Categorized | History

North Hills: An Early Knoxville Automobile Subdivision 

The North Hills neighborhood is located in North Knoxville and is roughly bounded by Washington Pike, Whittle Springs Road, Cecil Avenue, and Prosser Road. The houses in North Hills are mainly one and two story houses that feature brick, stucco, East Tennessee Marble, and Crab Orchard Stone exteriors. The neighborhood is a good example of a suburban middle-class residential district with a strong emphasis on early to mid-twentieth century revival residential architecture. Styles include English Cottage Revival, Tudor Revival, Colonial Revival, Spanish Colonial Revival, Ranch, and Minimal Traditional. The neighborhood retains its original topography of rolling hills, wide-tree-lined boulevards, and landscaping.

North Hills was developed as an automobile-accessible neighborhood in 1927 under the North Hills Corporation by brothers George, Hugh, and Carl Fielden. George wanted to create a new subdivision of custom-built homes and soon began to buy land and divide it into lots. It is said that George and his mother Florence named the area “North Hills” because it described the rolling hills of North Knoxville. In 1927, George laid out the first section of North Hills Boulevard (the 1900 block) and erected stone gateposts with marble plaques reading “North Hills” on each side of the Washington Pike entrance. The first house was built on a wooded lot on the west side of North Hills Boulevard next to the main entrance. 

When development started in 1927, the neighborhood originally encompassed only 43 acres and three streets: North Hills Boulevard, Fountain Park Boulevard, and Kenilworth Lane. By 1928, more than 40 homes had been built. By 1935, 75 homes had been built and 175 lots were available to build on. 

Restrictive covenants were adopted in 1928 to ensure that North Hills would remain a select neighborhood. The expiration of these covenants is supposed to be in 2027 (99 years from their development date). These guidelines provide interesting insight into the perspective of the developers and original residents regarding the important visual aspects of their neighborhood. In part, these restrictions provide guidance on placement of garages, construction cost, number of rooms, setbacks, exterior wall covering, roof and foundation material, and each house design had to be approved by two officials of the North Hills Corporation. 

The North Hills Garden Club was established in 1935 to promote the beautification of the neighborhood and to foster a community spirt through participation in civic, educational, and social activities. During the first year, the club had 50 members, and today the garden club is still a strong entity that is active in the neighborhood and surrounding community.

North Hills was an up-and-coming, middle-class suburb during the late 1920s, and it attracted many families. Residents included employees of the Tennessee Valley Authority, managers, presidents, or vice-presidents of local companies, business owners, attorneys, doctors, employees of Southern Railway, and professors at the University of Tennessee.

The North Hills Area Association was formed in 2000, and its mission is to promote security, beautification, and safety. The Association includes the historic area of the neighborhood, as well as the Plantation Hills subdivision that was developed in 1959 and spans roughly 75 acres southwest of the original 1927 development. 

The original North Hills development was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2008 for its strong association with community planning and residential development in Knoxville and for its rich architectural significance. 

Numerous automobile subdivisions began cropping up during the early twentieth century in Knoxville, and North Hills was one of the first. With the presence of the boulevards, revival-style architecture, and heavy natural topography, the neighborhoods developed a uniform and elegant appearance that remains today. North Hills illustrated the trend that led away from busy downtown living, creating a dependence upon mass streetcar transportation and eventually toward dependence upon the automobile. 

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.

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