The Photography of D L Ennis, and more!


Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Chester Inn , Jonesborough Tennessee

Since 1797 the Chester Inn has stood proudly on 116 West Main Street in Jonesborough. Built by Dr. William P. Chester of Berlin, Pennsylvania, has earned a reputation as the first boarding house in eastern Tennessee. As the stage coach line developed on what became known as the "Great Stage Road", the inn was enlarged. The porch and front facade were rebuilt in 1883 in the Italianate style, and the structure has been continuously occupied as an inn, a hotel, and an apartment building. Many famous people have stayed at the inn, including United States Presidents Andrew Jackson, James K. Polk, and Andrew Johnson, and John Sevier, governor of the state of Franklin and Tennessee’s first governor. President Jackson held a reception for his friends on the porch of the inn during the summer of 1832, the year he was elected president for a second term. (photo above of vintage postcard labeled "Jonesboro Inn, Andrew Jackson's Headquarters")

Dr. Chester, as a physician in a small frontier town, found it necessary to supplement his income. It was here that Dr. Chester operated his apothecary shop in the late 1790s and early 1800s. Over the years, the cellar has been home to a variety of businesses and the Jonesborough public library. In 1797, the two rooms on the east side of the second floor were the parlor and the dining room. In the parlor, the Inn's guests sat around the fireplace and swapped stories. Breakfast, dinner, and supper were prepared in the nearby kitchen building and served to hungry travelers in the dining room. During the early days of the Chester Inn, beds lined the walls of the two large rooms on the third floor of the east side of the building. A weary traveler, eager for a good night's sleep, could rent a bed for himself or even share a bed with another guest for a lesser fee.
(photo above of Chester Inn after restoration)

The Inn, quite luxurious for the time, was the first inn on the Tennessee frontier to provide featherbeds. It was here that Andrew Jackson chose to spend many nights. In 1836, the Inn was doubled in size, adding private rooms on the second and third floors of the west side of the building. From the Inn's back porch, you will see two connected buildings. The original building from 1797, which housed the kitchen, is on the east side. The cooking was done in a separate building from the lodging rooms to reduce the chance that a kitchen fire would destroy the main part of the inn. The building on the west side is the "new" dining room built in 1836 to accommodate the expanded number of lodging rooms. A second floor was added to the new dining room in 1892 to provide four more lodging rooms.

The restoration of the inn began in the early 1990s after it was purchased by the State of Tennessee. A paint analysis showed 97 thick layers of paint on the outside of the building. After much discussion, the decision was made to restore the building to its 1890s appearance because of the Victorian porch.

During this time period, most paints were tinted with natural materials such as clay. The colors you see on the Inn today were used originally because it disguised the dirt which was splashed on the building by street traffic, which consisted of horses, wagons, and the Stagecoach.

The Inn, an honored historic site, has been restored and furnished in the spirit of the 1890's.


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