Knoxville’s Historic Homes Knoxville recently celebrated its 225th anniversary. It was founded on Oct. 3rd, 1791 as the capital of the Southwest Territory. By 1796, it was the capital of the State of Tennessee, being instrumental in the founding of our statehood. Knoxville is fortunate to have many historic sites and cultural attractions that preserve and interpret its history. A great way to explore this history is to take a tour of the historic house museums in the area.
James White’s Fort – 1786
James White was a Captain in the Revolutionary War who was given a land grant of 1,000 acres for his service. Originally from North Carolina, he moved to the area in 1783 and built his two-story log house in 1786. Two years later he enclosed the house and outbuildings with a stockade fence for protection from marauding Indians and the wild animals. James White was a friend to the Cherokee Indians and he assisted in the negotiation of several of their treaties with the settlers. James White partitioned part of his land in 1791 to establish the town which would become Knoxville, named for Henry Knox, Secretary of War under President Washington. Today, visitors can tour the original two-story main House, the adjoining kitchen, as well as a smokehouse and cabins used for weaving and blacksmithing.
Blount Mansion – 1792
William Blount, a signer of the United State Constitution, chose to build his home in Knoxville after signing the Treaty of the Holston on the banks of the Holston river. Blount’s house was made of sawn lumber brought in from North Carolina, with nails from the family’s naillery near Tarboro, NC, and window-glass from Virginia. It was probably the first home in the area that was not a log cabin. The care in construction, and the size and shape of Blount Mansion reflects Blount’s position as a Territorial Governor, head of a prominent family, and influential land speculator. Aside from the main house, visitors can tour the home’s beautiful Colonial revival gardens, three outbuildings, and enjoy a beautiful view of the Tennessee River.
Marble Springs – ca. 1797
Marble Springs State Historic Site is the last remaining home of John Sevier. Born in Virginia in 1745, John Sevier made a name for himself as a Revolutionary War Hero during the Battle of Kings Mountain and later served as the first Governor of the State of Tennessee. Sevier named his farm Marble Springs because of the Tennessee Pink Marble that was quarried on site and the natural springs that flowed on the property. Visitors can tour the original John Sevier Cabin and detached kitchen, as well as several historic structures that are designed to represent various aspects of John Sevier’s life and times including a tavern, a loom house, a smoke house, and a spring house.
Ramsey House – 1797
Ramsey House is the first architecturally designed stone home in Tennessee. It was built in 1797 by Knoxville’s first builder, Thomas Hope, for Col. Francis Alexander Ramsey. The Ramsey family played vital roles in developing civic, educational and cultural institutions. Colonel Francis A. Ramsey was one of the founding trustees of Blount College, now the University of Tennessee. One of his sons, Dr. J.G.M. Ramsey, authored an early history of the state, The Annals of Tennessee. Another son, William B.A. Ramsey, was the first elected mayor of Knoxville. The house is significant for its original interior and exterior architectural features and its period decorative art collection.
Crescent Bend – 1834
Beginning in 1832, Drury Paine Armstrong established a gentleman’s farm and house for his wife and family just west of downtown Knoxville. He named the farm “Crescent Bend” for the commanding view of a majestic crescent bend of the Holston River, now called the Tennessee River. The Armstrongs moved into their new home on October 7th, 1834. During the Civil War, the house was used by both Union and Confederate Armies as a command center and hospital. Today, the museum contains the William P. Toms Collection of 18th Century furniture, decorative arts, and American and English silver. Visitors can also explore the three-acre formal Italianate gardens that includes five large fountains and nine garden terraces.
Mabry-Hazen House – 1858 Mabry-Hazen House was built in 1858 by Joseph Alexander Mabry II, an entrepreneur and president of the Knoxville and Kentucky Railroad. The Italianate home, now sitting on seven acres, was occupied by three generations of the same family from 1858-1987. The home served as headquarters for both Union and Confederate forces during the Civil War. This stately, elegant home of the Victorian and Civil War periods showcases one of the largest original family collection in America. Containing original artifacts including china, silver, crystal, and antique furnishings, this home is a rare view into the past. The Civil War, a gunfight on Gay Street in 1882, and a Breach of Promise lawsuit in the early 1930’s are only a few stories that bring life and color to those who visit the museum.
Westwood – 1890
Historic Westwood was built as a “wedding promise” in 1890 by John Edwin Lutz and his wife, Ann Adelia Armstrong Lutz, on property owned by her grandfather, Drury P. Armstrong. The Lutzes’ home, designed by notable architects Baumann Brothers, was constructed of brick and stone with a slate roof in the grand Richardsonian Romanesque style popular in the late 19th century. Four generations of the same family lived in the house between 1890 and 2012. One highlight of Westwood is the studio which was designed by Ann Adelia Armstrong Lutz, Tennessee’s first professional female artist and one of the founders of the influential Nicholson Art League in Knoxville. Today, the home serves as a museum as well as the preservation headquarters for Knox Heritage and the East Tennessee Preservation Alliance.