John in Knoxville commented on yesterday’s story about ornamental iron in Mobile, Alabama noting a few places in Knoxville which used to have some nice ornamental ironwork and naming a couple that still do. It’s hard to find. Also, when I find metal I’m not so sure I’m looking at iron much of the time. For purposes of the discussion, I’ll just say that I know it when I see it. Not very objective, but there is a lot of metal around, most of which looks nothing like the metal in yesterday’s post.
There are small outcroppings of faux balconies attached to any of several buildings around the city. Very few of these have any ornamentation beyond their simple bars. A few have small flourishes, but I only found one, and it is not a functional balcony that seemed to fit the category and that was pictured in the blog recently with doves sitting atop its metal. It is a small faux balcony outside Kristopher Kendrick’s personal unit at 603 Kendrick Place.
There are metal fences and gates scattered about the city, but for the most part they are functional and not meant to be an interesting feature on their own. One exception to that is the gate at Kendrick Place, but on closer examination, it appears to be more bent sheet metal and less of any other kind of substance. Since the courtyard behind it is so beautiful the gate gets more of a pass. The fence and gates at the Whittle Building are pretty, though not really of the ornamental variety. They seem to be more in place to keep me out than to bring me any joy as I pass by.
The street lights are an oddity. They are not dissimilar in style to those in Mobile and are clearly made to look like ornamental iron. I’m not sure if they really are, but it seems to be our city’s one official stab at the wrought iron “look.”
Some of the metal is pretty, such as the balcony pictured above on Market Square. The metal-work over Southbound in the Old City tries as does the metal work over Shucks on the 100 block. I wouldn’t consider any of it quite of the type I pictured yesterday. It mostly looks as if it was stamped instead of molded, to me.
It is interesting that the Old City, which is of course newer on average than the rest of downtown, has a bit more ironwork. Most of the construction there happened well after the iron craze had subsided. One of the few samples of ornamental iron that gets the Urban Blues Stamp of Approval is there: The gate entering the courtyard beside Barley’s. It may not be the most beautiful example of the art, but I’d call it the real thing.
Moving up the hill, I’d also certify one of the doors and give honorable mention to at least one other at King’s Row, which was another Kristopher Kendrick Project. Located beside the dog park, this row of homes on Central teeters between shabby and elegant. The doors do not match with a pretty nice ornamental iron door on one end shifting to less and less of the iron and into more of a faux iron by the time the row hits its northern end.
A block over on State Street and several blocks south is the cemetery at the First Presbyterian Church and I really like its simple metal fence which does include a few flourishes. I wouldn’t be surprised if it dates to the era of iron’s popularity though its simplicity might indicate it is older.
The Hotel Oliver which, not coincidentally is another Kristopher Kendrick rehabilitation project, also has ironwork outside its front door. I would give it the Urban Blues Stamp of Approval. Again, it’s not in the league with some of what I photographed in Mobile, but it at least seems like the real deal. The couple pictured above spontaneously posed when they saw my camera. He’s from Chattanooga and seems to have fallen for our city. She’s from Morristown and needs to move into downtown. Seriously.
But, I’ve saved the best for last. There is one spot downtown in adjacent addresses which have beautiful examples of ornamental iron. The gates could move right in to Mobile and not be ashamed. They are found at 707 and 709 Market Street. They are worth taking the three block walk from Market Square to see. The gates are complimented by iron underneath the windows with gorgeous end-pieces like in the picture that lead off this piece. Absolutely lovely.
So that’s what I found. Why isn’t there more? Is it our practical mountain side that had no use for the ornamentation when others adopted it? A hundred years ago would we have found tons of metal which was subsequently discarded or donated to the war effort in the 1940s? That’s a question for John in Knoxville or for Doc Knox. All I can say is that I’m glad we have a little bit and I wouldn’t mind if we had more. It’s in my blood.