Historic Gibbs Drive
By Mike Steely
The Knoxville Focus features important neighborhoods in the county every month and Monty Howard, co-chairman of the Gibbs Drive Neighborhood Association, had the following to share about the North Knoxville neighborhood.
The Gibbs Drive Historic District in Fountain City is a neighborhood of fifty-two residences that reflect the characteristics of the streetcar and automobile suburb in Knoxville. The district has a linear street pattern, broad sidewalks, spacious facade lawns and sidewalks. Beginning in the era of streetcar suburbs, neighborhood development continued throughout the period when automobile usage and ownership became prolific in Knoxville. The predominant building styles and forms are the bungalow, Craftsman, Minimal Traditional and four squares. Overall, the district is an outstanding example of the early twentieth-century trend away from the elaborate Victorian-era styles, to a more simplified floor plan and appearance.
Homes on Gibbs Drive are mainly one and one-half to two and one-half stories in height. Construction is brick or frame, with predominant building materials being brick, weatherboard siding or brick veneer. Lots are larger than those of other early twentieth-century suburbs in Knoxville. Many garages and outbuildings survive in their original form. The Gibbs Drive Historic District retains a high degree of architectural integrity.
Membership in the Gibbs Drive Neighborhood Association is voluntary with nominal annual dues of $10. According to association by-laws, only members in good standing can vote on issues affecting the street.
The neighborhood officers are made up of two co-chairs, a secretary and a treasurer. Officers meet once per quarter ahead of the quarterly neighborhood meeting.
The primary goal of the neighborhood association is to plan community events to encourage participation and involvement as well as unity among the neighbors, in addition to protecting the interests of preserving the street as a historic district.
In the past, the neighborhood has hosted home tours, candlelight and historic walks as well as the annual celebration of the Dogwood Trails and Christmas light contests. We recently were awarded the City of Knoxville’s Neighborhood Grant to improve signs and landscaping at both entrances to the street. We plan to include signage celebrating the history of the development and its notable residents.
At present, the neighborhood association is working on establishing Historic Gibbs Drive as a protected historic district through the City of Knoxville’s Historic Zoning designation as an H1 Historic neighborhood. This would provide certain protections to maintain the historic integrity and appearance of the homes on the street.
Local representatives are City Councilwoman Lauren Rider and County Commissioner Courtney Durrett. We do interact with them often. Councilwoman Rider has been a part of the effort regarding the historic designation and Commissioner Durrett just lives one street over and regularly walks the street interacting with residents. We have a great relationship with both and are grateful for their support.
We are a small geographical neighborhood and therefore have no particular businesses or parks on the street proper. We are bordered by the Knox County Public Library and nearby Fountain City Park and Lake and enjoy a short walk to grocery stores and restaurants like First Watch, a walk-in clinic and nail salon, all at the end of our street. We are also close enough to enjoy football games on Friday nights at Central High School just across the street.
We hold an annual Christmas light contest that encourages neighbors to decorate homes in festive lights and brings onlookers from across the city. Last year, we boasted 46 of our 52 homes with holiday lights.