Friday, March 30, 2012

Spring Scenes from the City (and a few notes for this weekend)

Dogwood beside the old Courthouse on Gay Street, Knoxville, March 2012
Spring is pretty much here. While all of the trees aren't as green as they will be later, the dogwoods are beautiful and that pretty much says spring in this city. I'm going to leave you with a weekend's worth of pictures to close out March and I'll start your April with a few more. I'm still learning how to use my camera and taking baby steps as I go.

Xylophone player! in Krutch Park, Knoxville, March 2012
As for this weekend, there are a number of downtown events about which to get excited. Here are a few:

  • Friday 6:00 - 8:30 PM - Spring kick-off for Alive After Five at the KMA featuring Christabel and the Jons
  • Saturday 9:00 AM in the Chamber of Commerce Offices CBID meets to determine guidelines for future grants
  • Saturday 2:00 PM, Union Avenue Books: Author Christopher Hebert discusses his novel The Boiling Season
  • Saturday 8:00 PM, Pilot Light: Theorizt CD Release Party for "Samurai Love Songs" with Theorizt, Hudson K and Mr. Kobayashi. Plan on staying VERY late for this one. $5 gets you in, $10 gets you in AND a copy of the CD. I have it and it is very, very good.
  • Sunday 7:30 AM: Knoxville Marathon, Half-Marathon and 5K
I hope to see you at some of these events or just out and about enjoying the record high pollen counts and the beauty that is an east Tennessee spring. I hope you enjoy the pictures. I'll have more in a later post.

View north on Gay Street, Knoxville, March 2012

A Favorite View: From a Table on Market Square, Knoxville, March 2012

Market Square from TVA Plaza, Knoxville, March 2012

Market Square from TVA Plaza, Knoxville, March 2012

Market Square from TVA Plaza, Knoxville, March 2012

First Presbyterian Church Cemetery, Knoxville, March 2012

Attack Monkey, 100 Block, Knoxville

Off Jackson Avenue, Knoxville, March 2012

Sidewalk outside Reruns, Union Avenue, Knoxville, March 2012

Lorax window display, Reruns, Union Avenue

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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Henley Street Bridge Update . . . and more

Henley Street Bridge Construction, March 2012
It's been a while since I posted pictures of the Henley Street Bridge construction project. It's interesting to consider the different ways the project has impacted various people. Business owners on the south side of the river have expressed unhappiness citing diminished business. Commuters have been forced to alter patterns. Traffic has increased on Gay Street. For downtown residents who walk across Henley Street regularly, it has been quite nice. Not that my convenience outweighs the negative impact on others, but it has been nice to have a quieter, friendlier Henley Street for a while.

Henley Street Bridge from the north side, Knoxville, March 2012

Henley Street Bridge from the north side, Knoxville, March 2012

Of course, if you want the latest up-to-the-minute details, including discussions of "abutments" and "spandrel caps," you can go to the official update site here. My intention here is simply to provide some occasional photographs for people who are interested but are unable to walk to the bridge and take a look for themselves.

Command Central, Henley Street Bridge Project, Knoxville, March 2012

At this time the roadway and walkway below the north end of the bridge are closed while work goes on directly overhead. As you can see from the above photograph, there is quite the command central on this side of the river. It's a massive undertaking, but it seems to be back on track after some early tragedy. I hope the workplace is as safe as it can be.

Mary Boyce Temple House, Hill Avenue, Knoxville

While in the area I took a couple of other photographs. It's been a while since I posted about the Mary Boyce Temple house at 623 W. Hill Avenue and there are changes on the outside, and though I wasn't able to walk inside, work appears to be ongoing there, as well. This is, of course, the project of love for Brian Pittman, local architect and cathedral artist. Money from the purchase of his art goes to the renovation and reconstruction project that he has undertaken  - a very worthy and massively expensive cause. You can learn more about the house and the reconstruction efforts here.

The Former Lord Lindsey, Hill Avenue, Knoxville, March 2012
Finally, I couldn't help but look next door at the old building which, in a different era for downtown Knoxville, hosted the Lord Lindsey nightclub. It is offered for sale and it seems that maybe enough has changed in the city in recent years that its time could be coming. Externally it appears to be in pretty good shape and simply in need of someone with a vision to step in and make something special.

Update: The safety record of Britton Construction got worse this week with the death of an additional person at one of their projects. I didn't learn this until after I published this post. I'm not a judge or a jury, but I can't help but wonder if this company is as concientious as they should be. As noted previously, many people believe they are not and that they are not being held accountable by the state of Tennessee. It is dangerous work and some accidents are inevitable, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to believe everything is being done that should be done.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Public House: Low Key Cool on the Northside

The Public House and Tennessee Valley Bikes, Magnolia Ave., Knoxville

I found myself happily surprised when the Public House opened about a year and a half ago. I say "surprised" because I didn't expect a pub to open on Magnolia with the aim of drawing a downtown crowd. I didn't think we had spread that far, yet, and Magnolia not having the best of reputations, I wondered if they could make a go of it. I did note that it was positioned nicely between downtown and Old North.

Who knew it would take me this long to get there or that I would post about it? I did finally make it there, recently. I had a week off, the weather was mostly beautiful, and I walked there from home to meet friends.

300 Block of North Gay (flowers by Regas) Knoxville, March 2012

Along the way I took the picture of flowers adjacent to the 300 block of North Gay. The interesting thing there was that a fellow was tending the flowers and doing other gardening up-keep on Regas Square. As I walked up, I thought, "That's really nice that the Regas family is paying to keep the place looking nice while they try to find a new purpose for the site after the closing of the signature restaurant." My appreciation increased when the fellow introduced himself as "Grady Regas." He seemed  a very nice and very down-to-earth guy and I enjoyed our brief conversation.

The Public House, Magnolia Avenue, Knoxville, March 2012

Around the corner from Regas, on Magnolia, I found the inauspicious building that houses the Public House. It is adjacent to   Tennessee Valley Bikes and the external decor of the two businesses makes it difficult to know where one ends and the other begins. The front doors to each are at a right angle from the street and not readily visible. The front wall of the Public House is a retractable garage door with windows which was was closed the day we were there, though the weather was such that it could have been opened to delightful effect.

I met three friends for drinks and light fare. We were there at opening time and stayed for a couple of hours and were joined only by a couple of other customers the entire time. I hope it gets busier later in the evening. There were high tables, seats at the bar and booths which, in keeping with the light fare offered, have low narrow tables between them shaped liked bleacher seats, but featuring beautiful finishes.

George! The entrance to the Public House

The Bar at the Public House, Knoxville, March 2012

I had a four dollar cheese plate which was more filling than I expected and included some tasty bread and relish. One of my friends ordered the hummus, but the cooler had malfunctioned and the hummus had been frozen, so that didn't work out. They brought out a sweet potato souffle that he didn't care for, but I thought looked pretty good.

George negotiates a Souffle at the bar. Real men love a good souffle.

It was a nice, out-of-the-way place to meet friends, though I'm still wondering if it was a case of premature placement since it doesn't get much in the way of foot-traffic of the sort who would come inside. It has to be a destination and I'm not sure if it has become that. A visit later in the evening would be in order to see how the crowd might grow at night though, again, its placement might hurt in the evening hours, as well.

Marie's Olde Towne Tavern on Magnolia

There was also a bar in the adjacent building which looked a bit older and more in keeping with what people might think of when Magnolia is mentioned. It was open when I passed by, but I didn't go inside. I'll have to return, if nothing else, to check out the bike store next door which, according to my friend Shaft who slipped inside for a minute, carries some pretty fine upscale bikes for city cyclists.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Cafe Four hosts Scruffy City Roots

Set for Scruffy City Roots, Square Room, Knoxville

Hosts for Scruffy City Roots

As I wrote in my guide to music festivals and series recently, it seems the former incarnation of Tennessee Shines has split into to entities. The first is Tennessee Shines at WDVX each Monday night, broadcast live on that station. The other is Scruffy City Roots, live from the Square Room on Market Square, and in some respects it is more like the original Tennessee Shines than is the current Tennessee Shines.

Scruffy City Roots is hosted by Scott Miller with interjections for broadcast and advertising purposes by a WUTK personality and interviews of the musicians by Jack Neely. The entire affair is being leveraged in every direction, with a live radio broadcast on WUTK, segments including backstage footage to be shown on WBIR and thirty minute segments to be broadcast on Public Television later this year. Additionally, it is streamed live via their website (linked above). Got that?

Scott Miller, "I Made a Mess of This Town"

What matters is the quality of the show, of course, and if the first show is any indication, there is no concern on that front. Scott Miller opened with his standard, "I Made a Mess of This Town," after which he welcomed the studio audience of around three hundred fifty people. Approximately seventy-five seats were provided for the first people to arrive when the doors opened and the others stood behind them. While the view could not have been as good from the back, the enthusiasm seemed to fill the room.

Jack Neely interviews Cruz Contreras and Eric Baker

Rayland Baxter, Scuffy City Roots, Knoxville, March 2012

Odessa Jorgensen and Rayland Baxter, Scruffy City Roots, Knoxville

The first guest artist on the inaugural show was Rayland Baxter, a singer-songwriter from originally from Tennessee and currently living in Nashville, who was accompanied by a lovely violinist, Odessa Jorgensen, who also sang a wonderful harmony. The songs were excellently written and nicely performed and tended toward themes of friends and nature. He said allergies were hurting him, but his vocals sounded good to me. He was prone to whistling a bit and did a great job of it, though I could have used it in fewer songs. It wasn't until the interview with Jack Neely that I realized that he's the son of Bucky Baxter, pedal steel guitar player extraordinaire, who I saw perform with Bob Dylan a dozen times or more back in the 90s. (Video of Rayland Baxter at the end of this post)

Delta Rae, Scruffy City Roots, Square Room, Knoxville, March 2012

Delta Rae, Scruffy City Roots, Square Room, Knoxville, March 2012  

Jack Neely interviews members of Delta Rae

The show also included Delta Rae who is not a woman and has no connection to the Delta that I could determine. They are a group from North Carolina and if they haven't spent some time as a house band in a praise church, I'm really off my game. The gospel influences were clear in their harmonies and the imagery in their lyrics. The group is heavy on harmony vocals to good effect and is probably aided in that effort by the fact that the group includes two brothers and a sister as well as a life-long friend building those harmonies. The music straddles a line somewhere between gospel, pop and Americana and is well worth a listen. (Video at the end of post)

Scruffy City All-Stars, Square Room, Knoxville, March 2012

Cruz Contreras and Eric Baker, Square Room, Knoxville, March 2012

Cruz Contreras and Jill Andrews, Square Room, Knoxville, March 2012

The Scruffy City All-Stars played the last hour of the two hour show and the core of the band included leader Cruz Contreras and two other members of the Black Lilies. Cycling through during the hour were Robinella, Jill Andrews, Eric Baker and a gentleman whose name I did not catch.

"Knoxville Girl"

Robinella performs "Oh Lonesome Me" at the Square Room, Knoxville

The songs were heavy on east Tennessee Roots, with Robinella doing a wonderful "Oh Lonesome Me" in homage to Don Gibson. Cruz and Eric did an excellent rendition of the Everly Brothers' "Wake Up Little Susie." The aforementioned gentleman joined Cruze in a morbid (is there another way?) rendition of Knoxville Girl. A Dolly Parton song also worked into the mix, if I recall correctly.

The entire entourage crowded the stage for a finale of "Tennessee Jed," which seemed appropriate enough. The evening ended on a strong note and everyone went home very happy. I might have liked to have seen R.B. Morris join the band for Thunder Road, but maybe that will happen somewhere down the line.

"Tennessee Jed" performed by the entire musical cast, Square Room

I have to tell you that I will try very hard to be at every one of these shows. It was that good. I'd encourage you to join me. Just don't get my seat if you want more pictures like these. And speaking of that . . . this is just a fraction of the shots I took. I'll post these and more in the coming days at my current repository for such things at the Stuck Inside of Knoxville Facebook page. Stop by and see what I've got - and "like" it while you are at it.

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Monday, March 26, 2012

Knox Heritage Tour of Armature Building

Three Feathers Building, Southwest Corner of Jackson and Gay, Knoxville

Knox Heritage sometimes gives its members the opportunity to tour buildings which are being renovated and/or re-purposed. Last fall I wrote about their tour of the White Lily building, for example. It's a great chance to see the "bones" of the buildings before the finished product. It always gives me an appreciation for the people who have the vision to see what could be made of these properties, many of which have been seriously neglected. The tours are great and the organization is great, so if you aren't a member, you should consider joining, which you may do here.

Armature Building, Jackson Avenue, Knoxville, March 2012

Often the properties on display are being developed by David Dewhirst, who is responsible for the renovations and development of downtown properties such as the Emporium, the Daylight Building and the JFG Building. A profile of Mr. Dewhirst and his projects was published in the News Sentinel yesterday. His company is currently doing the work on the Arnstein Building, the New Union Shops and the Armature Building, which is the building he allowed Knox Heritage members to tour this past Friday night.

Introduction of the tour at Attack Monkey Productions, Gay Street

Units under construction, Armature Building, Knoxville, March 2012

Units under construction, Armature Building, Knoxville, March 2012

I believe I understood that what Knox Heritage was calling the "Armature Building" is actually three buildings. The building at the corner of Gay and Jackson is called the Three Feather's Building and it is moving quickly toward readiness for occupancy. I noticed that washers and dryers had arrived a couple of weeks ago and that usually means the later stages have been reached. It will have ten rental units and the bottom floor will be retail. This building was the home for Volunteers of America, a homeless shelter, and was not included in the tour.

Dewhirst representative gives the details 
A unit on the north side of the development
The next two buildings down Jackson Avenue were referred to by Knox Heritage as the Armature Building but are, in fact, two buildings. The first has ten units on three floors, just as the Three Feathers Building. These units vary from studio apartments to two bedrooms and will likely range in price from around $600 to $1100 per month. To have a studio apartment for $600 in a very cool location in the city is an amazing value.

Interior of the Armature Building, Jackson Avenue, Knoxville, March 2012

Interior of the Armature Building, Jackson Avenue, Knoxville, March 2012 

Interior doorway, Armature Building, Knoxville, March 2012 

The third building in the row is the largest of the three and should yield just over fifty units. It is also the least developed of the three and was in the worst shape when it was purchased. Its manufacturing history is evident by the manlift in its center and the drive-in bay on the front.

Manlift, Armature Building, Knoxville
Drive-in Bay, Armature Building, Knoxville

Another interesting feature is the holes in the roof which appear to be openings for vents during its manufacturing incarnation, but which will likely serve as awesome skylights for the units.

View to the north from the Armature Building

View to the east from the Armature Building

View to the east from the Armature Building
The views are also unique, with the front offering a view of the train tracks and the historic depot buildings and the side offering a view of the back of the western side of the 100 block of Gay Street along with the Emporium, Sterchi and other buildings peeking over the top.

View from the rear of the Armature Building

Row of windows across the rear of the Armature Building

The back view varies depending on which building, with the second building from the corner offering views of what will likely be a nice courtyard and the third building offering views of a small stand of trees and a hillside. The second floor offers a wonderful row of arched windows across the back. There is a rumor afloat of a pool to be added behind the building and for some connection to the underside of the Jackson Street viaduct from the front side of the lower floors.

Rear view from the Armature Building
The schedule calls for the first two buildings to be ready by this fall, with the larger building slated for a December opening, though the representative on site implied this might be an ambitious goal. That will add over seventy units to the residential pool in downtown Knoxville at a time when rental units, particularly, are at a premium and  units for purchase also seem to be emerging from the slow sales period of the recession.

It was a very good evening to reconnect with Knox Heritage members and downtown friends. Also, I find it uplifting and encouraging that progress continues in the city that I love. You might consider joining Knox Heritage if this sounds like the kind of thing you would enjoy. You might consider moving downtown if this sounds like the kind of community you might enjoy connecting to. I know I'm glad I did.

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