Tennessee – What’s in Greeneville TN?

Tomorrow it will be one year since we signed a contract on our home in Tennessee. Blog posts have been few and far between – a busy life, new job and settling in have been a priority. This year I’m hoping to resume writing and capture some of our adventures to share.

We have been exploring and researching the wonders and attractions of East Tennessee as time allows. There is history, beauty, wonder, excitement and loads of fun to be had. While we are living here I hope to capture some of that for people that may be coming to East Tennessee.

Yesterday we had tickets for a show at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center (NPAC) in Greeneville TN. It was a concert by Hotel California www.hotelcal.com , they perform music by The Eagles. We had attended a concert last summer and really enjoyed the music and performance.

After reading a bit about Greeneville and noticing that there is a National Historic Site detailing President Andrew Johnson’s life we decided to head out early and do some exploring before we went to the concert. This spontaneous choice turned out to be a great history lesson culminating with a night of great music.

Greenville is about 1 hour from Knoxville. It is a nice drive down highways with the Smoky Mountains providing a beautiful view through the windshield. We arrived in the early afternoon and found the Andrew Johnson historical site by following the signs that start as you enter the town.

The site is very well done by the National Park Service. After touring we really understood the struggles that President Johnson faced when he became president. He was the vice-president when Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. The gravity of fulfilling what President Lincoln’s vision after his death was laid squarely on Johnson’s shoulders. He was a fierce defender of the U.S Constitution and frequently in contention with the House and Senate. He faced impeachment but was acquitted by just one vote. He was a savvy political leader and held many political offices during his career. It is worth a visit to learn how a boy born into poverty lived his life, and impacted the United States of America.

We drove out to the National Cemetery after touring the buildings that have memorialized President Johnson’s life. The park service guide had told us a story about how the Office of the President lays a wreath on past president graves each year on their birthday. She said that at some point in the day a procession of black cars arrives at the cemetery, a group of about 20 people get out of the cars, a wreath is laid and “poof” they are all gone.

In 2018 on December 29th – President Johnson’s birthday – the government was in shut down and National Park Service had just one essential employee on duty, it was the maintenance person. On the morning of the 29th of December he arrived at the cemetery, unlocked the gate. Later in the day he returned and there was the wreath – the team had arrived and departed without anyone seeing them, laid the wreath and “poof” they were gone. I think that we may be taking a ride in 2019 on the 29th of December to view this phenomenon. And the view is not too bad either!

Greeneville had many historic buildings and a walk down Main Street brings one back to what it may have been like to live there in the 1700 and 1800’s and through time.

Presbyterian Church - Circa 1780

The General Morgan Inn is a historic hotel in the center of town. There is a restaurant in the lobby that has great reviews. The interior lobby was a beautiful showplace. The bartender told us a story about performers that have stayed there. He said that the Temptations arrived a few days early for their performance at the Niswonger – they would have lunch in the restaurant and then gather around the lobby piano singing and taking requests from guests. He said that ZZ Top had stayed as well – band members would do some antique shopping, take walks and generally just kick back. The bartender said his vision of them as “hell raisers and beer drinkers” was gone after meeting them.

We are thinking that if someone is a super fan of a group performing in Greeneville it may be worth it to stay at the General Morgan Hotel and hang out with the talent.

We had asked for a referral for a local dinner spot from one of the Park service guides. She told us about a diner that was about 5 miles outside of Greenville. We decided to take the trek out there and see for ourselves. Wow – that was a great recommendation! The diner is called “The Gathering Place” – all of the food is homemade and the prices are super reasonable. They only take cash – I ate the daily special which was meatloaf and 2 sides with cornbread for just $7 – so delish – and hubby had the prime rib which also came with 2 sides. The slice of prime rib was at least an inch thick and covered the entire plate. We had heard that the Gooey cake was a must for dessert so for just $5 we ordered it and it did not disappoint – I tasted it and knew that the sugary, tasty, caramel goodness was a once in a while treat that was well worth the forkful.

After dinner we headed back to town, had a couple of cocktails at the General Morgan hotel and then headed to the Niswonger for the show. The performing arts center is an intimate venue with great sound system and we truly enjoyed the performance. There is no food, drinks or cocktails for sale in the venue. We assumed that was because it is adjacent to the high school. But ushers did hand out bottles of water with the programs which was a welcoming touch.

I highly recommend visiting this gem of a town if you are interested in American history, Tennessee history or just want to enjoy a walk down a street that seen much of history unfold. And……eat dessert!

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