THE KNIGHT-IRWIN HOUSE
501 Walnut Street, NE
This stately house was built for John W. and Jennie W. Knight. Mr. Knight was a cotton planter and merchant. A native of Georgia, he attended Vanderbilt University where he helped organize the first football team at the university, which he also played on. He was a major investor in the Decatur Land Company, which platted out what we now know as the Albany district. He eventually built a house on Sherman Street, selling this house to Dee W. and Agnes Irwin by 1926. Mr. Irwin was born in Hillsboro, in Lawrence County, in 1866. He owned a general merchandise store at the corner of Bank and Church Street. By 1938, T. M. Jones and Margaret P. Jones lived in the house. Mr. Jones owned Jones Cotton Company, which was located at 709 Bank Street, the current location of Frameworks Architecture. Ms. Jones resided in the house until the late 1940s, when H. Frank and Alice Whisenant purchased the property. Frank started out as a clerk with the Mutual Savings Life Insurance Company, located at 701 Bank, eventually becoming president of the Tennessee Valley Radio and TV Corporation, which was part of the same business enterprise.
The home was originally a wood clad Queen Anne Victorian, built between 1907 and 1908. The 1927 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map shows the house was still wood clad, but by 1940, the house was clad with brick veneer, and the original front porch was replaced. The result is an unusual home with Victorian massing with its tower-like projection on the west end of the building and a porch that is Craftsman-like in its detailing. The lovely starburst patterns in the attic dormer window are reminiscent of the windows found at the Carnegie Center for the Arts. This house has an original outbuilding, used as servants’ quarters, towards the rear of the lot. It is one of the best preserved examples of this building type in the district.
This house was recently purchased by Ms. Eva Jean, who loves its charm and peaceful feeling, especially the front porch with the rocking chairs. She often wonders what the house was like for families before her and loves keeping the property’s historic feel and preserving the house for future generations.