Luttrell St.