Knoxville YMCA (54)
605 West Church Avenue
The Knoxville YMCA was organized in 1854 under the auspices (and facilities) of the Second Presbyterian Church. It disbanded during the Civil War and re-opened in 1890. This YMCA building, the fourth location for the group, was built in 1929 and designed by Barber and McMurry. A fund drive raised $500,000 to pay for construction. It was built on the property of the prominent McGhee family, commemorated in the McGhee Tyson Airport and Lawson McGhee Library.
The building bears the artistry of combining architectural revival styles, Charles Barber’s strong point, but it falls generally into Mediterranean Revival architectural design. Brick laid in Flemish bond, the water table, corbelled string course, and interior courtyard and fourth-story loggias are some of its more significant design elements. Today, the building is still home to the Downtown YMCA and has been renovated on the upper floors (formerly the men’s temporary residence) into condominiums.
One of its longest-term tenants was Ernest Dickerman (1910–1998), a leading national conservationist associated with the founding of the Wilderness Society. A bachelor, he spent much of his life hiking in the Smokies, but he got a room here around 1934, and lived here when he wasn’t camping out, for many years.