KNOXVILLE, TN, 09/22 — Knox Heritage is issuing a community-wide call to action to save the historic Pryor Brown Garage from demolition by neglect. On September 20, 2021, the City of Knoxville closed off sections of Market Street and Church Avenue in response to a citizen reporting a crack in the exterior wall. The City’s Engineering Department was concerned enough to close the streets pending further investigation.
The Pryor Brown Garage first appeared on the Knox Heritage Fragile Fifteen list of endangered historic places in 2014. It has been a staple on the list every year since. Currently owned by Pryor Brown LLC, it remains one of the last historic properties in downtown Knoxville with no reinvestment or redevelopment plan.
The Pryor Brown Garage is an early example of a mixed-use structure. It features retail spaces along both Market Street and Church Avenue with parking decks on the upper floors. It was built by Pryor Brown, a businessman who moved to Knoxville and found work in local livery stables. By the 1890s, Mr. Brown was running his own stable on the Pryor Brown Garage site along Church Avenue. After a fire in 1916, Brown rebuilt his stable with concrete floors capable of accommodating cars and created the Pryor Brown Transfer Company. With the popularity of automobiles growing, Brown expanded the garage in 1929 fully covering the area of his old livery stable. The parking garage is a remarkable story of continuity of use on the same site and is one of the oldest parking garages still standing in the United States.
Knox Heritage has strongly encouraged the reuse and preservation of this unique historic structure for many years. There is great potential to complement a broader redevelopment of this block of downtown Knoxville with the garage becoming a compelling piece, both historically and architecturally. Time is of the essence and Knox Heritage is requesting that the property owner and City leaders meet as soon as possible to discuss strategies for saving the structure from further decay. Knox Heritage is committed to assisting with this effort and to act as an advocate for its preservation. We invite the community to join us in our efforts.
Knoxville has benefitted from many successful preservation projects such as South High, Brownlow Elementary, the Cal Johnson Building, the Walker-Sherrill House, and Minvilla. Most recently, the Eugenia Williams House, Standard Knitting Mill, Kern’s Bakery, and the Tennessee Supreme Court Building have been moving toward our community’s “places saved” list. It’s important not to forget that there have been many losses, such as the McClung Warehouses, the Pickle Mansion, and the Christenberry House. Pryor Brown Garage should not be added to the “places lost” list.
The Knox Heritage mission is to preserve structures and places of historic or cultural significance for our community. Established in 1974 as a non-profit historic preservation organization, Knox Heritage is chartered by the state of Tennessee and governed by a board of directors.
Posted: September 22, 2021
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