Knoxville Museum of Art Receives Major Bequest

September 5, 2018

September 4, 2018 (Knoxville, TN) –The Knoxville Museum Art is the recipient of a major bequest from the late William Starke Shell, a former architecture professor at the University of Tennessee.  Professor Shell left his entire estate to the Knoxville Museum of Art upon his death on June 11, 2017.  The Shell residence, a luminous glass box perched atop a cliff high above the Tennessee River in Lakemoor Hills, is a masterpiece of Modernism designed by Professor Shell.  In addition to the house and its custom furnishings, the bequest includes a contiguous undeveloped lot.

The Shell house, its furnishings, and adjacent lot are being sold with protective easements.  The easements were developed with the help and support of Knox Heritage–a local organization dedicated to the preservation of significant buildings in the region–to ensure the ongoing preservation of this Knoxville architectural treasure. The KMA, dedicated to the care and preservation of significant works of art from the region, is equally committed to the care and preservation of the unique property entrusted to it, and has made a significant investment in the maintenance and repair of the house to prepare it for sale.

A task force of museum stakeholders chaired by former KMA board chair Richard Jansen was formed in the summer of 2017 to make recommendations to the KMA Board of Trustees about the disposition of the Shell property. After long and careful consideration of ways the property might be used or developed, the task force recommended unanimously that the house and adjoining lot be sold with the protection of easements that will ensure the property’s ongoing preservation.  The protective easement will be monitored with the assistance of Knox Heritage, which oversees several properties in the region that are similarly protected.

According to KMA Executive Director David Butler, “the decision to sell the property with protective easements was the best one for the house and for the KMA, and the one we feel best honors Professor Shell’s intentions. We are grateful to be the beneficiary of his vision and generosity.”  Once the sale of the property is complete, the KMA Board of Trustees, with the input of the Shell bequest task force, will determine the use of the sale proceeds that best honors the memory and intentions of Professor Shell and furthers the mission and work of the KMA.

Qualified buyers interested in the property should contact Barbara Apking at Coldwell Banker, Wallace and Wallace Realtor, at or 865.250.5522.

The Shell House. Photo credit Robert Batey


The Knoxville Museum of Art

The Knoxville Museum of Art celebrates the art and artists of East Tennessee, presents new art and new ideas, serves and educates diverse audiences, and enhances Knoxville’s quality of life. The museum is located in downtown Knoxville at 1050 World’s Fair Park and is open to the public Tuesday through Saturday 10am–5pm, and Sunday 1pm-5pm. Admission and parking are free. For more information, contact Angela Thomas at 865.934.2034 or visit