Beginning in the early 1820s, Richard and Margaret Netherland entertained friends, relatives and neighbors each year with a lavish Christmas open house. Guests arrived on horseback, by carriage and by wagon to find Netherland Inn decorated with natural greenery, dried flowers and fruits. Music and the aroma of seasonal fare filled the air.
Nearly two centuries later, the stately inn continues to host visitors each holiday season. Their mode of transportation may have changed, but guests will still discover the inn lavishly decorated in 1818 style, with period music and food aplenty.
This year’s 1818 Christmas at the Inn party will be held from 6 to 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Dec. 13 and 14, and from 2 to 4 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 15 at the inn.
Visitors can enjoy live holiday music and snack on seasonal treats as they tour the inn and its grounds, decked in period decorations compliments of area garden clubs.
The Ben Ellis Band will perform Friday night, followed by the Celtic band Sigean on Saturday evening and Celtic harpist Sandra Parker on Sunday afternoon.
A new addition to this year’s 1818 Christmas event will be six artists from the Kingsport Art Guild, who will display their works in the schoolhouse cabin along with well-known local artisan Robin Hillman. Hillman enjoys turning old wood into unique works of art, including Christmas ornaments, yard stakes and other holiday decorations. Guests are invited to enjoy a cup of hot cider while they browse and perhaps purchase some of the art on display.
Guests can also discuss period dress and foods with Tammy Fletcher and two of her friends, who will arrive at the inn in regency dress and will portray a period tea in the East Tavern Room on Saturday.
Historic re-enactors John Byington, Rick Ragle and Scott Smith — all members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, John S. Mosby Camp — will be at the inn Friday and Saturday to portray Confederate and Union soldiers and to visit with guests as they discuss the Battle of Kingsport, which took place Dec. 13, 1864, on the banks of the Holston River at what is now Rotherwood bridge.
A small band of Confederate soldiers led by Col. Richard Morgan stood their ground against a large Union regiment led by Maj. Gen. George Stoneman and Maj. Gen. Cullem Gillem, only to be approached from behind by a Union force led by Col. Samuel Patton. Eighteen soldiers were killed and 84 captured as the Confederates were overrun, allowing Union forces to continue to Bristol, Wytheville and Saltville, where they captured and destroyed trains, lead mines and salt works.
The SCV will hold a ceremony to honor and commemorate the Battle of Kingsport at 10 a.m., Saturday at the battle monument at the forks of the Holston River. The public is invited to attend.
Tickets to the 1818 Christmas party are $10, with children 6 and younger admitted free with a paying adult ($25 maximum admission charge for families with children over age 6). Tickets may be purchased upon arrival in the gift shop cabin at the parking lot or on the first floor of the inn.
Proceeds from the 1818 Christmas party support the maintenance and restoration of the Netherland Inn and Boatyard, the only site on the National Register of Historic Places to have served as both a stage stop and a boat yard.
Originally built by William King between 1802 and 1808 for the sole purpose of developing a boat yard from which to ship his salt, Netherland Inn was sold at a sheriff’s sale in 1818 to Richard Netherland. Netherland immediately procured a stage contract and established the three-story building as an inn and tavern on the Great Old Stage Road, the main route to western Kentucky and Middle Tennessee.
Netherland Inn became established as a popular stagecoach inn hosting many famous guests, including Presidents Andrew Jackson, Andrew Johnson and James Polk.
Netherland Inn is located at 2144 Netherland Inn Road in Kingsport. Ample parking is available in the rear of the complex, off Lilac Street.
For more information, call Carolyn Allen at (423) 677-3263 or Jennifer Light at (423) 677-1640.