A Tale of One City

Wednesday, August 15, 2012 Road Junkies 0 Comments

Blowing Rock, NC to Greenville, TN 
Having wound up our family week in Blowing Rock, we reluctantly departed the cool mountain air to begin a tour of some of the highways and byways of middle America.  Along the way, we hope to move closer to our goal of finding and planting letterboxes in each of the "lower 48" in 2012, as well as enjoying some of the scenery and history that this part of the country has to offer.

Driving along US-321 in eastern Tennessee, we were struck by the massive size of this year's kudzu crop in the area (pictured above).  Though kudzu was intentionally introduced into the Southeastern U.S. in the late 1800s to help control erosion, the invasive weed is now thought to be a major factor in surface ozone pollution.
According to a 2010 study, kudzu manufactures chemical elements which combine with nitrogen in the air to form ozone, a health threat to humans and a hindrance to the growth of many types of plants.  One of the study's authors stated that the kudzu-generated increase in ozone "completely overcomes the reductions in ozone realized from automobile pollution control legislation." (Science Daily)
Thankfully the noxious vine has not managed to overtake Tennessee's oldest town.  Founded in 1779, long before Tennessee became a state, Jonesborough (pop. 4,168) is perhaps best known today as the home of the National Storytelling Festival.  In a compact little downtown area with a robust commercial section, Jonesborough attracts a significant number of tourists due to its place in Tennessee history and its preservation efforts.  A self-guided "strolling tour" takes visitors to numerous historical landmarks including a house where Andrew Jackson once resided, long before he moved into the White House.
Christopher Taylor House
Built in 1777 by a veteran of the French and Indian War, the historic Christopher Taylor house was moved from its original spot a mile outside of town to the historic district.  Local legend holds that the ghost of Andrew Jackson, who lived in the house while practicing law in Jonesborough in 1788-89, occasionally appears in the vicinity of the house, but Old Hickory did not manifest himself while we were visiting.
Chester Inn
Near the current location of this cabin is another of the town's famous historic structures, the Chester Inn.  Built in 1797 to serve travelers on the Great Stage Road, the inn was continuously occupied as an inn, hotel or apartment house until recent years.  With a reputation as the finest lodging available on the Tennessee frontier, the Chester played host to three U.S. presidents:  Andrew Jackson, James K. Polk, and Andrew Johnson.  Today the inn is operated as a museum.
In the heart of the historic downtown, the Mary Martin Storytelling Hall anchors the town's three-acre International storytelling Center campus, along with a storytelling park, courtyard, gift shop, library and theater.  The center hosts a range of storytelling activities, ranging from daily storyteller-in-residence events during the summer to the annual National Storytelling Festival, which attracts more than 10,000 visitors each October.

To facilitate all this storytelling, Jonesborough has created venues all around the historic district where storytellers can hold court when they converge for the festival.  Walking around the town, visitors stumble across these settings often, including a group of stones arranged for seating in a cozy wooded copse.
Davy Crockett Birthplace State Park
After spending a couple of hours in this charming town, where we found numerous letterboxes, we continued west, stopping off at Davy Crockett Birthplace State Park in Limestone, TN.  A museum at the park contains exhibits which tell of the different aspects of the life of Davy Crockettthe hunter, the politician, the businessman and the legendary frontiersman.  A typical frontier cabin much like the one in which Davy Crockett was born in 1786 sits near the museum.  The park was beautifully maintained and offered a plethora of recreational activities for visitors. 

Arriving in Greeneville after 5 p.m., we called it a day and began making plans for our tour of Andrew Johnson's adopted home town tomorrow.

  • Weather:  sunny to rain, 57° to 79°
  • Letterboxes found: 10
  • States:  2 (NC, TN) 
  • Miles of kudzu vines:  2,561,063
  • Trees covered in kudzu:  23,910
  • Historic landmarks on strolling tour:  40
  • Year storytelling festival began:  1973
Storytelling Center
Washington County Courthouse in Jonesborough
Alley garden in Jonesborough
Lake Watauga