Historic Jonesborough (population 4391), the oldest town in Tennessee, is in a region known as America’s First Frontier and serves as the Washington County seat. The area declared itself independent from Great Britain five years before the Declaration of Independence and was the capital of the State of Franklin, losing by one vote becoming the 14th State in the Union. Andrew Jackson opened a law practice in Jonesborough, and become a judge. As President, he spent time at Jonesborough’s Chester Inn on his way back to the Hermitage in Nashville.
Jonesborough is the home of the National Storytelling Center in the heart of the downtown historic district near the Washington County Courthouse. A National Storytelling Festival has taken place here annually for over 30 years, and has brought significant economic benefits to the community and the region.
The Jonesborough/Washington County History Museum, located in the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center, interprets local history from the 1770s to the present. It also serves students through its educational programs, including a day at the 1886 one-room Oak Hill School. Participants take a step back in time and walk in the shoes of students from over 100 years ago. This program won the Tennessee Association of Museums’ 2000 Award of Excellence.
As a result of community planning, laws and zoning, and cooperative work with property owners since the 1970s, the historic downtown has been successfully restored. Jonesborough’s Historic Zoning Commission and its Heritage Alliance reevaluate every property within the National Register Historic District every five years. The town also has an ordinance to prevent demolition of historic resources by neglect.
Volunteers with the Heritage Alliance provide preservation expertise to residents and maintain a warehouse of hard to find historic architectural materials taken from structures demolished in nearby communities for use by those doing restoration.
The town is an active member of the Northeast Tennessee Tourism Cooperative and participates in a “Tales and Trails” program with other area historic communities. Jonesborough has recently been listed on National Geographic’s “Discover Appalachia” Geotourism Map and their web-based Event and Attraction map. It has also been named one of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s “Dozen Distinctive Destinations.”
Jonesborough Days, a heritage festival held every 4th of July weekend for 35 years, celebrates 225 years of local history, including reenactments of an Indian village, a pioneer encampment, a Civil War hospital, a 1940s USO show, and a time line parade.
Designated a Preserve America Community in August 2005.
For more information
Jonesborough/Washington County Heritage Alliance