|A few years ago there were doubts that the Mary
Boyce Temple House would survive. It was targeted for demolition as
part of a plan to develop a hotel on the block. That didn't happen.
Instead the city, Patel and others worked together to find a way to
have the new development and keep the house. After learning of the
historical significance of the house, "We thought it would be
great to figure out a way to have that house restored," Patel
The city offered an enhanced tax abatement package to Patel while
he also worked with Knox Heritage and other property owners on the
block to revise the project's design. The nearby First Baptist Church
for instance, with the help of member Joe Petre, sold part of one
of its parking lots to the Hampton to make the new configuration
work and other neighbors also had input into the final design.
The changes caused increased expense for Patel, and a delay of several
months, but in the end allowed for a new Hampton with an enhanced
façade and the Temple House to co-exist as part of a plan
that pleased everyone involved. It preserved the house that has
stood at that has greeted people entering Knoxville from the south
for nearly 100 years.
"We think it's (the preservation of the Temple House) vitally
important to downtown," said Kim Trent, Knox Heritage's executive
director, "because it's one of the last remaining structures
downtown originally designed as a residence."
Patel has also made a $100,000 grant to go toward the costs of renovation
of the house.
The house was built in 1907 but was named for, Mary Boyce Temple,
who lived there from 1917 to 1929. At the time it was one of many
family homes in downtown Knoxville. When Pittman moves in it will
be the only free standing private residence in Downtown Knoxville
Mary Boyce was an early preservationist writing the check in 1925
that saved Blount Mansion from being demolished. Sometime after
her death in 1929 the three-story home at 623 W. Hill Avenue began
a slow deterioration. In recent years vagrants repeately vandalized
Pittman, who closed on the house in June, spent three years trying
to negotiate the purchase. Pittman plans to restore the home returning
it to the layout and look it had 100 years ago. He will live on
the first floor, his mother will live on the second floor and Pittman's
office and studio will be on the top floor. He said it will take,
"at least a year," to get the work done.
A South Knoxville resident who went to the University of Tennessee
and works downtown, Pittman has probably passed the house thousands
of times in his life. He wasn't sure what kind of shape it would
be in when he finally got it. Despite all the decades of mistreatment
Pittman said the structure of the home was still strong and beautiful.
"When I did go into it, it was awful," he said. "But
I could still see its bones. It has great bones."