Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Won't you be my neighbor?

Our sheetrock (SHEETRAWWWWWWWKKK!!! You can't see, but I'm making my rockstar face and sticking my tongue out like Gene Simmons) is going in today (more on that later) and I'm sitting in the living room, listening to the sheetrockers talk while they work. And smoke. And spit. ew. Anyhow...

Dude #1: I'd live in this neighborhood, 'cept I've got kids and it's not safe.
Dude #2: Yeah, there's too many houses being turned into apartments.
Dude #3: Yeah man, some uh these houses are 'em George Barber houses an' you know he 'anted 'em painted special colors 'an stuff 'an he put the plans wit the colors and all inna hole somewhere in the house. You know Billy, LuAnne's boy? Yeah, he told me that.
Dudes #1 and #2: ::::cricket, cricket::::
Dude #3: ::spits::

Btdubbs, I can't see these people, but if that man is spitting on my floor, I'm gonna kill him :)

Our neighborhood, Old North Knoxville, has a beautiful history. It began in the 1880's as a "streetcar suburb", meaning that the streetcars ran between the neighborhood and downtown, making it very appealing to anyone who worked in downtown Knoxville. People rode the streecar to and from work and then walked to their homes on our neighborhood's broad sidewalks. Architectural styles ranged from modest bungalows to American foursquares (the style of our house) to grand victorians. The neighborhood was home to many of Knoxville's affluent who had homes designed for them by the likes of George and Charles Barber and David Getaz.

Beginning as early as the end of the great depression, homes in Old North Knoxville began to be divided into apartments to provide income for the owner. Ours was first divided, we think, as early as the 20's. In the late 70's and early 80's, that trend saw a resurgence as the neighborhood declined and slum lords moved in, anxious to create temporary housing for the upcoming '82 World's Fair. Many beautiful properties were stripped of moldings, mantels, and original details to be converted into tiny apartments.

Happily, in the 90's, people began to take a renewed interest in, well, Knoxville's history! Young couples, eager to own an historic home, moved into the neighborhood and began returning these broken homes to their former glory. Local preservationists like the late Kristopher Kendrick and preservation-minded politicians like Bill Haslam, lent support to the cause. We now have a beautiful city park, an active neighborhood association, and historical zoning to protect these houses.

We've lived here for a little more than one year. Before this, I lived in a condo in West Knoxville for 5 years. The only time I spoke to a neighbor was when I dented his car. :) Once, I locked myself out of the house (with no shoes on) and had to knock on 5 doors before I found a neighbor who would open theirs to a (shoeless) stranger. The others were home, but just didn't open the door. Nothing against west Knoxville-- I grew up there and have known many neighborhoods that are wonderful-- but my experience there was isolating and lonely. We hadn't even been in this house 2 days when the neighbor kids brought over cupcakes that read "Welcome to the 'hood". Now, a year later, we know everyone by name, have been to quite a few "porch parties" (and hosted one ourselves), and borrow one's lawn mower on a weekly basis.
I never feel unsafe here, even with the proximity to the homeless shelters and infamous "Fellini Kroger". Our school zone might not be "desirable" yet, and we still have houses that need some love, but I wouldn't live anywhere else. :)

p.s. Best quote while I was writing this: "Man, if there was a drywall university, I'd be the top professor." Sheetrock on, dude #3.