Faculty Club

The UT Faculty Association was chartered by the State of Tennessee in 1936 as an organization for faculty and upper administration of the institution, formalizing the association of a group of faculty who convened regularly in the cafeteria of Sophronia Strong Hall for coffee and conversation. The first building allocated for use by the UT Faculty Association as a faculty club was 1600 Melrose Avenue (site of the John C. Hodges Library), a large, elegant residence built in the 1800s by James Vandeventer. William Simpson Shields purchased the house in 1905 and bequeathed it to UT in 1933, providing for a life estate for his wife, Alice Watkins Shields. When she died the following year, the property was transferred to UT. The Shields residence became the Faculty Club in 1936. The club itself occupied the first floor and the basement; the upstairs rooms were rented for housing of new faculty members.

The Shields house was razed in summer 1966 for construction of the John C. Hodges Undergraduate Library (renovated and expanded to its present size and configuration as the main library in 1988). The Faculty Club moved in September 1966 to the former Sigma Alpha Epsilon House on Seventeenth Street (near the present Art and Architecture Building). This second clubhouse was a 1920 Georgian house designed by Barber and McMurry in the style of the eighteenth-century home of William Byrd of Westover, Virginia, as a residence for Oscar Handley, partner in the Miller’s Department Store. Mr. Handley died in 1942, and his widow sold the house to the SAE Fraternity in 1943. UT purchased the house as part of the Yale Avenue Urban Renewal acquisition of property.

In December 1967 the Faculty Club moved to its third (as the University Club beginning in 1996) location at the corner of Neyland Drive and Kingston Pike. Baumann and Baumann had designed the home on that 14-acre site in 1935 as the residence of Mitchell Long, Knoxville lawyer and Democratic political leader. In 1953 its owner, interior decorator Eunice Miller, converted the first floor to a business office and sales gallery and the rest to rental apartments. East and west wings and the patio were added during the period that Miller owned the residence, and it was known as Meredith Hall. Walker Graham, a Memphis developer who wanted to assure himself of a contract to build another dormitory for UT (and did so—the Apartment Residence Hall on Andy Holt Avenue) conveyed the land to UT on January 6, 1967, with the expectation that it would be used as a faculty club and enhance the desirability for faculty of living in the luxury apartment building he intended to build on land on Kingston Pike and that he reserved for that purpose. At the end of 56 years, UT was to receive title to the apartment building.

UT renovated the Long house extensively over the summer of 1967 (at a cost of $129,000), including expansion of the kitchen and addition of a swimming pool, bathhouse, tennis courts, and boat dock, and the club was officially opened on December 1, 1967. Funds for the improvements were obtained from the sale of Laurel Heights Apartments.

In the 1980s, following the agitation of local neighborhood associations to declare a portion of Kingston Pike a “scenic route,” thus increasing setbacks and limiting building height, Graham conveyed his leasehold to a Memphis development firm, Alodex, that wanted to exchange it for similar land in Memphis upon which the firm wished to build apartments for UT Memphis. When UT rejected the Alodex offer, Alodex sold its rights to Knoxville businessman William Mullins and partners Fred Langley, Cecil K. Mullins, and Kenneth Warren. Mullins revived the prospect of a luxury apartment complex, and UT representatives endorsed it.

In order to circumvent the Scenic Routes Act restrictions, Mullins offered the Faculty Club 15,000 square feet of space in a new building to be built on the site of the existing house. Members of the Faculty Association unanimously voted down the proposal. The Kingston Pike-Sequoyah Hills Association obtained a temporary restraining order in March 1973 to prevent the issuance of building permits for the proposed apartment development, and Mullins and his partners gave the leasehold to UT on December 28, 1979. An addition to the club was made in 1999, and the property ceased to be used as a club in 2006.

Citation Information

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  • Title Faculty Club
  • Author
  • Keywords Faculty Club
  • Website Name Volopedia
  • Publisher University of Tennessee Libraries
  • URL
  • Access Date April 21, 2024
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update October 7, 2018