The Eugenia Williams House is located at 4848 Lyons View Pike in Knoxville, TN. Built in 1940-41, the two-story brick house has 6,000 square feet but only three bedrooms. It also has a living room, dining room, gallery, library, kitchen, servants’ quarters and three-car garage.
The house’s design is a rarity in Knoxville, an example of Regency architecture, with bas-relief stone sculpture inside. It’s a credit to John Fanz Staub, maybe the best-known architect ever born in Knoxville. The grandson of a Swiss immigrant who was a Knoxville mayor and downtown developer, Staub made most of his own career in the Houston area, where his grand manor-style houses are still well known.
Heiress Eugenia Williams built the house in 1940-41, replacing a previous house she had inherited from her father, physician David Hitt Williams. Dr. Williams made his fortune underwriting the Coca-Cola distributorship in Knoxville, and Miss Williams inherited most of it when she was 29.
Divorced from a World War I veteran and childless, Eugenia Williams died in 1998. By the terms of a 1981 will, she bequeathed the property to the university “on condition that the said land not be subdivided or sold, in whole or in part, so long as there is a state-operated university in the vicinity of Knoxville.” Likewise, the will of Miss Williams’ father stipulated that the only way she could dispose of it was to will it to inheritors. Although she left her home and grounds to the University of Tennessee as a memorial to her father, neither had a connection to the university.
Miss Williams left the house in 1983 and spent her last years in a private hospital room. The nearest thing she had to family was the Roddys, Knoxville’s original Coca-Cola distributor family. When Miss Williams died at age 98, she left an estate of more than $20 million and no heirs. Her parents, a sister and a brother all died before her. The Roddys had the mansion boarded up, the furnishings removed and the gates locked.
The Eugenia Williams House has been placed on the Knox Heritage 2011 Fragile Fifteen List.