Categorized | History

Knox Heritage

Westmoreland Water Wheel and Gatepost

The Westmoreland Water Wheel and Gatepost are located at the intersection of Sherwood Drive and Westland Drive just west of Northshore Drive. Together, these structures mark the eastern entrance to the Westmoreland Heights neighborhood. The Westmoreland Wheelhouse was built in 1923 in the Tudor Revival style. The gatepost was built opposite the wheel house in 1925, duplicating its style characteristics. Both the wheel house and gatepost were designed by noted local architect Charles I. Barber of the architectural firm of Barber and McMurray. Prominent local landscape architect Charles F. Lester provided the landscape design.

The water wheel is a steel overshot wheel purchased by Edward T. Manning, President of the Tennessee Mill & Mine Supply Company from the Fitz Water Wheel Company of Hanover, Pennsylvania. The wheel was installed by R.A. Calloway, an employee with the Tennessee Mill & Mine Supply Company. East Tennessee marble is the most notable exterior architectural feature of the structures; other architectural materials include, wood, slate, and iron. A large spring located near the wheel house was used as a source to power the water wheel.

The land on which the structures are located was first settled in 1809 by Captain William Lyons, and ownership of much of the land continued with his descendants until 1923. The water wheel was built to generate electricity and water for the four original houses in the area, two of which were owned by Lyons’ descendants. The other owners included Edward T. Manning and Judge Daniel Clary Webb, a prominent Knoxville lawyer and the first Juvenile Court Judge in Knox County.

The Westmoreland Heights subdivision, located west and north of the water wheel, was developed in 1923 by Westmoreland Heights, Inc. From January until March 1925, Charles F. Lester designed the roads; engineers Sehorn & Kennedy surveyed and plotted the roads and lots; and O.N. Davis built the roads. The neighborhood was originally 180 acres and featured large lots and views of the Smoky Mountains. Real estate advertisements of the time described Westmoreland Heights as a premier residential development featuring no congestion, privacy, open space, pure air, and freedom from smoke and dust.

Although the water wheel was one of the initial factors making the development of the subdivision feasible, it also carried within it the seeds that ended its role as a supplier since its capacity was soon exceeded. On July 12, 1929, the residents of the Westmoreland Heights signed an agreement with Knoxville Power and Light Company for the supply of electricity and upgraded the water wheel’s infrastructure.

With the help of Knox Heritage, the Westmoreland Water Wheel and Gatepost were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2013. The water wheel is well known to many Knoxvillians and is a significant statement about Knoxville’s early 20th century history and residential development.

Knox Heritage preserves structures and places of historic or cultural significance for our community. Established in 1974 as a non-profit educational corporation, our organization works to protect and raise awareness of what is beautiful and irreplaceable in East Tennessee.

Leave a Reply