From a rough frontier settlement to a grand state capital to the attractive city you see today, the history of Knoxville is a vivid tale of the trials and triumphs of a growing town and a growing nation. It’s a wild and often surprising tale marvelously told by the city’s most historic homes. From log cabins to frame houses to stately stone mansions, these seven Knoxville landmarks invite you into the past to experience the times and events that shaped them and the families who occupied them. Each is a chapter of history unto itself. And yet, together, they exemplify and celebrate the continuing pioneering spirit that created Knoxville and our great nation.
The Historic Homes of Knoxville is a local partnership between seven historic homes that offer guided tours throughout the year. You can visit each site individually, or visit all of the sites by purchasing a combo pass at any of the seven locations or from the Knoxville Visitors Center. In addition, each historic site offers special events throughout the year as well as rental options. For tours in January or February, please contact the sites in advance. Thank you for your interest in Knoxville’s history!
Visit the Historic Homes of Knoxville website for additional information.
This “house with many eyes” witnessed the birth and growth of Knoxville, housed Tennessee governors and prominent families, and later became slum housing on the Knoxville riverfront. It was saved by early preservationists from destruction, and survives today to tell the stories of Tennessee’s birth and growth.
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 just a few hundred yards away from the Mansion’s location. Blount’s Knoxville mansion would serve as the territorial capitol, as well as a family home. 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.
Beginning in 1832, Drury Paine Armstrong (1799-1856) 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. Drury Armstrong’s Crescent Bend started with 600 acres of land on the north side of the river, and a within few years he acquired another 300 acres on the south side. He owned several other tracts of land in and around Knoxville, upon one of which a famous Civil War battle, the Battle of Armstrong’s Hill, would be fought.
Address: 2728 Kingston Pike, Knoxville, TN 37919
Tours: Wednesday-Friday: 10am – 4pm
Saturday: 10am – 2pm
James White, The Founder of Knoxville, came here in 1783 from North Carolina. Having served as a Captain in the Revolutionary War he was given a land grant of 1,000 acres for his service and here he 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. The area surrounding the Fort would have been cleared of trees and in their place were gardens along with orchards and fields of corn and tobacco mostly for White’s family and slaves use. In October 1791, James White laid off part of his land to establish the town of Knoxville, named for Henry Knox, Secretary of War under President Washington’s. The town at first was the Capital of the Territory South of the River Ohio and later became the first Capital of the State of Tennessee in 1796.
Address: 205 Hill Avenue SE, Knoxville, TN 37915
Tours: (April – November) Monday – Saturday: 9:30 am – 5:00 pm
(December – March) Monday – Friday: 10 am – 4 pm
The Mabry-Hazen House Museum, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is located on six acres atop Mabry’s Hill in Knoxville,TN. Built in 1858 and housing three generations of the same family from 1858-1987, the Mabry-Hazen House 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.
Address: 1711 Dandridge Avenue, Knoxville, TN 37915
Tours: Monday-Friday: 11am – 5pm; Saturday: 10am – 3pm (or by appointment)
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 (1780), a key player & Governor of the short-lived State of Franklin (1784-1788), and ultimately was elected to serve as the first Governor of the State of Tennessee (1796).
Marble Springs was the approximate 350 acre farm that Sevier lived on from 1801-1815, the last years of his life. Sevier named his farm Marble Springs because of the Tennessee Rose Marble that was quarried on site and the natural springs that flowed on the property.
While visiting Marble Springs, you will have the opportunity to tour several historic structures that are designed to represent various aspects of John Sevier’s life & times. These structures include: The Tavern, The Loom House, The Smoke House, The Spring House & the John Sevier Cabin and detached kitchen.
Address: 1220 West Gov. John Sevier Highway Knoxville, TN 37920
Tours: Wednesday – Saturday: 10:00am to 5:00pm; Sunday: 12:00pm to 5:00pm (or by appointment)
Ramsey House was built in 1797 by Knoxville’s first builder, Thomas Hope, for Francis Alexander Ramsey. The structure is significant for original interior and exterior architectural features and its period decorative art collection.
The Ramsey Family was one of the first families to settle the Knoxville area. They 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.
Address: 2614 Thorngrove Pike, Knoxville, TN 37914
Tours: Wednesday – Saturday: 10:00am to 4:00pm
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 couple moved into the Queen Anne Victorian mansion from Adelia’s parents’ home, Bleak House, a short distance away on Kingston Pike. 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 and originally was surrounded by 12 acres.
Four generations of the same family lived in the house between 1890 and 2012. The distinctive serpentine wall was constructed in 1933 for the wedding reception of Cecil Holloway, Adelia and John’s granddaughter, to Albert Matheny II, who were married at St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral.
Westwood is one of three houses built by the Armstrong/Lutz family on Kingston Pike. All of the homes were built as wedding promises by the succeeding generations of the original landowner, Drury P. Armstrong, who built Crescent Bend, a Federal style home, in 1834. His son, Robert Houston Armstrong, built the Italianate style Bleak House in 1854. His daughter, Ann Adelia Armstrong Lutz, built Historic Westwood in 1890. These treasured houses are known as “The Three Sisters.” Crescent Bend and Bleak House, the other two “Sisters,” have been restored as house museums.
Address: 3425 Kingston Pike, Knoxville, TN 37919
Tours: Mondays & Thursdays: 10am-4pm or by appointment