R. F. Graf

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R. F. Graf
Born Richard Franklin Graf
May 1, 1863
Nashville, Tennessee, USA
Died January 27, 1940
Knoxville, Tennessee, USA
Occupation Architect
Spouse(s) Ida Lee Vinson
Children John, Herbert, Karl, Frank, Katherine, Lawrence

Richard Franklin Graf (1863–1940) was an American architect, active primarily in Knoxville, Tennessee, and the vicinity, in the early 20th century. His works include Stratford Mansion (1910), Sterchi Building (1921),[1] St. John's Lutheran Church (1913),[2] and the Journal Arcade (1924).[3] His home, the Prairie School-inspired Graf-Cullum House, is considered Knoxville's first modern home.[3] Several buildings designed by Graf have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


Graf was born in Nashville, Tennessee in 1863. His grandfather was one of several families to immigrate from Switzerland to Morgan County in the late 1840s (Morgan County's Swiss immigrants also included the grandparents of one of Graf's future clients, James G. Sterchi).[1] Graf had relocated to Knoxville by 1884, when he was working at the Burr & Terry Sash Factory in what is now the Old City.[4]

In 1887, Graf cofounded a contracting firm, Vinson and Graf, which operated in Knoxville until 1891.[1] In the early 1890s, Graf worked as a supervisor for the Knoxville Cabinet and Mantel Company. In 1894, he joined the firm of noted mail-order architect George Franklin Barber (1854–1915), and was elevated to associate in 1901.[1] He and Barber were still working together as late as 1907, when they designed a new building for Mechanics' National Bank.[5]

Graf eventually formed an architectural firm with his two sons, John and Herbert, with Graf as supervising architect. In 1910, this firm designed an elaborate Neoclassical mansion, Stratford, for James G. Sterchi,[1] as well as two buildings– the Bandstand and the Liberal Arts Building– for the Appalachian Exposition at Chilhowee Park.[6][7] Three years later, Graf designed the Gothic-style St. John's Lutheran Church, which still stands across from Old Gray Cemetery on Broadway.[2]

In 1920, Sterchi again commissioned Graf to design his furniture company's 10-story warehouse, now known as Sterchi Lofts, which was completed the following year.[1][8] The Graf-Cullum House, the design of which was inspired by the Prairie School movement, was completed in 1923.[3] During this same period, Graf designed two dormitories for Maryville College, Carnegie Hall (1917) and Thaw Hall (1923).


The following were designed by Graf or his firm, R.F. Graf and Sons.

Name Location Completed Status Other information Image Reference
Miller's Building (S. Gay St.) Knoxville, Tennessee 1905 Standing [1]
Mechanics' National Bank (612 S. Gay St.) Knoxville, Tennessee 1907 (approx.) Standing With Barber & Kluttz Mechanics-bank-and-trust-knoxville-tn1.jpg [9]
Park City High School Knoxville, Tennessee 1909 Demolished Designed with George F. Barber & Co. Park-city-high-school-tn1.jpg [10]
Chilhowee Park Bandstand (Chilhowee Park) Knoxville, Tennessee 1910 Standing Built for the 1910 Appalachian Exposition Chilhowee-park-bandstand-tn1.jpg [6]
Appalachian Exposition - Machinery and Liberal Arts Building (Chilhowee Park) Knoxville, Tennessee 1910 Burned Built for the 1910 Appalachian Exposition; designed primarily by J.R. Graf Liberal-arts-building-1913-tn1.jpg [11]
Stratford Knoxville, Tennessee 1910 Standing NRHP (#09000536); designed for furniture magnate James G. Sterchi Stratford-sterchi-mansion-knox-tn.jpg [1]
National Conservation Exposition - East Tennessee Building (Chilhowee Park) Knoxville, Tennessee 1913 Demolished East-tennessee-building-nce-1913-tn1.jpg
National Conservation Exposition - Women's Building (Chilhowee Park) Knoxville, Tennessee 1913 Demolished Womans-building-nce-1913-tn1.jpg
St. John's Lutheran Church (Broadway) Knoxville, Tennessee 1913 Standing NRHP (#85000700) St-johns-lutheran-church-knoxville-tn1.jpg [2]
2809 Kingston Pike Knoxville, Tennessee 1915 Standing NRHP contributing property (Kingston Pike Historic District) [1]
Carnegie Hall (Maryville College) Maryville, Tennessee 1917 Standing NRHP contributing property (Maryville College Historic District) [12]
Sterchi Building (Sterchi Lofts) (S. Gay St.) Knoxville, Tennessee 1921 Standing NRHP contributing property (Southern Terminal and Warehouse Historic District) Sterchi.jpg [1]
Evarts High School Evarts, Kentucky 1923 Standing School closed in 2009 [13]
Graf-Cullum House (Woodlawn Pike) Knoxville, Tennessee 1923 Standing Graf-Cullum House.jpg [3]
Thaw Hall (Maryville College) Maryville, Tennessee 1923 Standing NRHP contributing property (Maryville College Historic District) [14]
Journal Arcade (S. Gay St.) Knoxville, Tennessee 1924 Standing NRHP contributing property (Gay Street Commercial Historic District) Knoxville-journal-arcade-tn1.jpg [3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Ann Bennett, National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form for Stratford, 23 March 2009.
  2. ^ a b c Knoxville Historic Zoning Commission, The Future of Knoxville's Past: Historic and Architectural Resources in Knoxville, Tennessee, October 2006. Retrieved: 23 May 2011.
  3. ^ a b c d e Knoxville: Fifty Landmarks. (Knoxville: The Knoxville Heritage Committee of the Junior League of Knoxville, 1976), pp. 22, 29.
  4. ^ Norwood's Knoxville City Directory (Cottonbelt Publishing Company, 1884), p. 183.
  5. ^ Daily Bulletin of the Manufacturers' Record, 20 June 1907. Retrieved: 23 May 2011.
  6. ^ a b Plaque at the Chilhowee Park Bandstand, Knoxville, Tennessee.
  7. ^ East Tennessee Historical Society, Lucile Deaderick (ed.), Heart of the Valley: A History of Knoxville, Tennessee (Knoxville, Tenn.: East Tennessee Historical Society, 1976), p. 49.
  8. ^ The Lumber Manufacturer and Dealer, Vol. 65, 23 February 1920, p. 63. Retrieved: 23 May 2011.
  9. ^ "Building Notes". Daily Bulletin of the Manufacturers' Record. 17-18. 20 June 1907. Retrieved 14 January 2014. 
  10. ^ Robert Booker, Park City made the most of decade of independence, Knoxville News Sentinel, 17 May 2011. Retrieved: 8 June 2011.
  11. ^ Knoxville Community Development Corporation, Magnolia Avenue Warehouse District: Redevelopment and Urban Renewal Plan, May 2011. Retrieved: 23 May 2011.
  12. ^ Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area, The National Heritage Area Program and Blount County, Tennessee: A Feasibility Study, p. 13. Retrieved: 23 May 2011.
  13. ^ John Middleton, Evarts High School Had Long History Serving Clover Fork, The Harlan Daily Enterprise, c. 2009. Retrieved: 23 May 2011.
  14. ^ Ralph Waldo Lloyd, Maryville College: A History of 150 Years, 1819-1969 (Maryville College Press, 1969), p. 54.

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