Category Archives: News

Finding Our Home

by Pamela Franklin Jones

Twenty-two years ago, on a gloomy fall UT game day, we began house hunting in Knoxville, Tennessee. We were looking for a family home in a neighborhood with sidewalks and a large garden.

Although the realtor had put some thought and effort into showing us some houses, it soon became apparent that they were not what we had in mind. After a long fruitless search that day, we retreated to the motel and talked about our options. Glancing through a local free paper, we found in the room which had a few classified listings, a For Sale notice spanning two columns caught our attention. It advertised a handyman’s dream, and there was a picture of the house which looked as if it had potential. An open house was set for 12 o’clock the next day, which was Sunday, when we would be returning to our hometown in South Carolina.

The next day, we drove to the open house hoping to be admitted early due to the fact that we had a long drive home that day. The morning drizzle had turned into a heavy cold rain, but we were anxious to check out the house before we left Knoxville. The mansion, for it was a mansion, was in a rather rundown area but close to I-40 and in a neighborhood with sidewalks. Knocking on the door, it was opened by the owner, but we were not admitted because she was still in the midst of staging the rooms. We had to cool our heels in the local McDonald’s for an hour or so, and then drove back to the property.

Having bought and sold several properties in the past, this was easily the most astonishing viewing ever. It was raining outside, but it was also raining inside! In almost every room, containers were placed to catch the leaks. A veritable waterfall was pouring from an upstairs bathroom through the dining room ceiling and making its way to the basement. It was very dim, and rather a rabbit warren, because the house had been subdivided to make a total of nine apartments. We tried not to exchange glances as the children ran excitedly upstairs already choosing their bedrooms. One had a balcony, one a huge wall mirror, one a roof deck and its own bathroom, but without exception, every room had holes in the roof with damp rotting plaster falling down to the floor. There were large gaps in the floorboards which had been attacked by termites, and we had to walk carefully. There were doors which had swollen shut and could not be opened, there were horrifying bathrooms and really disgusting kitchens . . . but we could all see the potential for this tired old place.

Later, we discovered that the city had tried to demolish it at least once, and had also attempted to sell it at auction but were unsuccessful. However, on that day of our viewing it for the first time, I stood at a kitchen window and gazed out at the jungle of undergrowth and trees that was the buffer between us and the back road and knew that I wanted to buy this house.

When we finally corralled the children and left to start our drive home, it soon appeared that we were all of one accord. We could see the potential, and although this would be our biggest renovation project yet, we were confident we could do it.

After some negotiation with the seller and against the advice of our lawyer, we eventually closed on the property and then spent three months in an apartment waiting for the house to be rewired and replumbed and brought up to code.

Twenty-two years and two roofs later, we have a history with the Dunn Mansion. It has excelled our expectations in every way. It is indeed a wonderful family home, and we have made it our own. It will always require work as any old house does.

Apparently, some previous tenants believed that we acquired some ghosts with the house and would return on our first Hallowe’en to request a tour of their previous apartment. We did certainly have some occupants in the guise of hundreds of pigeons living in the attic who would leave in the mornings and return with a rush of wings at night until we sealed the holes and evicted them. If the ghosts are here, they are friendly ghosts. For a long time the floors were impossible to get clean because of the coal dust that had filled all the cracks. Nothing was quite as bad as the rats that apparently lived in the rear bank and had the run of the place for years. They were quite used to humans and very bold, even sitting behind a plate on the dresser eating their supper whilst we were eating our supper at the table!

Regardless, we have faced every hurdle and solved it together and have not shirked the work that it took to save this house. It has been a labor of love. There are still many tasks to complete and some to begin over again but this is home. No regrets!

First Creek Greenway cleanup September 25

Let’s celebrate fall by cleaning up our beautiful greenway!

Join us Saturday, September 25, from 9 am to noon, rain or shine. Come for the whole time or as much as you can.We’ll meet at the intersection of Sixth Avenue and Cottage Place, at the Cottage Place parking lot. The Beautification Committee will provide water and snacks, gloves, trash bags, rakes, grappling hooks, ropes and hand sanitizer. We will follow CDC guidelines. Children are welcome if accompanied by a guardian.

ONK Park weeding and cleanup September 8!

Old North Knoxville Park with sign in foreground

Please come to ONK Park to help with weeding and cleanup—badly needed after the hot rainy summer. For this cleanup, we’ll try working in the evening and hope that more people will be able to help out. 

When: Wednesday September 8, 6–8 pm. Rain date is Thursday, September 9. Come for the whole time or as much as you can—any help is greatly appreciated!

Where: Old North Knoxville Park, East Oklahoma Avenue

We’ll provide water and snacks, gloves, trash bags, trash grabbers, rakes and some gardening tools, and hand sanitizer. Please bring your own gardening tools and gloves if you have them. We will follow CDC guidelines. Please wear a face mask if you want. Children are welcome if accompanied by an adult. Feel free to bring your dinner for a picnic break!

Save the date: Fall First Creek cleanup, Saturday, September 25, 9am–noon!

First Creek Greenway Cleanup May 8!

Let’s celebrate spring by keeping our beautiful greenway clean from trash! And let’s celebrate that we can safely do so again.

When: Saturday, May 8, from 9 am to noon, rain or shine. Come for all or part of the time. Any help is greatly appreciated!

Where: The intersection of Hoitt and Luttrell, by the greenway.

We will provide water and snacks, gloves, trash bags, rakes, grappling hooks, and ropes. And hand sanitizer! We will follow CDC guidelines. Children are welcome if accompanied by a guardian.

When we are done we will order pizza as a reward for our hard work (we may need a few dollars from everyone to cover the cost in these lean times).

For more info, contact Margareth Olsson.

March board meeting: Hail and farewell

At the March Old North Knoxville board meeting, Pete Creel was elected to serve as president for 2021. Joy Guilford will continue to serve as treasurer and Donna Spencer as secretary. The vice president slot remains open.

The board thanks outgoing officers Susie Laise Smith, president, and Jessica Larsen-Varney, vice president, who both served for two years.

Also leaving the board with thanks are Beth Booker, Beth Bostrum, and longtime Historic Zoning Commission liaison James Pierce.

Newly elected board members are Veronica Cordell, Maegan Martin, and Sean Bolen, who will serve as HZC liaison.

Board meetings take place the first Monday of every month and are currently being conducted over Zoom. If you’d like to attend, email Donna Spencer, donnspen@gmail.com.

ONK neighbors: Sign up to vote in 2021 board elections

We’ll be electing new board members in a Zoom meeting Monday, February 8, 6:30pm.

All ONK neighbors are invited to join online or by phone. Email Donna Spencer, donnspen@gmail.com, for login information.

Monthly potluck meetings will resume as soon as it’s safe to gather—meanwhile, keep in touch online here and at facebook.com/groups/OldNorthKnoxville (registration required).

ONK Part of City’s Holiday Trails Starting November 30

With so many area festivities canceled this year (including our own Holiday Home Tour), the city is sponsoring a Knoxville Neighborhood Holiday Trails events beginning November 30, encouraging people to celebrate safely by driving and walking through neighborhoods to view lights and decorations.

The official ONK route follows East Scott from Central to Kenyon, then proceeds along Kenyon to Armstrong, West Glenwood, and back down Oklohama to Central. View a map of the route.

For more information and a list of all participating neighborhoods, see the City of Knoxville’s Holiday Trails page.

Home Tour Canceled

From the ONK Home Tour page:

We regret to announce that Old North Knoxville has canceled the Victorian Holiday Home Tour for 2020.

After 31 consecutive years hosting one of Knoxville’s favorite holiday traditions, we are certainly disappointed to reach this difficult decision. However, we know that the health and safety of our guests and homeowners must always be our most important consideration.

We plan to be back stronger and better than ever next year in 2021, so mark your calendars now for Saturday, December 4th and Sunday, December 5th in 2021!

Mobile Meals is one of the largest beneficiaries of the funds raised by our home tour event each year, and they could use our support now more than ever. If you wish to donate to Mobile Meals directly, you can do so online in any amount at secure.donationpay.org/knoxseniors.

Learn more about plans for the 2021 Home Tour at victorianholidayhometour.com.

ONK Board: Suspension of In-Person Meetings Extended

The ONK board met by teleconference on Saturday, May 23, and approved two measures:

The board will continue to meet by teleconference until we’re able to resume meeting in person. To ensure transparency, board actions will be posted here and copied to the ONK Facebook page. Neighbors with questions or concerns that they’d like to bring to the board—officially or unofficially—can post them to the Facebook page or email onkhomes@gmail.com.

Neighborhood Mutual Aid

To borrow Mr. Rogers’s well-known phrase, it’s easy to “look for the helpers” in Old North. Kelly Arsenault—chair of the Kindness Committee—and Cat Shteynberg have put together an assistance program for ONK folks to help one another with errands, grocery delivery, meal preparation, and other services through the difficulties of the pandemic. Signup and details are available through a Google spreadsheet available on the ONK Facebook page (not posted here because it contains private information). If you need help connecting or have questions, email Kelly, kellyarsenault24@gmail.com, or call 865-280-2172.

The program even made local news reports. Thanks, Kelly & Cat!