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  The Year in Review


Historical Buildings

Developers, public and private, pigged out on Old Knoxville in 1999. An estimated 100 buildings dating from 1930 or earlier were torn down in the last year of the century they almost survived. Not counting many more already condemned for various projects, here is a partial list of those leveled in 1999 alone.

* A cluster of Victorian commercial brick buildings, corner of Central and Commerce. Two stories, with a distinctive round window, this last fragment of the old "Bowery" outside of the Old City had housed saloons, poolhalls, and blacksmith's shops. Torn down for the jail part of the Justice Center project.

* UT Warehouse and other large early 20th-century buildings along State Street. Some had been occupied by thriving businesses before the buildings were condemned for the Justice Center project.

* Interurban Bus Terminal, corner of State and Union, circa 1920. Believed to be Knoxville's first bus station, it once handled 2,000 passengers a day, and served that purpose into the 1930s. After it was replaced by a larger bus terminal down the street, this Alamo-style building was used for more than 60 years as an unusually elaborate parking garage, the only one in town with a smokestack.

* One of the last urban-style Victorian commercial buildings on old Hotel Avenue in Fountain City. It was razed early this year for a church parking lot.

* A total of 53 houses, plus three commercial buildings, that were arguably historic were torn down in Fort Sanders in 1999. Most were condemned under the neighborhood's agreement with Texas-based developer JPI, which had intended to keep demolitions of several large, distinctive houses in the central part of the neighborhood to a minimum. However, the owner of some of the houses "saved" by the plan chose to tear them down anyway, reportedly for a high-rise apartment building. Among these were large turn-of-the-century homes on Laurel Avenue.

Among the many torn down as part of the JPI agreement were the 1920 Grand Avenue home of William Dinwiddie, one of the two policeman shot in the chest when he tried to arrest Wild-West outlaw Harvey "Kid Curry" Logan in a Central Avenue saloon in 1901. Dinwiddie died in this house in 1914, having never fully recovered from his gunshot wound. Others torn down included a row of homes, conspicuous from the downtown and World's Fair areas, of the late Victorian neoclassical and gothic styles.

* A circa 1920 house on Lyons View Drive was torn down without announcement.

* The McGinnis home and other buildings in the vicinity, on Terrace Avenue. After years of threats, UT forced the residents, a middle-aged couple who had owned the house since the '50s, out of the large circa 1920 Tudor brick house, and razed it for a student parking garage.

Knoxville Notables

Margaret Ferguson (1951-1999). The Knoxville Symphony Orchestra's charismatic director of development died in an automobile accident on Westland Drive in April. Married with two children, Ferguson was also the former general manager of UT Theatres.

Bruce Holloway (1913-1999). Born in the big house on Bearden Hill in 1913, Holloway grew fascinated with flight as a child watching barnstormers land at the old airstrip on Sutherland Avenue, within walking distance of his home. A graduate of old Knoxville High, he attended UT before getting a berth at West Point. As an army flier in the early days of World War II, he flew with the legendary "Flying Tigers, eventually earning the honor of ace, downing 13 Japanese warplanes. Later, he commanded the Air Force's first jet fighter unit. He became a three-star general, and during the 1960s, he was commander of the Strategic Air Command; in that role, the tall, soft-spoken Holloway was sometimes called the most powerful military man in the free world. He spent his retiring years in Orlando, but visited Knoxville as recently as 1997, during the Air Force's 50th-anniversary ceremonies. At that time, Holloway expressed distress over what had become of Bearden Hill, his former home.

Richard Marius (1933-1999) Novelist, biographer, historian Marius was a firebrand who may have been both the most hated and most beloved professor during his 14 years at UT. He spent the last 20 years of his life in Massachusetts, where he taught at Harvard and headed up that university's creative-writing program, but returned home frequently. He wrote three biographies (two of Martin Luther, one of Sir Thomas More), plus four novels, one of which remained unpublished at his death. Though he was a scholar of Renaissance Europe, all of his novels were set in the post-Reconstruction Knoxville area—specifically in Loudon County where he grew up, son of a Greek immigrant.

William Rule III (1912-1999) Grandson and namesake of journalist William Rule, W.R. III was a surgeon who spent most of his adult life as a missionary to Africa, founding hospitals in remote villages along the Congo River valley. He returned to Knoxville and spent his later years living quietly in the Bearden area. In 1998, he published Milestones in Mission, his memoirs of 40 years of leprosy, venomous snakes, and tribal politics.