Shared by students and adults alike, the Fort Sanders neighborhood is an integral component of Knoxville culture. Despite receiving attention for its high crime rate, the Fort also holds a rich – yet frequently ignored – history.
The Pickle Mansion, one of the Fort’s most notable historical landmarks, sits at 1633 Clinch Ave. Constructed in the Queen Anne style in 1889, the house was built by George Wesley Pickle, who served in the confederacy during the Civil War from 1886-1902, as Tennessee’s Attorney General and Reporter of the State.
“It is interesting that it sits at the base of the Civil War fort, was a beautiful showplace for its builder, a well-loved house by a few fraternities and many generations of students and Knoxvillians,” wrote Randall De Ford, a private architect and president of the Fort Sanders Community Development Corporation, via email.
A two-story brick building, the Pickle Mansion features a large porch and square columns that wrap around its lower front half, a small tower and arched windows on the top floor. After mysteriously catching fire in August 2002, the mansion sustained extensive damage to its interior and exterior structure. From this time through the present, Pickle Mansion has remained ranked among Knoxville's "Fragile 15," a list compiling the most delicate and threatened properties in the city.
In 2005, then-Mayor Bill Haslam rejoiced, announcing the house had been purchased by couple Jon and Kara Haas for approximately $900,000. Jon, a UT faculty member in the School of Architecture, intended to restore the building.
However, these plans were eventually abandoned, and in 2011 the couple offered to sell the mansion to Brighton Developers, LLC. Brighton Developers are now the mansion's current owners, who also plan to restore the space.
“My goals are twofold: first, to stabilize the shell of the structure, and second, to renovate the interior for a use yet to be determined but most likely with a significant residential component,” said Jon Clark, a principal member of Brighton Developers, in an email.
Clark’s interest in historical architecture drew him to the Pickle Mansion.
“I am primarily interested in historic preservation development projects, and this property is in critical need of stabilization,” Clark wrote in his email.
Clark hopes restoration of the mansion will spark further development in the Fort Sanders neighborhood as a whole.
“Fort Sanders neighborhood is continuing to improve in terms of quality development," Clark wrote, "and this project will be a significant effort in support of this trend."
Construction on Pickle Mansion is scheduled to begin this quarter.
“Challenges keep presenting themselves, but the obvious technical challenges of the restoration construction loom as the largest hurdle," Clark wrote. "The financial performance of the project is uncertain as well, but I hope to find a suitable use that will help support the debt incurred."
After surviving decades of owners, and residents, De Ford hopes the mansion will soon regain stability.
“It is in a state of peril," De Ford wrote, "but I have great hope that the new owner is going to move forward with rebuilding it."