Downtown walking tour provides glimpse of the past

Published 12:35 pm Friday, April 16, 2021

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There are many “walking” opportunities in Elizabethton – the Tweetsie Trail, Linear Path, and shorter walking paths in local parks such as the Cat Island Park, Senior Citizens Park, etc. And, many residents choose to walk downtown at night on the lighted sidewalks.
However, one walking trail that is often overlooked is the Elizabethton Walking Tour, which actually is a step back in time. Elizabethton is home to many historic structures that date as far back as the 1800s, some of which can be seen on the Elizabethton Walking Tour. Elizabethton has a prominent place in Tennessee history. In fact, one can rightfully say that Tennessee began here. History can be found on almost every street corner as there are many historical landmarks. Not only are the landmarks educational, but they are extremely appealing to the eye.
Included among the historic structures on the downtown walking tour are a number of houses, the historic Covered Bridge, Sycamore tree, as well as the Elizabethton-Carter Library. Each of these landmarks is highly recommended to visit as they will further your appreciation of Elizabethton’s history.
Many of the houses possess qualities associated with Georgian architecture – such as the Rhudy House and the Dr. Bowers House (now owned by Mr. and Jim Wilson) – are symmetrical in terms of their outer appearance. The Range House, Garland House, and the Old Girls Academy (Roberts home on S. Main St.) have an abundant amount of windows to increase the intricacy of their design., not to mention that the outer walls of the Old Girls Academy are one-foot thick
The Hunter and Franklin Cottages were both built by Dr. E.E. Hunter and are located on Riverside Dr. across from the Covered Bridge.. Both houses were originally built without kitchens.
Although many of the homes on the tour were inspired by Georgian architecture, the Dungan House (the purple house)  located at the corner of Hattie Avenue and Riverside Drive was created based on Victorian architecture. Rather than focusing on symmetry, the Dungan House is focused around the intricacy of the design as seen on its pillars and its gingerbread trim. It is sometimes known as the Gingerbread cottage.
Other homes on the tour include the Alfred Moore Carter Home, built in 1819 on Forge St. (now E. Elk Ave.). The house is located on the site of an old Indian village. The house went through restoration and became the Carter at Main Restaurant in Dec. 2004. The Carters were very active in the Civil War and supported the Union cause
Across the street is the Folsom House, built by Henderson Folsom around 1861. This portion of Elk Avenue was known as Forge Street due to the location of an iron forge located at the base of Lynn Mountain and operated by the Carters. 
Folsom was the only commissioned officer from Carter County in the Confederate Army. He was a well-known lawyer in town. His neighbor on the north side of the street was a famed Union Army officer.
Located on the lawn of the Folsom House is an 86-foot Fraser fir, which has been decorated as the town’s Christmas tree since 1988.
Other historical structures in that end of town are the Soldiers Monument and Carter County Courthouse. The Monument was constructed in 1912 and dedicated in 1913 to all soldiers from the Revolution to that time. 
Civil War veterans, Union and Confederate, worked together to carry the bedrock to the base of the Monument as an act of solidarity. In the 1920s and 1930s, before radio and TV, hundreds of local residents would gather around the Monument and in the Courthouse yard to await the election results, which were read by the clerk at the courthouse.
Located behind the courthouse is the St. Thomas Episcopal Church, which was formerly the Southern Methodist Church.  The Methodists are among the first organized religious believers in the city, dating back to 1833. They first worshipped in the courthouse and later at Duffield School. The Civil War divided the local congregation, and the Southern Methodists built their own church. The building was started in 1861, interrupted by the Civil War, and finally completed in 1867.
Across the street from the courthouse is the Wedding Chapel at 201 N. Main St. Formerly a Presbyterian Church, it is probably the oldest church in the city, dating back to 1836. Among the first members were the Carters, Taylors, Duffield, Smiths, Stovers, and Camerons. The Civil War almost forced the church to close as many of the leading families were slave owners, and moved away.
Other points of interest in that end of town include the Shepherd House at 217 Academy, which was built before 1984 and was constructed by the owners of the Doe River Woolen Mills. To the right of the house was the only site in that area where settlers forded the river with horses and wagons.
Beside the Shepherd house is the Duffield Academy, which was established Sept. 13, 1806. The original brick building was erected in 1838. The school for many years was operated by the Elizabethton City School System. Since 1969 it has served as the administrative office of the Carter County School System.
There are 30 sites in downtown, which include businesses on Elk Avenue. While the above named are only a few examples of the structures to see on the walking tour, there are still many more historical landmarks to admire and they are waiting to be enjoyed by those who yearn to seek knowledge about Elizabethton and its roots.
Uptown is the Bonnie Kate Theater, the antique fire engine located at the Central Fire Station across from City Hall, the S.H. Kress Building, the Betsy Walkway, local library, Barnes-Boring  Hardware, Banks Law Office, the old post office, Ritz Theatre building, and newer sites such as the Veterans Walkway and Monument, and a sentimental landmark, the Estep Coal building.
Copies of the Elizabethton Walking Tour brochure can be picked up at the Elizabethton-Carter County Chamber of Commerce building, located downtown Elizabethton.

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