Museums of the Tri-Cities
This driving tour includes a dozen of the leading museums and historic sites in Johnson City, Kingsport, and Bristol. The museum concludes at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum.
Just outside of Johnston City, Tennessee lies the 45 acre former home of John Tipton. This area of Tennessee was once occupied by Woodland Period Indians, who hunted the Buffalo that grazed freely beside the natural springs that flow from the property. The site is now owned and operated by the State of Tennessee as a historical site and museum dedicated to the memory of one of the states earliest settlers and supporters for statehood. There are eleven buildings, a limestone cave, and a visitor center to explore and learn about life in frontier Appalachia. Throughout the year, the site offers seasonal activities that also depict life as it would have been for the Tipton family. As you explore the property you will also find natural springs, gardens growing with plants of the period, buffalo traces, and many more things that make for an enjoyable and educational day.
For more than 80 years the Reece Museum has told the many stories of Appalachia. Housing over 20,000 artifacts, the Reece collection captures the region's past as well as its contemporary art and culture. As one of the first museums in Tennessee to be accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, the Reece continues to meet AAM's high standards of excellence. Currently, the Reece is one of only twleve museums in Tennessee to receive this accreditation.
The George L. Carter Railroad Museum was established in November 2007 on the campus of East Tennessee State University [ETSU] in Johnson City, TN. Displays at the museum feature a variety of model railroading locomotives, rolling stock, structures, railroad memorabilia, and toy trains. The facility showcases three operating layouts--each designed using different scales--that highlight the role of the railroad industry in Southern Appalachian. Volunteers from the Mountain Empire Model Railroader club operate the museum's model railroads and share information about both model railroading and historic railroads near Johnson City.
Established as the Mountain Branch Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers in 1901, this complex of historic and modern medical buildings is a National Historic Landmark. The chapel, theater, library, and mess hall were all built between 1901 and 1905 and may be toured by visitors who call in advance of their visit. The mess hall holds a small museum dedicated to the complex's history as well as the history of medical care.
Hands On! Regional Museum offers over 20,000 square feet of exhibit space for children to explore the science of different occupations and diverse natural environments. In addition to dynamic special exhibits and programs that offer a different experience each month, the museum features over 20 permanent, interactive exhibits for all ages.
Located in Johnson City, at the headquarters of General Shale Brick, is the Museum of Ancient Brick. This museum is the only facility in the United States dedicated to the history of brick-making and construction.
Rocky Mount is a living history museum located at the homestead of William Cobb, an early settler who arrived in the region in 1770. During the Revolutionary War, Cobb helped to supply the local patriots with gunpowder, horses, and food on their way to the Battle of King's Mountain. After the establishment of the United States, the region became known as the Southwest Territory. Settlers in the area attempted to create the state of Franklin, but this action was never recognized by the US government and the area became part of Tennessee. Today, Cobb's claim is a state historic site administered cooperatively by the Rocky Mount Historical Association and the Tennessee Historical Commission.
Visitors to the museum can see exhibits of fossil remains ad even tour an active research lab. Children will enjoy the “Dig Pit” which allows them to explore for their own discoveries as well as interactive touch screens and simulators. The museum is best-known for its collection of fossils that were uncovered from the nearby Gray Fossil site which discovered in May 2000. These date back to the Miocene era )4 million years ago) and include a wide variety of prehistoric animals such as the shovel-tusked elephant, pot-bellied rhino, saber-tooth cat, and various species of alligator.
Visited by several United States' presidents including Presidents Andrew Jackson, Andrew Johnson and James K. Polk, The Netherland Inn and Museum is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The structure dates back to the early 19th century, although the exact date of its construction remains unclear. The restored hotel is part of the Boatyard Historic District of Kingsport, Tennessee, located along the Holston River. The inn is the only National Historic Site which functioned as both a boatyard and a stagecoach stop and has been rebuilt and restored with antique furnishings.
Exchange Place will take you back to agricultural life in the scenic Tennessee Valley of the 1830s, 40s and 50s. Exchange Place is a beautiful living history site boasting over a dozen rustic cabin-style historic structures and buildings, and the site is complete with gardens, crops and heritage breed livestock. Come retreat into the past and join us by checking out our website to see our upcoming events and festivals!
Located in the historic Paramount Theater, the Paramount Center for the Arts is the region's premiere center for the performing arts. The theater was built in 1931 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. Like many other historic theaters, the Paramount fell into disrepair and might have been lost had it not been for the efforts of historic preservationists who restored the Art Deco theater to its former splendor in 1991.
An affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, The Birthplace of Country Music Museum in Bristol, Tennessee tells the story of the importance of Bristol to the history of country music. It was in Bristol in the summer of 1927 that record producer Ralph Peer of the Victor Talking Machine Company conducted the first recording sessions with 19 performers, most notably Jimmie Rodgers and The Carter Family. These sessions, known as the "Bristol Sessions," launched the commercialization of country music and Johnny Cash would later say that was "the most important event in the history of country music." The Museum regularly presents educational programs, concerts, jam sessions, film screenings, lectures, and workshops.