Bringing life to the Potter House

Photo by Mike Steely. The Potter House on Washington Avenue is unique among the Barber homes in the Historic Edgewood Neighborhood and was never in the famed Knoxville architect’s catalog of home designs.
Photo by Mike Steely.
The Potter House on Washington Avenue is unique among the Barber homes in the Historic Edgewood Neighborhood and was never in the famed Knoxville architect’s catalog of home designs.

By Mike Steely

steelym@knoxfocus.com

Some people call a section along Washington Avenue the “Barber Block” for the large number of homes there designed by noted architect George Barber. The name is certainly appropriate but of all the Barber Homes in that Edgewood neighborhood there’s one Barber home that was never in a catalog.

Being painstakingly restored now is the vintage home at 1730 Washington Avenue. It was designed by Barber for his friend, Joseph Thomas Potter, a Canadian who moved to Knoxville and established a millwork shop that eventually milled most of the lumber that went into the home, built in 1889.

Mike Anderson, who lives next door and resided at 1730 while an undergrad student, is restoring the home with the help of some friends, the neighborhood association and volunteers. Anderson describes himself as a “preservation craftsman” and has used his talent and his workshop to replicate much of the wooden décor for the house. He has recovered and stockpiled slate, brick and wooden trim for the restoration inside and outside the home. What he can’t find he replicates.

“It’s a Trust Home,” Anderson explains. He owns the home but most of the support comes from outside donations of labor and materials. He said that in a couple of years he plans to have the home ready for tours.

The Potter House is one-of-a-kind and is one of the four Barber-designed homes that sit on the corners of the block. It features ornate wooden features on the house’s interior and exterior, elaborate balconies, and unique Queen Anne windows. Anderson said the home also has small “plant balconies” and even an “elopement balcony” off one of the bedrooms. Every room in the house has slightly different trim and features.

“This was basically a hobby that blossomed into a bit more,” he said of the ongoing restoration. The historic home housed a beauty shop and four apartments prior to the restoration. Anderson said that the house has “rare integrity” because so much of the original home remains intact.

“It deserves to be saved,” he said, adding that his efforts rely on “funds and friends.” He’s collected a lot of information about the home, its owners and history, including a photo showing a mule drawn trolley in front of the house.

The Historic Edgewood Neighborhood Association (HENA) boasts that their neighborhood has the largest concentration of Barber-designed homes. The area is protected by a Historic District Overlay and the 19th Century neighborhood is being revitalized by caring residents and preservation efforts. HENA works on preservation issues, crime prevention, development, community involvement, and promotes better schools, parks and safe streets.

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