Somewhere in time, the Lynnwood Hotel

Published 5:31 pm Wednesday, February 22, 2023

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BY C.Y. Peters
This week the Lynnwood Hotel will close its doors forever; that was late May 1972. The historic Carter County Landmark was scheduled to be demolished to make way for Elizabethton’s urban renewal area.
Built in 1904 by the Cooperative Town, a stock company organized with a vision and support by local residents who believed that Elizabethton could support a first-class hotel. The Lynnwood was named after forest-covered Lynn  Mountain, which could be viewed from the hotel. Rooms were priced at .35 cents in the early years to .75 cents in the 1930s.
After the timber was exhausted, the boom here collapsed, not to be re-inflated until the mid-1920s.  Records in the County Register’s office show that W.P. Dungan was the purchaser of the property in 1905 and sold it to Lee Miller in 1906. M.N. Murrell bought the property the year he closed the old Wilder Hotel in Roan Mountain.
Later the hotel passed into the hands of the Virginia Lumber Company, which operated it through a lessee. It was operated by the Anderson Hotel with James Atkins as manager. The hotel was named the Governor Taylor Hotel for the famed brothers, Bob and Alf, but Hughes changed the name back to the Lynnwood.
The most famous individuals that would visit the area and stay at the Lynnwood Hotel may surprise you. The visit occurred in the summer of 1918. This group of male visitors called themselves “vagabonds” and came through this area to visit Dr. Derthick of Milligan College while en route to the Smokey Mountains to enjoy a camping trip. The gentleman that had connections to Dr. Derthick was none other than Henry Ford, the founder of the Ford Motor Company and creator of mass production of vehicles. Ford became one of the richest and best-known people in the world. Accompanying Ford was a group of wealthy and influential people. Among them were Harvey Firestone Sr. and Harvey Firestone Jr. The Firestone family founded the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company and was one of the first global producers of automobile tires. The last member of the group was none other than Thomas Edison. As most everyone is well aware, Edison was arguably the most famous inventor of all time and was credited with 1,093 patents for inventions during his life. His most well-known inventions include the light bulb, the phonograph and the movie camera.
A new edition housing a cafeteria, 15 air-conditioned rooms, a kitchen and offices was added by Teddy Sicos of Wheelwright, Kentucky, in June of 1947. Early advertisements listed the Lynnwood Hotel as the Heart of the Alleghenies and summoned vacationers to a “Summer Day in the Mountains.” As was promised, the hotel provided hot and cold running water, telephone and electric lights in every room and steam heat. The hotel’s steps became the ideal gathering location for prominent speeches and political debates.
Many citizens didn’t want to see the hotel torn down. One lady said, “This has been a home for a lot of people, I hate to see the old regulars go.”
In the first quarter century, it opened its doors to important personages. Herbert Hoover, at the peak of his successful campaign for the presidency in 1928, stayed here. The crown Prince of Saxony, who headed a group of German financiers stayed here, for the opening of Bemberg’s companion plant Glanzstoff.
For its last three decades or more, it was the social meeting place of East Tennessee. The hotel hosted Warren G. Harding, who was an influential self-made newspaper publisher from Ohio. Harding would later become the 29th President of the United States.
Its white brick construction was enhanced by a picket fence that surrounded the landscaped grounds.  Two round fish pools had bubbling fountains in the summer, and blossoming flowers added to the beauty of the grounds. The wide porch extended the entire front of the building and was on the east side next to the river.
In earlier years, tennis courts and stables were included on the grounds. Many of the hotel patrons arrived by train and were met at the Southern Depot at E & Pine Street. The young folks of the 1920 era recall the name bands which appeared at the Lynnwood for dances. Duke Baron’s band was stranded here during a depression year; they spent the winter.
One of the highlights of the Lynnwood was the good old days’ movie that was made there. Chips, the star of the movie, was a well-known Carter County Dentist, Dr. Tom Gross. Many of the townspeople entered into the excitement of the filming. The premier was held at the Grand Theater operated by R.W. Sherrill and Charlie Burrow, projectionist. Prior to the premiere of “Chips” local society enjoyed an elaborate dinner party at the Lynnwood.
A stay was also recorded by William Jennings Bryan. Bryan was a leading American politician who would unsuccessfully run for the United States Presidency three times. Although Bryan would never win the Presidency, President Woodrow Wilson would appoint him the 41st United States Secretary of State.
The Lynnwood hosted church bazaars, and spelling bees to raise money for the Red Cross and other worthy causes. Mrs. Crawford Alexander ran the dining room and served bountiful meals. A billiards table and bowling alley was located in the basement.
The hotel was always the center of political and community life. October 6, 1928, was one of the biggest days when “Hoover Day in Dixie” marked the second annual Industrial Celebration. Over the years every major political candidate who visited Elizabethton spoke from the front porch of the hotel as did every Tennessee governor for 60 years.
The Lynnwood Hotel would continue its success until the early 1970s. Within the Lynnwood complex in its final days were apartments, a well-known cafeteria and a dance studio. For me, the fun part about going to town on Saturdays was climbing up those large steps and going to John’s record bar where you could buy a 45 record for about .50 back in the early 1970s. At that time a barber shop along with some other stores at the hotel part had closed down. Sadly, in May of 1972, the property was sold by owners Teddy and Polly Sisco to the Urban Renewal Project for $178.000. A public auction was held to sell the contents including beds, wall hangings and all furniture. The structure was demolished later that year to improve parking on the east end of town.

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