Knoxville’s  original suburb, Fort Sanders is a quickly disappearing historic neighborhood that lies between the World’s Fair Park  and UT . The site of an earthen fort named for Gen. William Sanders who died in the Battle of Knoxville in 1863, Fort Sanders was developed into a residential area beginning in the 1880s. This was home to Knoxville’s upper-class merchants, mayors, university professors, and other persons of note. Author James Agee was raised in Fort Sanders.
Because of its vintage and the relative affluence of its residents, Fort Sanders homes are lovely examples of American Victorian and early 20th-century architecture. Towers, broad porches, colorful shutters, and intricate detail work set Fort Sanders homes apart.
As the university grew, Fort Sanders was encroached. By the 1970s, many owners stopped occupying their homes and instead rented them to students. Homes deteriorated. During the 1990s and early years of this century, development has taken a great toll on Fort Sanders. In 1999 alone, 15 historic homes were razed to make room for condominium developments. The destruction caused an outcry, and some of Fort Sanders historic homes are now protected from development.
You can see what is left of Fort Sanders along Highland, Laurel, Forest, and Grand Avenues, between 11th and 17th Streets. James Agee Park, at the corner of James Agee Street and Laurel Avenue, is located near the site of Agee’s childhood home, where parts of Agee’s Pulitzer Prize–winning work A Death in the Family are set.