Tennessee Modernism: The Modernist Houses of Timberlake

In 1947, a group called Maloney Heights Inc. purchased a large, forested lot right off of Alcoa Highway with a singular goal: turn the area (dubbed Timberlake) into a subdivision designed for the group members to live in.

Maloney Heights Lot Reservation Map (1948) (© Maloney Heights, Inc.)

Maloney Heights Inc. was made up of architects, engineers and construction professionals, which meant that their skills were exactly what was needed to design, plan, and build a neighborhood from the bottom up. Of note, architects Charles I. Barber (of Barber & McMurry) and D. West Barber (his cousin) were shareholders in Maloney Heights Inc.

The group created an architectural standard for how the homes should look. The provision said each building should conform and be in harmony both with the “external design with existing structures in the subdivision” and also “with respect to topography.” The result was beautifully designed homes, each one sited on a wooded lot that gave them a wonderful view.

View from the A.W. Cain House

By 1953, 27 homes had been built. In 1962, the remaining lots had been filled with unique and beautiful houses. Alright. Enough back story. Let’s dive into the architecture, shall we?

Structure: Dr. Hefley House
Location: Knoxville, Tennessee
Architect: Raymond Guay
Date: 1962

Structure: Robert C. Brown House
Location: Knoxville, Tennessee
Architect: Robert C. Brown (with assistance by an architect friend of his, one who worked at the TVA)
Date: 1952

Photo of the house circa 1953

Structure: A.W. Cain House
Location: Knoxville, Tennessee
Architect: Barber & McMurry
Date: 1952
Tidbit: When it was finished, this house was described as being “built like a TVA dam using steel beams and concrete.”

Structure: Millard Warren Residence II
Location: Knoxville, Tennessee
Architect: Millard Warren
Date: 1950
Tidbit: Back in the day, houses were often built to showcase products. Case in point: Millard Warren designed and built his house to showcase “Southern Cast lightweight stone.” Warren was a VP at the Southern Cast Stone Company, so the house served as a sort of living advertisement.

Photo of the house circa 1959

Structure: Millard Warren Residence I
Location: Knoxville, Tennessee
Architect: Millard Warren
Date: 1938
Tidbit: I know I’m straying from the legacy of the Timberlake area for a minute but stick with me. The Timberlake house Warren designed + built for himself wasn’t the only house he’d created to showcase his sturdy stone wares. Back in the late 1930s, Warren designed an extremely modern house right off of the newly-created Alcoa Highway. The house was modern in its design, and it caused quite a stir. The insurance folks were extremely happy that it was made of stone and concrete, and it was dubbed un-burn-down-able. But its most unique invention? A pool on the roof that theoretically was supposed to keep the house cool in the summer and freeze in the winter (allowing the kids to ice skate on it, no joke).

The house still stands, although its white concrete has been painted brown and a huge addition was added. The updates, however, are solid. It looks like they added a wing onto either side, along with a pitched roof. I guess the water-as-a-roof wasn’t so great after all.

End note 1: this blog owes its existence (and extensive detail) to the hard work of the Timberlake Community. They took the time to interview, collect, write, and save their history down and if you want to browse through the immense amounts of work they’ve done, head here: https://www.timberlakeknox.com/

End note 2: there is a very notable house in the Timberlake area that I left out of this post. I’ll be detailing it at another time, don’t @ me.

One thought on “Tennessee Modernism: The Modernist Houses of Timberlake

  1. Pingback: Tennessee Modernism: 3 Houses designed by Herbert Millkey Sr. – Tennessee Modernism

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