Elizabethton Walking Tour: Concluding the journey through local history

Published 9:05 am Friday, June 23, 2017

BY Mo Wilson & Andrew Alley


EDITOR’S NOTE: During the month of June two students from the Upward Bound program at ETSU are joining the Elizabethton Star for their Career Work Study. Mo Wilson is a rising senior at Science Hill High School and Andrew Alley is a rising senior at Tennessee High School. During the month they will be learning about Carter County and sharing their adventures with our readers.

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The Walking Tour allows people to expand their knowledge about Elizabethton’s past and the lifestyles of the people who lived before. The final section of the tour provides insight on the history of a growing downtown and how it evolved to what it is today.

The first stop on East Elk Avenue is the Banks Law Office. It was built in the 1930s and was originally the tavern where Andrew Johnson had his last drink. Right across the Doe River is Edwards Island Park.  Before the use of the current weir dam, an earlier dam diverted water in the stream to power nearby mills.  Continuing down East Elk will take one to the location of the Old Post Office. The building became a post office in 1908, and E.C. Alexander owned it until C.C. Hacker made it into medical offices.

Next door to the Old Post office is Barnes Boring Hardware. The establishment was first opened on February 26, 1900 with J.M. Barnes and J.R. Boring as principal stockholders. Their ownership lasted 30 years before their deaths that were just months apart. Across the street is the former location of Burgie’s Drugs. Dr. E.E. Hunter and Harry Burgie opened the drugstore in 1885. After seeing Burgie’s Drugs, the Betsy Walkway can be seen adjacent to it. The Betsy Walkway was originally the location of The Grand Theater, which burned down in the fall of 1927. Turning onto South Sycamore will take one to the Public Library. It served as Elizabethton’s main post office, and a man named James A. Wetmore designed it in 1931. In 1992, the building was converted into a library.

The remaining four landmarks finish off the walking tour. The Ritz Theater was built in the 1920’s by Thomas Construction Company with the intention of it becoming a movie theater. The S.H. Kress Building was constructed in 1929. An old news report in the Elizabethton Star stated that the store would have an abundance of sales men, sales ladies, and counter space. The Bonnie Kate Theater was built on South Sycamore Street and formally opened in 1926. Crowds of people would fill the seats of the theater to enjoy many of the films presented. The final destination on the tour is the antique Fire Engine that can be seen on the corner of Hattie Avenue and South Sycamore Street at the Elizabethton Fire Department. Rather than carrying water to extinguish flames, the 1921 Model T carried chemicals. While it is not used anymore, the old engine is still brought out each year for the city’s annual Christmas Parade.

The Elizabethton Walking Tour provides people the opportunity to travel back in time and learn about the history of Elizabethton. Each landmark is an additional chapter to the rich history book this town has to offer.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the third and final part of a three-part series on the Elizabethton Walking Tour through the historic downtown area. Part One was published in the Elizabethton Star’s Weekend Edition for June 17 & 18. Part Two was published on Tuesday, June 20.