Miller's Department Store (15)

Millers_largerinside

445 South Gay Street

The oldest (southern) portion of the building has stood at this corner since 1905. Built as the home of Miller’s Department Store, the seven-story building was designed by R.F. Graf of Knoxville and was one of the tallest structures in Knoxville at the time of construction. A major presence on Gay Street for almost 70 years, Miller’s was Knoxville’s most popular department store. Built in the popular BeauxArts style, an early addition reflected this style, but a 1930s expansion broke from it completely, adding Art Moderne marble.

This store closed after Miller’s opened its West Town Mall store – it was Knoxville’s first ever mall store – in 1972. An out-of-state developer associated with the mall bought the building and attempted to “modernize” it by stripping its masonry detail and covering it with reflective glass. In 1998, Knoxville Utilities Board and the City of Knoxville saved the Miller’s Building from the wrecking ball and shared in the costs of the building’s renovation and the painstaking restoration of the original exteriors. The major effort, led by local architect Duane Grieve, stripped off the glass and restored the original building, taking pains to restore details such as the buxom caryatids at the top that were replicated from a single model that had been stored for decades in a downtown warehouse. They were originally four different women, one of whom was strangely ugly.

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