With a hefty dose of Hurricane Delta. This being 2020, of course the remnants of a hurricane would wash over East Tennessee on a weekend where we had two penciled-in activities for the first time since forever.
Rogersville (Tennessee’s second oldest Town) is tucked up into the northeastern part of the state and has been on my sightseeing radar. On the National Register of Historic Places, our national UNESCO Heritage List if you will, the area was settled in 1775 by the grandparents of Davy Crockett; established as a town in 1789 by Joseph Rogers, an Irish immigrant; and listed on the NRHP in 1973.
On this particular weekend the town was celebrating its Heritage Days with a festival of artisans and craftsmen, just the “special offer” we needed to justify 98 minutes driving in each direction. Though, it is a sacrifice I am willing to make if there are cows, barn quilts, and one of few remaining “Rock City” barn signs along the way.
The “See Rock City” barn signs are genuine Americana, and are designated historic landmarks in Tennessee in particular. Beginning in 1935, one Clark Byers spent three decades painting the roofs of nearly 900 barns to direct travelers to a little spot in Chattanooga, Tennessee called Rock City, a tourist attraction atop Lookout Mountain. Byers is legendary for having braved bulls, slippery roofs, and lightning bolts to spread the sightseeing word.
The road we were traveling on is Tennessee’s First Road, appropriately named…US-11W and was the major road of its day; thus, many travelers would have seen the signs. In the 1960s, however as part of President Johnson’s highway beautification efforts under the “Ladybird Act,” many of these signs were painted over. Of the nearly 900 barns painted, ~100 are still in existence, with most being in Tennessee. Now you know, too.
Arriving in Rogersville was like dropping into Alexandria, Virginia. Federalist architecture rules the downtown, albeit on a much smaller scale. With the pouring rain falling considerably ahead of schedule I did not snap much, so a return visit is most definitely warranted.
Rogersville was a thoroughfare for settlers bound for Kentucky and Middle Tennessee; necessarily an Inn would need to be established for these weary travelers, along with three Presidents (Jackson, Polk, and Johnson) to spend the night. At one point during the Civil War the Union took up headquarters here, too.
It was at the Inn where we had lunch reservations. The setting on a rainy and cool early autumn afternoon could not have been more inviting.
I asked the server for a glass of their dry red. She suggested we taste their house red blend instead, and brought one out to sample. Hospitality. With our two red blends in hand we perused the limited menu (perhaps due to either COVID or the Festival), but no matter. The Roast Pork with Mashed Potatoes and Green Beans spoke to me, though I did sigh over the beans likely being cooked to death, a Southern tradition.
Most appreciatively the beans were not true Southern-style and still retained flavor. But that pork? The roast melted in my mouth faster than the butter on the warm roll. An incredible meal.
The rain still falling, we uncharacteristically ordered a dessert to share, a seasonal Pumpkin Cheesecake with Salted Caramel recommended by our server. No words.
Out of excuses to remain indoors, we ventured out, strolling amongst the vendors and open shops, admiring the architecture; and wishing the rain was not falling.
I do like local craftsmanship, especially this serving piece. You will see it again with a beautiful epicurean creation inside.
Not too much walking around after lunch, though. This is the Hawkins County Courthouse, the oldest original courthouse still in use in Tennessee. Some historians believe the structure is modeled after a design of Thomas Jefferson’s.
A beautiful private home along Main Street.
The Town Mural, to guide our walking tour on a better weather day.
The rain coming down more heavily, we called a lid. Along the soggy drive home, Americana of a political stripe.
“Hey Siri, name the most unexpected pairing you can think of?”
“Fireworks and Tanning Beds.”