The Candoro Marble Building, an architectural treasure located in South Knoxville, will be the setting for Chef Nicholas Drew’s special Valentine’s Day Dinner in memory of the late Candoro Board of Directors president and restoration architect, Charles Richmond. The four course dinner will be the first in a series of fundraiser dinners. On Thursday, February 14, the romantic and mysterious Italian theme “Carnival of Venice” will feature special music by the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra’s Associate Concertmaster, Gordon Tsai.


Knoxville Food Tours owner Paula Johnson, chairperson for the dinner series throughout the year, says, “I became involved with Candoro while scouting historic places in and around Knoxville to share with my tour groups. I quickly realized that Candoro is renovating and preserving an unique property. When I discovered they had a dream of having a fundraiser dinner, I saw it as a way I could join in and help out.”


The building where the dinner will be held is the former Showroom and Office for the Candoro Marble Company, founded by John Craig whose family began in the marble industry in Knoxville in the 1870s.  Designed by architect Charles Barber and built in 1923 in the Beaux Arts style, this building is clad completely in Tennessee marble and some of the rooms feature entire walls and floors of marble. Samuel Yellin of Philadelphia, a leader in the Arts and Crafts architectural movement, designed the impressive iron front doors. The Candoro Marble Company was the largest fabricator of Tennessee Pink Marble during a period in history when all of Knoxville was nicknamed “Marble City” due to its thriving marble industry.


“Today the structure serves as the home of Candoro Arts and Heritage Center, a place where art and history come together to enhance our community,” says Trudy Monaco, Founder. “Since 2001 when restoration efforts began, the Candoro Marble Building has experienced renewed interest and is once-again becoming the cornerstone of South Knoxville.  It is also taking its place alongside other sites of national significance.  In 2005 it was placed on the National Register of Historic places by the US Department of Interior.”


“Many native Knoxvillians are unaware that the marble industry was very important in the development of the city,” says Johnson.   “The restoration of Candoro is vital to the preservation of a part of the city’s legacy.  Many people from all over the world can be drawn here to learn about Tennessee marble which has been used in monumental buildings all across the country. The goal is to eventually acquire and restore the neighboring fabrication buildings which are part of the original Candoro Marble Works.”


On Feb. 14, Candoro will open at 6:00 p.m. for drinks and viewing of exhibits related to the marble industry. Dinner will begin at 7:00 p.m. There are two sculptures by the foreman or head sculptor and carver at Candoro, Albert Milani who was from Carrara, Italy, famous for its “white marble” used by Michelangelo in his works. Milani began studying sculpting when he was 9 years old and moved to America with his father when he was 14.  They worked in Georgia at the Blue Ridge Marble Company before coming to Knoxville to work with the Tennessee marble, which has long been esteemed with builders and sculptors for its color and ease in polishing.


“This will not only be a unique way to spend Valentine’s Day, but the property itself is a fantastic setting for a romantic evening,” said Johnson.  “The theme, ‘Carnival of Venice’ contributes a mysterious element to the event… masks are optional!”


Upcoming dinners will continue with themes that relate to the historic aspect of the building and property and the preservation of those ideas.  A “Busseni” Dinner will be one of the upcoming featured dinners, paying homage to the maternal Italian heritage of the much admired Charles Richmond who said, “Of all the projects I worked on in my life, Candoro was my favorite”.


Tickets are $100 per person, and seating is limited.  Tickets may be purchased on the website.