Jonesborough’s historic Chester Inn was once a major landmark for travelers as they passed through the region. Today, that story is being told through photographs, artifacts and other historical items located within the inn’s very walls.
While the Chester Inn Museum doesn’t officially open until Oct. 28, the museum’s has already seen its fair share of visitors since the September soft-opening.
“Since that time, the attendance, the reception has been absolutely wonderful. We are so encouraged,” Heritage Alliance director Deborah Montanti said.
More than 1,000 people have visited the museum, and Montanti said the support from visitors has been staggering.
“Many folks were surprised by the caliber of the exhibits. Many folks expressed appreciation for coming in the building. Really, the comments we heard was, ‘Who knew Jonesborough had such an incredible history?’ ” she said.
The museum focuses on the beginnings of Jonesborough — dating back to 1779, when it was established as the capital of the State of Franklin — and tells the story of Tennessee’s oldest town all the through the early part of the 20th century.
Since the museum is housed inside the Chester Inn, much of the history covered focuses on the growth of the inn and how it affected the rest of the town, while also covering other inns, taverns and people who had a hand in shaping Jonesborough.
Since the exhibit is rather small, Montanti said they had to be creative when putting it together. The museum relies heavily on 19th century photographs that have been reproduced from originals located in the Jonesborough/Washington County History Museum.
“Because of the size of the space, we really had to focus on the nature of the exhibits into a smaller time frame, so we can concentrate on the commercial (and) the business district of Jonesborough,” she said.
The museum also features paneled windows that stretch from one end of the inn to the other that are covered with large panoramic photos of old Jonesborough scenes. Those photos are backlit at night.
The Heritage Alliance and the Tennessee Historical Commission have been working together for several years to get the museum up and running. The Chester Inn Museum is part of a capital project funded through the Historical Commission, which includes other new exhibits at both the Rocky Mount Museum and the Tipton-Haynes State Historic Site.
The Chester Inn Museum is open Wednesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 1-5 p.m. through Oct. 31. In November and December, the museum is open Friday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and 1-5 p.m. on Sunday.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Chester Inn Museum will take place Oct. 28 at 3 p.m.