The century-old courthouse in downtown Jonesborough. (Tony Duncan)
The Washington County Courthouse in downtown Jonesborough is turning 100.
Celebration of the iconic building’s milestone anniversary will encompass all of downtown Jonesborough’s regular weekend happenings and a series of special events planned for Saturday and Sunday to commemorate a local government that spans four centuries — music, historic re-enactments, 18th-, 19th- and early 20th-century craft demonstrations, a free genealogy workshop and more.
See more photos of the courthouse by Press Photographer Tony Duncan at the end of this article.
The three-day courthouse birthday party will begin tonight at 7 with Music on the Square with Appalachian Trail, a well-known bluegrass group from Greeneville that appears regularly at some of the region’s favorite old-time country music venues as the featured entertainers.
Festivities will resume at 7 a.m. Saturday with Jonesborough’s weekly Farmer’s Market on Courthouse Square.
From 2-5 p.m. Saturday, the Jonesborough Genealogical Society will be available to help the community members research their family histories in a free “Discover Your Roots” workshop at the Washington County Library on Sabin Drive.
And at 4 p.m., the celebration will spin back through time with old-time craft demonstrations, history re-enactors and antique automobiles on display all around the courthouse.
The featured displays will include the iron works of blacksmith Jamie Tyree, of Limestone, and the guns and powder horns of black powder gunsmith Donald Davison, of Gray. Doug Ledbetter and other living history interpreters from the Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area will be in character as members of the Washington County Regiment of the North Carolina Militia. And county residents Jim Fleenor and Dennis Ledford will be on hand with their hand-built horseless carriages, replicas of the early 1900s 2-cycle curved-dash Oldsmobile.
At 5 p.m., Washington County’s modern-day leaders will gather in front of the courthouse to cut a birthday cake and present a brief review of the governance of Washington County from its beginning with the one-room log courthouse first located on the site in 1779.
The celebration’s featured performer, local country music artist Trey Hensley, will perform a free concert on stage in the courthouse parking lot beginning at 7. And the day’s festivities will wrap up with Jonesborough’s weekly Saturday night showing of Movies on Main with “Harry and the Hendersons” on screen in the courthouse parking lot starting at dusk.
On Sunday, musical and dance performances by the Davy Crockett High School Madrigal Choir, the Gay Whitt School of Dance and the Jonesborough Children’s Community Choir will begin at 1:15 p.m. in the courthouse parking lot and will be followed by “Home of the Brave,” a collaborative performance of Jonesborough church choirs under the direction of Cherry Smith that serves as a patriotic finale to the centennial celebration.
Organized by the Heritage Alliance of Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia, the Jonesborough Genealogical Society and the Washington County Archives working in partnership with the town and the Washington County Library, the celebration has been made possible by sponsorship funding from Johnson City Honda.
And according to Heritage Alliance Executive Director Deborah Montanti, the celebrating will not end in August.
While the cornerstone of the courthouse that stands today was indeed laid with much fanfare on an August weekend in 1912, Montanti said the building’s construction was not completed until Oct. 6, 1913, making this October its official centennial.
But with Jonesborough’s annual Storytelling Festival falling on the same weekend and renovations ongoing on the building’s second floor, Montanti said the plan is to revisit the celebration later in October when it is hoped the remodeling will be complete and the building can be open for public tours.