Thursday, June 12, 2014

Happy Holler

Some mornings I'm just in too much of a rush to read the local paper. Today, however, I took my time with breakfast and was rewarded with the news that our local "Happy Holler Commercial District" has been nominated to the National Register of Historic Places! The nomination was pre-approved by the Tennessee Historical Commission and then submitted to the U.S. National Park Service , which accepted it on April 23.

"Happy Holler," the intersection where North Central Street dips as it crosses East Anderson Avenue, a block north of beautiful Holy Ghost Church, has given its name to the surrounding commercial district on North Central Street, several blocks north of where Central intersects Broadway. It is a section I drive through almost daily during my short commute between our Old North Knoxville residence and Immaculate Conception Church and more rarely walk through on those occasions when I walk around  the neighborhood as far as the Three Rivers Market or Holy Ghost Church. Driving, of course, is no way to get to know a neighborhood - and is in fact the historic undoing of most authentic neighborhoods. The way to get to know and appreciate a neighborhood is necessarily on foot - in this case walking south/southwest along the residential streets of Old North Knoxville towards the more commercial Central Street. What is appealing about the area is how it is a throwback to an earlier era, when small commercial areas coexisted within residential neighborhoods, all within walking distance. Indeed, according to a historic preservation planner at the Metropolitan Planning Commission, Happy Holler is "the most intact, early 20th century shopping and service district, except downtown."

In our depressingly suburbanized era, any remnants, however modest, of an earlier, more humane scale of living deserve to be cherished, and the National Register of Historic Places seems to be one avenue for doing that.

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