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Meticulous restoration efforts that have transformed some of Bristol Tennessee’s oldest residential and commercial structures to their former glory were recognized Thursday during the City’s 3rd annual Historic Preservation Awards program.
Sponsored by the Department of Community Development & Planning, the awards ceremony was hosted by the Paramount Foundation, this year’s winner of the Downtown Commercial Historic District Award. Awards also were presented to Brad Fluke of Honey Do Services, Holston Avenue homeowners Kathleen and Matt Kinser, and Florida Avenue homeowners Connie and Fredrick Thompson. The Stewardship Award, a special recognition designed for those who have restored multiple historic properties within the City, was presented to Sandra Armstrong of Somersaults, LLC.
Downtown Commercial Historic District Award
Built by McDonald and Co. Engineers of Atlanta and featuring art-deco design, Bristol’s Paramount Theater at 518 State Street officially opened to movie audiences on Feb. 20, 1931, boasting a state-of-the-art refrigerated air system and an audio system specifically designed for “sound movies.” After operating as a movie theater for more than 40 years, the Bristol theater closed its doors in 1979 as businesses nationwide began an exodus from downtown commercial districts.
The building was purchased by Bristol businessman Harry Daniel in 1980 and donated to Theatre Bristol in 1982 for use as a performing arts center. Community members rallied to restore the historic structure in the years that followed, eventually forming the Paramount Foundation and launching a community-wide fundraising effort to match a $1 million grant from the State of Tennessee. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985 and, following extensive renovations to both the exterior and interior, opened to the public again in April 1991.
Additional maintenance has continued in the years and extensive interior repair work was completed while the building was shut down during the 2020 COVID pandemic. More recently, the iconic art deco marquee that beckons visitors to the historic theater often called the “crown jewel” of Bristol, was fitted with new mechanical components and nearly 2,000 LED lamps.
Today Paramount attracts tens of thousands of visitors to downtown Bristol each year, serving as a community gathering place for entertainment, inspiration, and education. Jennifer Hayes, executive director of Paramount Bristol, accepted the Downtown Commercial Historic District Award on behalf of the Paramount Foundation.
Fairmount Neighborhood Historic District Award
Built in 1933 in the heart of Bristol’s Fairmount Neighborhood Historic District, the single-family home at 604 Florida Avenue is an Arts & Crafts Airplane Bungalow. The style takes its name from the single room on the second floor, designed as a sleeping room during the summer months, which resembles a cockpit because of the surrounding windows. The low-pitched gable room, wood clapboard siding, and prominent front entrance porch are other common characteristics of this historic bungalow. Since purchasing the home in 2005, homeowners Fredrick and Connie Thompson have taken great care to preserve the historic features of the home, using reclaimed wood to replace the porch floor, installing four-over-one replacement windows, and selecting historically accurate colors for the home.
The home was built by George Furrow, who served as an aviator during World War I before returning to Bristol to establish Furrow Electric Company on State Street. He also served as captain and assistant chief during a 29-year career with the Bristol Tennessee Fire Department.
The Thompsons accepted the award Thursday, noting the historic home was “a pleasure to bring back to life.”
Holston Avenue Historic District Award
Anson King, younger brother of E.W. King and the founder of Bristol’s King Brothers Shoe Co., built the Dutch Colonial Revival style home at 804 Holston Avenue in the City’s Holston Avenue Historic District between 1903 and 1908. It features a gambrel roof and curved eaves, a large front porch, and two exterior side doors that lead into the home’s dining room and library. Since purchasing the 4,122-square-foot home three years ago, homeowners Matt and Kathleen Kinser have replaced the cedar shakes, restored and glazed all of the home’s windows, made extensive repairs to the front porch and side doors, restored the carriage path by removing broken concrete, and painted the entire exterior. One of the more challenging repairs involved the original granite steps, which had receded into the berm, leaving only a few inches of clearance. A skilled craftsman was hired to remove the steps and reset them, creating a safer entrance to the property and allowing the original stone to be preserved.
“The home’s been loved for years, so we felt so fortunate to be able to bring her back to her old glory and keep her going,” Kathleen Kinser said.
Now the home of The Honey Do Franchising Group, the majestic structure located at 704 Anderson Street was built in 1903 as the home to Bristol merchant E.W. King and his wife, Alice. The Queen Anne style house is unique in that features of the Second Empire and Renaissance Revival styles were incorporated into the home. The home features massive brick walls inside and out, laid in a running-bond pattern with darkly tinted mortar. This work is credited to John J. Fowler, a highly respected African American brick mason who also worked on a number of other historic buildings throughout the City.
When the King family moved to a smaller home in 1933, the building was operated as a boarding house and then divided into a series of small apartments for many years. The Bristol Historic Association acquired the building in the late 1990s and was successful at getting it listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The association was unable, however, to raise the funds needed for the massive restoration work required. The home changed hands once again before Brad Fluke, CEO and founder of The Honey Do Service, Inc., purchased it in 2019 and embarked on three years of renovations. Using skilled craftsman from within his company, he and his team went to work polishing the existing trim and recreating sections that were missing, blending chemical compounds to match the original brick and mortar, restoring the outside pillars, incasing the original stained-glass window so that it could be returned to its former location, and performing a number of other tasks needed to preserve the historical integrity of the building.
The prestigious Stewardship Award was presented to Sandra Armstrong and crew members from Somersaults LLC for their ongoing efforts to restore historic homes across the City. Since 2014, they have restored dozens of houses in the City’s historic districts, beautifying entire neighborhoods in the process. Examples of their work can be found on Pennsylvania Avenue, Alabama Street, Georgia Avenue, Anderson Street, Taylor Street and along Volunteer Parkway. Modern elements are added to kitchens and bathrooms to make the homes comfortable for today’s owners, but care is taken to preserve historic elements like staircases, trim, fireplaces, and exterior features that contribute to the overall look and feel of historic neighborhoods.
“My mission is to take a home in the neighborhood and restore it to what it has been at one time – a dignified family home and a place where people can enjoy living,” Armstrong said. “It’s a joy to me to know that someone has bought the home and lives in it and loves it.”
Somersaults was presented with a custom award created by Fred Sexton of Bristol Artisan Co. All other award winners were given a plaque to display on their property.
Nominations for this year’s award were accepted from community members and organizations, and award winners were chosen by the Historic Preservation Awards Committee. Committee members are Susan Tanner, Debra Kennedy, Rebecca Wilkerson, Lucia Schneider, Maggie Elliott, Vickie Mitoraj, and Andrew Snyder.
For additional information, please contact City Planner Heather Moore at (423) 989-5549.