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1815 Highland Avenue is the current Knox Heritage renovation project.
A House Tells a Story of Knoxville and its People
For certain, the Fort Sanders neighborhood is a historical jewel. It takes its name from the fort renamed in honor of General William P. Sanders and the pivotal Civil War battle that took place there in 1863. As the area developed into a prominent residential district, the people who called it home played significant roles in Knoxville history.
It was about 20 years after the Battle of Fort Sanders that the area began developing with residences. Home sites sprang out of what was once two large parcels of land. One parcel, known as “White’s Addition”, was the estate of one of the sons of Knoxville founder James White. It began at the Tennessee River and extended north to Laurel Avenue. The second parcel, the area north of Laurel Street along Highland, Forest, and Grand Avenues were known as “Ramsey’s Addition”. While White’s Addition became a prominent upper-class neighborhood, Ramsey’s Addition was popular with working classes. Scores of prominent merchants, professionals, civic leaders, and professors, as well as many hardworking laborers and public servants, would call Fort Sanders home. Author James Agee spent his early childhood in the Fort Sanders neighborhood.
Around 1900, a Queen Ann style cottage was built at 1804 Highland Avenue. Its first inhabitant was Reverend Isaac Van Dewater. Following Rev. Dewater’s departure, the home became a revolving door of inhabitants. Between 1901 and 1915 it was home to a clerk, a foreman at the Knoxville Woolen Mill, a locomotive engineer, a superintendent, a marble company engineer, and an employee at the L&N Railroad.
From 1915 until 1920 it was home to Edger T. Keisling and his family. Keisling joined the Knoxville Police department in May 1916 and retired in 1942 after 26 years of service. He rose to the rank of captain and is best known for his raids of illegal liquor establishments during the 1920s.
After Mr. Keisling, Johnathan H. Mauney moved in. Mauney was the first superintendent of Fort Sanders Hospital and would remain so until his death in 1938. Originally a native of Murray, North Carolina, Mauney moved to Knoxville in 1913 as a railroad construction foreman and later worked as a cashier for Knoxville General Hospital and Lincoln Memorial Hospital before moving into management at the latter. He accepted the position as superintendent of Fort Sanders Hospital when it was opened in 1919. Mauney was an amateur archeologist, member of Church Street Methodist Episcopal Church South, the Optimists Club, and the Masonic Order.
Mr. Mauney left the house in 1922 and was replaced by James French, a foreman with Gibson Construction Company. In 1926, Joseph M. Lobetti, a native of Turin, Italy, moved in. Lobetti immigrated to the United States in 1902 and married Coal Creek native Minnie Demarcus in 1908. Lobetti becomes a citizen of the United States in 1928 and was the building manager for both The General Building on Market Street and the Holston Bank Building on Gay Street.
In 1929, William M. Edwards, an accountant with L&N Railroad, was a new resident and he stayed until 1931. His presence was followed by a salesman, a truck driver, and a Knoxville High School teacher.
The story goes on for decades with the last residents being University of Tennessee students before Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center purchased the property to expand a neighboring parking garage. In 2018, the Medical Center partnered with Knox Heritage and the City of Knoxville’s Preservation Fund to move the structure across the street. Today, the home has a new address, 1815 Highland Avenue. Knox Heritage will restore and renovate the house so it can continue to tell the story of the Fort Sanders neighborhood and the City of Knoxville.