Author Archives: ONKcomms

Twenty Homes Participate in First Neighborhood Porch Tour

By David Booker
This article originally appeared in the Old North News in 2000.

Sunday, September 30th, was an almost perfect fall day. The temperature was in the seventies and the sky was dotted by only small white clouds. From 2–4 p.m. that day, Old North Knoxville hosted its first Porch Tour.

Lynne & Dave Palmer chat with guests on their porch.

Called “Sunday on the Porch: A Celebration of the Porches of Old North Knoxville,” this event invited residents from inside and outside the historic neighborhood to stroll down the sidewalks and appreciate an element of homes that doesn’t exist much on newer styles.

Twenty homeowners in the neighborhood swept off their porches, set up their porch furniture, and put out snacks and refreshments for anybody who wanted to say hello. The tour was free and a flyer describing the homes and the neighborhood, including a map, was provided to anybody stopping by. The average number of people to visit each porch was between 10 and 15.

Beth Booker welcomes visitors to her porch.

Porches ranged from Queen Anne Victorian to Bungalow to American Four Square, representing almost every style in Old North Knoxville, a neighborhood with homes built mainly between the 1880s and the 1940s. There were porches on Grainger and Glenwood Avenues, East Oklahoma and East Scott Avenues, and other streets and avenues that make up Old North Knoxville. There were porches attached to homes that had been restored and porches attached to homes being restored.

Those whose porches were on tour said they enjoyed the tour and looked forward to the event continuing next year. If nothing else, Beth Booker said, “it gave me a good excuse to sit out on my porch, which I haven’t done enough of.”

Greg & Rena Webb explain future changes to their porch.

See a preview article on the tour from the Knoxville News Sentinel.

A Celebration of the Front Porches of Old North Knoxville

This article was originally published in the Knoxville News Sentinel on July 4, 2000, and was
republished in the
Old North News.

The dictionary says a porch is “a covered entrance to a building, usually with a separate roof.”

But whoever penned such a description must have never enjoyed a lazy, hazy Sunday afternoon from grandmother’s front porch. Because such a description doesn’t give a porch any credit at all.

A porch isn’t a deck, and it isn’t a stoop. People who have stoops may wish those smaller spaces could magically grow into a wide porch. And they sometimes treat them like porches, adding a rocking chair and potted plants to the space. And people who have decks sometimes end up putting a roof over the decks and turning them into open porches or even screened porches.

A porch is a place for a swing with a flattened pillow for your head or for your behind.

Add a few comfortable chairs, a small table for a plant, drinks or magazines and even a glider, and that porch becomes an extended room in the outdoors. A set or two of wind chimes and you have natural music. Bring out the portable telephone and you won’t have to worry about missing anything.

A porch’s railings make the perfect place to collect rocks, plants and jars for lightning bugs. Its eaves and hanging baskets are a place for birds’ nests, and its front steps invite a parade of potted plants along their sides.

A porch’s corners are great places for children to pitch tents from old bedspreads and blankets from the hall closet without worrying about getting underfoot in the house or having their tent flooded in a sudden summer storm.

A porch is a place to watch the world go by, not worrying if you need to get up and join it. It’s a place to gather and talk on a Sunday afternoon after a chicken and dumpling dinner at grandmother’s or late in the evening with the neighbors after the dishes are done, watching the children play flashlight tag.

Everyone gets lazier and everything gets a little slower on a front porch. Iced tea, with lots of sugar, goes well with a porch. So does a good homegrown tomato sandwich. So does a good book borrowed from the library.

Pretty useful thing for just “a covered entrance.”

Sunday, September 30, [2000], 2–4 p.m.
Spend an afternoon on a free walking tour of Historic Old North Knoxville. Front porches are one of the most distinctive features of American houses of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. See Victorian, Craftsman, Neoclassical, and Greek Revival examples of porches dating from the late 1800s. Selected homes will offer refreshments on the porch (these homes will be marked with colored flags in the parkway). You may obtain a map of homes by stopping by any home marked with colored flags. Please respect private property by not walking onto porches that are not so designated. These homes may be admired from the street.

See a later article from the Old North News describing the tour.

Barber, the Mill, and the Peters–Kilgore House

By Chester Kilgore
This article originally appeared in the Old North News in 2003.

This is a story about a man I know quite well, but have never met, in the flesh at any rate. William E. Peters came from a long line of millers who immigrated from Wales before the American Revolution, and his great great uncle was injured at the battle of Camden. His great grandfather had a mill on the old Peters place in Union County.

The Peters came to Tennessee when it was still North Carolina. William Peters’s father, George W. Peters, was a Union army captain during the Civil War. He lived on Broadway just north of the soon to be Grainger Avenue and bought the old Goody Koontz mill nearby on First Creek and enlarged it. That mill burned in 1902. George Peters rebuilt it. It was later enlarged many times, until, over the years, it was about ten times its original size. Eventually, the mill was four floors in height, and during its lifetime, was powered by First Creek with diverted flow water over two waterwheels, by steam power, by diesel power, and finally in the1940s, by TVA electricity.

William E. Peters took over operations of the mill as his father’s health failed. Wm. E. Peters took in a partner at the mill, Mr. J. T. Bradley, and the name of the mill was changed from G. W. Peters Co., to Peters and Bradley Mill Co. The mill ground both wheat and corn. About this time, William E. Peters hired prominent Knoxville architect George Barber to enlarge the farm style house he was living in on Grainger Ave. Barber’s design changed the look of the house into a more Neoclassical style befitting Peters’s position in the community.

William E. Peters was elected to city council twice in the1920s, was prominent in the business community, and active in the congregation of Fourth Presbyterian Church, located just two blocks from his beloved home on Grainger Ave. At Fourth Presbyterian, he served as a deacon and as an elder.

Black-and-white photo of a large two-story house with porches on the first and second floors and several trees in front.
A photo of the Peters–Kilgore house on Grainger Ave. shortly after George Barber’s renovations were put in place. The house today has been restored by Chester Kilgore and looks like it does in this photograph. The only thing not on the house is the railing above the second floor porch.

George Barber’s design nearly doubled the size of the Peters’s house. To make the scale of the addition come out right, he built right over a major portion of the roof, adding about eight feet in height to that part of the roof line. The old roof line, structure, and roofing are still there, in the attic, hidden from view, like a ghost structure encased in its own protective housing. The new George Barber addition featured two generous porches on the front, one over the other, supported by twelve fluted columns, capped with composition capitals. The upstairs porch was mainly used for sleeping on hot summer nights, as there was no electricity to allow a fan to stir the air. The upper porch was designed to catch the west breeze, and was built to specification to be above the height most mosquitoes liked to fly. This mosquito deterrent system still works well to this day.

Mr. Peters put his original set of George Barber blueprints for his Grainger Ave. home in the built in china cabinet in the dining room, where they stayed until 2003, when they were donated to the McClung Historical Collection for conservation, restoration, and use for future generations studying George Barber’s architecture.

Black-and-white photo with 15 people posed on a front porch and its steps.
A photograph of the Peters family. George W. Peters is standing in the back at the left side of the photo. William E. Peters, his son, is seated, also at the left, and he is looking back toward his father.

William E. Peters youngest daughter, Miss Lillian Peters, stayed on in the Grainger Avenue house after her father died in January, 1959. The house was sold in 1961 to the A.P. Money family. The Money family sold the house in 1981 to its current owner and caretaker, Chester G. Kilgore. The house at 1319 Grainger Avenue was placed on the National Register of Historic Places by the United States Department of the Interior in 2001.

William E. Peters had four daughters, but no son to carry on in the milling business, so the business was sold to a concern in Elizabethton, closed in1961, and the mill was razed several years later. The part of the business property which was west of Broadway, and known to some as Mucktown, was the former mill pond. It sold in the 1950s to Henley Tate & Herman D. (Breeezy) Wynn. They spent $1,000,000 to develop the Broadway Shopping Center on the site.

Chester “Chet” Kilgore, ONK’s first board member emeritus, was a North Knoxville native who was well known throughout the city for his contributions to neighborhood and historic preservation. The pedestrian bridge on the First Creek Greenway is named in his memory.

Neighborhood Cleanup March 4!

We’re collaborating with Keep Knoxville Beautiful for the annual North Knoxville Community Cleanup the morning of Saturday, March 4, from 9:30am to noon! We’ll have supplies available for pickup in Booker Park (aka Old North Knoxville Park, at 416 East Oklahoma Ave.) along with a map showing where you can drop off bags when you’re done.

Families and individuals are welcome to participate, and no advance signup is required. Let’s get together and help prepare the neighborhood and North Knoxville for spring!

Mynders School

By Doug McDaniel
This article originally appeared in the Old North News in 2011.

Students listen to a Knoxville police officer in front of Mynders School on Pearl Place, circa 1940s.
Photo courtesy Mary Ireland.

The city of North Knoxville purchased lots for a school in 1889 near Alexander Street and Pearl Place, known at the time as Tennor Street. They finished the school building in the last six weeks of the 1889-1890 school year. Because of previous shortages in classroom space, the North Knoxville schools had followed the practice of half-day sessions. With the completion of this new school, a full-day schedule was followed, and additional teachers were hired. African American students of North Knoxville, about 20 at the time, were sent to the Austin School.

It was not until 1915 that this North Knoxville school would be named for Seymour Allen Mynders. He was born in Northfield, Minnesota in 1861, the son of Abraham and Sabra Simmons Mynderse. The family came to Knoxville in 1866, and Mynders graduated from the University of Tennessee in 1888. His brother Eugene was a carpenter and sashmaker who lived at 167 Woodland Avenue, at the corner of Laura Street, today Harvey Street in North Knoxville. Eugene’s home was a stop on the dummy line. Seymour Mynders, however, moved to Humboldt, Tennessee to become a professor of mathematics at I. O. O. F. College, where he became president the following year. In 1905, he was named Tennessee State Superintendent of Schools, at a time when Tennesseans found their public schools in poor condition. State law only required one hundred days per term, and publicly supported four year high schools were few. Mynders became an advocate for teacher education and the establishment of “Normal Schools” at Johnson City, Memphis, Murfreesboro, and Nashville, dedicated to stronger academic courses to train teachers. Mynders became the first president of the West Tennessee Normal School in.Memphis. Today, that school is known as Memphis State University. Suffering ill health, he died suddenly in 1913, after just starting his second year as president of the Memphis Normal School. Across the state, movements were made to honor him, and in Knoxville, the impressive school on Pearl Place was named “The S. A. Mynders School,” without the “e,” although the spelling of this name has been disputed for many years.

Knoxville City Schools Superintendent J. R. Lowry was quoted as saying, “And a fund is now being raised by the school children of the City of Knoxville and other parts of the state to erect some sort of monument to his memory. But Seymour Mynders does not need these marks of honor, nor any eulogy of ours. For those who have eyes to see, are there not engraved on the walls of every school house in the State the words of the Mantuan poet: ‘If you seek his monument, look about you.'”

Seymour Allen Mynders is buried at Old Gray Cemetery, right here in North Knoxville, not far from the site of the old Mynders School, which was torn down in the late 1950s to provide more parking for the expanding Sears store on North Central. Ironically, the Sears building is now a warehouse for the Knox County Schools.