Renovations have started at the historic Alexander Inn, and on Saturday, hundreds of people shopped at an estate sale at the vacant, two-story hotel, taking advantage of an unprecedented opportunity to buy items from the 1940s to the 1980s, including bed frames and Bibles, chairs and chandeliers, and dishes and dressers.
Halfway through the three-hour sale, a project executive estimated that more than 500 people had attended. At one point, the line of people waiting to get in stretched from the hotel, located on East Madison Road, to Kentucky Avenue, said Rick Dover, general manager of Family Pride, which has proposed converting the dilapidated hotel into an assisted living center.
Dover was very pleased with the community support.
“I’m stunned; I’m speechless,” he said.
Saturday’s sale was organized by the East Tennessee Preservation Alliance in conjunction with Knox Heritage’s Salvage Room. ETPA helped make the hotel redevelopment project possible, and proceeds from Saturday’s sale benefited the nonprofit organization.
The estate sale also gave the public a rare opportunity to see inside the front part of the hotel before renovations begin.
Dover said construction work could be completed in six to 12 months.
Also known as The Guest House, the hotel once hosted such dignitaries as physicists J. Robert Oppenheimer and Enrico Fermi, and Secretary of War Henry Stimson. It’s been shut down for about two decades.
It was built during World War II as part of the top-secret Manhattan Project, and official say it’s listed on the National Historic Register. Historic preservationists have worked for a decade or more to save it.
The project to redevelop the two-story hotel, which is located on three acres in Jackson Square, has been proposed by Family Pride Corp., which is based in Loudon, and InSite Development Corp. of Knoxville.
Project officials have previously said the $4.5 million assisted living center could have 60 units and include a wing for patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia. A $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy and assistance from the East Tennessee Preservation Alliance helped make the project possible.