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Sue Guinn Legg

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Community Heritage

Historic Jonesborough focus of history study

January 13th, 2014 12:07 pm by Sue Guinn Legg

Historic Jonesborough focus of history study

Known as the Buckhorn, this house at 615 E Main Street was built in 1820s and was the home of T.A.R. Nelson, a well known Tennessee politician before and during the Civil War. The house has four chimneys, unusual front windows and many of its original int

The State of Franklin Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution has completed a two-year survey of more than 300 Jonesborough homes outside the town’s established historic district that identifies 47 properties with enough historical relevance or architectural integrity to potentially qualify for a spot on the National Register of Historic Places.
The chapter will recognize the homes at a reception at 6:30 p.m. Friday at the Jonesborough Visitors Center. It is open to the public, and the DAR encourages everyone to come and learn more about the history of Jonesborough revealed by the survey, the group said.
“We want as many people as possible to feel they are invited,” Carol Redmond, project chairwoman for the DAR survey, said.
Funded by a grant from the Tennessee Historical Commission, the survey was conducted with assistance from the town, Washington County, Johnson City, other entities and individuals who lent their technical expertise and their memories of the town’s older properties.
“It’s an architectural survey of a small town, Tennessee’s oldest town, and the seat of Washington County, which became known as the Mother County of Tennessee,” Redmond said, reading from the survey’s introduction.
“When we think of Jonesborough, we not only think of the gateway to western expansion or the Lost State of Franklin, we think of those everyday, multigenerational memories we share as surely as if they were imprinted in our DNA,” Redmond said.
“These feelings are the foundation of a need to preserve our heritage. Preservation is not just about paint color or brick patterns, but about a common memory shared by all the citizens of a town. It is about home.
 “We are grateful to the people of Jonesborough for sharing their stories of growing up in a small town. The citizens of Jonesborough want their town, not a theme-park replica of their town. In this they have triumphed. Just listen to their stories and realize here is still here.”
While the survey’s identification of the significance of the 47 homes to be recognized at the reception does not represent any official designation and in no way restricts the properties’ use or alteration, it will make it easier for the owners to apply for inclusion in the Historic Register should they choose to do so.
“There’s enough here that there could be a second historic district outside the existing historic district, if enough of them go together for it,” Redmond said.
The properties include homes of such historical note as the “Buckhorn” at 615 E. Main St. Built in the 1820s, the house was used by T.A.R. Nelson, a well-known state politician before and during the Civil War, and features four chimneys, unusual front windows and many of its original interior and exterior features.
 The house at 256 E. Main St., owned by Sarah Engel, is another of the survey’s architectural winners. Built in 1900, the house is distinguished by its late Victorian porch details and cornice.
The survey also includes little-known and long-forgotten gems like a small bungalow tucked away behind Valley Repair Service at 1301 W. College St. Built around 1900, the house still boasts its original windows and Cortright galvanized roofing shingles.
Redmond said the chapter initially set out to survey all properties inside Jonesborough’s corporate limits and outside its existing historic district corporate limits built prior to 1960.
The survey includes information on each of 359 homes, businesses and other structures, including aerial photographs, real estate assessments, tax records and relevant information provided by town historians and residents who recall the properties’ past uses.
 The entire survey, including descriptions of the properties, features oral histories and the DAR Chapter’s recommendations for the National Register, are being downloaded onto archive-quality computer disks that will be shared with the state Historical Commission and with local libraries, historical societies, schools, colleges and universities upon request.
More information about the survey, reception and the DAR’s State of Franklin Chapter may be obtained by calling Virginia Diehl Maden at 753-3649 or by email to

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