History of Knox Heritage


In 1974, the Bijou Theatre was threatened by demolition and neglect. The historic venue that had once hosted the Marx Brothers, Dizzy Gillespie, and many other entertainers since 1909 had fallen on hard times. The wrecking ball was poised to wipe out an important part of Knoxville’s history.

But a group of concerned citizens was determined not to let that happen. They formed an organization called Knoxville Heritage, a name later changed to Knox Heritage. Incorporated on April Fools’ Day in 1974 and founded in the Dulin Art Gallery on Kingston Pike, Knox Heritage was thereafter dedicated to protecting and preserving structures and places in Knox County with historic or cultural significance. In the nick of time, the group raised the money to purchase the Bijou Theatre and save it for future generations to enjoy.

Since its founding, Knox Heritage has aimed to educate everyone about the benefits of historic preservation. It has acquired blighted houses that once were the worst examples of neglect and restored them to attractive homes, improving historic neighborhoods. It has helped secure funding for development projects that contribute to the revitalization of downtown.

It has called attention to some of Knox County’s most endangered cultural and historic assets, encouraging owners to preserve these unique places for the next generation. And it has helped build a broad network of those that value historic preservation throughout the community.

Tireless dedication from countless volunteers serving on the board and committees, financial support from thousands of members, hardworking and talented staff, and the growing awareness of the importance of historic preservation by the community all have enabled Knox Heritage to celebrate many success stories over the course of this history.