West Knoxville — Knoxville College took the first steps toward restoring the 143-year-old institution this morning, Oct. 12.

Members of the Board of Trustees and Knoxville historian Robert Booker welcomed members of the media, a documentary crew and an East Tennessee Development District planner for a planning tour of the campus.

College officials hope this meeting will ultimately lead to an expansion of their existing place on the National Register of Historic Places.

Knoxville College library and administrative building. September 2016.
Knoxville College library and administrative building. September 2016.

"These old historic buildings should be restored. This history needs to be preserved and we're confident that, though Knoxville College is starting with a few students now, it's open and it's going to grow," Board of Trustees Member Johnny Ford said.

Eight campus buildings are already on the register, and the college wants to add at least 11 more, as they now meet the requirements of being at least 50 years old.

If the proposal is accepted, the college will receive a grant that it will use to restore the campus buildings.

Ultimately, they want the college to come back as a four-year institution after opening up online classes on Sept. 4.

The college said its historic designation comes from the site of Martin Luther King’s 1960 Commencement Speech that inspired students to lead the local sit-in movement, desegregating downtown public facilities and making Tennessee the first of 14 southern states to abandon Jim Crow laws.