Citation of Merit
A Commercial Design Citation of Merit celebrates the restoration and adaptive reuse of Dogan-Gaither Flats: Valor Way. This project revives an important piece of Knoxville's African American business history, transforming a midcentury motel into permanent, supportive housing while preserving its iconic design. The motel’s culturally rich history is paramount. When brothers A.D. “Jake” and A.S. “Big Jake” Gaither opened Dogan-Gaither Courts in 1957 in its original Vine Avenue location, it was the first Black-owned motel in Knoxville. It was listed in the Nationwide Hotel Association Directory and Guide to Travelers, a rival publication to the Green Book. The name Dogan refers to Nathan Dogan, long-time head bellman at the historic Hotel Farragut. His daughter, Dorothy, was Jake Gaither’s wife and manager of the motel. Dorothy spearheaded the move to Jessamine St in 1963, when an urban renewal project to construct the James White Parkway destroyed the “heart of the Negro business district,” forcing them to relocate. In its heyday, the motel hosted famous patrons such as Ray Charles and Cab Calloway, as well as Freedom Riders on a courageous journey through the Deep South. In later decades, it became vacant and fell into disrepair. Fourth Purpose Foundation, under the leadership of Josh and Tracy Smith, embarked on the renovation, with a mission to transform lives by offering a safe and resource-rich environment to formerly incarcerated individuals. The project thoughtfully preserved and enhanced the building's midcentury design elements, including its butterfly-shaped inverted roof form and exterior entrances. Original breezeways were reactivated, reconnecting the courtyard and allowing user-controlled access. The restoration used the layout of the original motel rooms as a starting point for design of the new program. The exterior spaces were thoughtfully landscaped to create a welcoming community environment, making Dogan-Gaither Flats a testament to revitalization, community engagement, and historic preservation.
“Supportive housing in general is a vital need, and when paired successfully with historic preservation, midcentury architecture, and training programs, as it is here, is a win-win.”
- Barbara Bestor, FAIA, 2023 Jury chair
“It is a fantastic project and it is exactly the type of story Docomomo US wants to bring attention to.”
Fourth Purpose Foundation
Sanders Pace Architecture (John L. Sanders, FAIA, Aaron L. Pennington, Assoc. AIA, Cameron Bolin, AIA, Tyler Sanford, Assoc. AIA, Lindsay Clark Assoc. AIA); Mallia Engineering Company (Structural Engineering); Engineering Services Group (MEP Engineering); Will Robinson & Associates (Civil Engineering); QE2 – Quantum Environmental & Engineering Services (Environmental Engineering); Hedstrom Landscape Architecture (Landscape Architecture)