If there’s one characteristic that sums up Northeast Tennessee, it’s the blue rolling hills that appear as if they are welcoming you to the region. The drive into Greeneville, Tennessee is one of those that you won’t soon forget with hilltop after hilltop passing you by as you peer out the window in wonder of what’s to explore.
The drive through the countryside soon gives way to a quietly bustling historic downtown, which is where I spent most of my afternoon. The streets are lined with adorable, old cottage style homes with front porches inviting you to stay a while. Anticipating spring had me thinking of my own front porch which led me to my first stop in Greeneville.
Broyles Emporium and Broyles General Store (located right next door) is just the right spot to grab all your gardening needs for this sunny season. What began as a
hatchery and feed in 1951 by David Broyles grandfather, now boasts everything from seed packets to lawn ornaments to horse feed. A local treasure and a helpful hand in picking out cabbage plants or finding a sweet Melissa and Doug toy for a loved child, Broyles is surely one to visit if you’re looking for help starting and styling your garden or lawn.
Wandering on towards the heart of downtown, and with an itch to find some ancient goodies, I found the Greeneville Antique Market. Owned and operated by two retired schoolteachers named Rebecca Wolfe and Vickie Gregory, I learned that the building itself started out as a stable in the 1990s and was converted into Miller’s Department Store in the 1930s. The three levels of varieties to explore lend to the old department store feel. But what is most likely the best part about Greeneville Antique Market is the fact that they pride themselves on being customer friendly. The prices aren’t sky high and you’ll likely find a piece of furniture at The Greeneville Sun People’s Choice Award winning shop that you can definitely afford to take home with a new purpose. If you’re looking for something to revamp a piece of your own furniture, the market stocks Annie Sloan Chalk Paint, perfect for making that old dining set new again. Visitors from all across the region come to this shop, knowing they’ll find helpful employees, an old treasure and something for their own crafty desires.
Just across the street lies Brolin and Bailey, an adorable country home decor and clothing shop. Named after the owner’s grandchildren, the shop is still young: about to turn two. Perhaps the most charming aspect of the shop is the tiny dog named “Malachi” who greets you as you enter. After the initial tail wag and puppy kisses, wander around and peruse the sweet scented gift items and home decor. As I journeyed to the back of the store, I discovered a women’s clothing section catering to plus size women. What got me the most excited is the specialty baby clothing and accessories, wonderful for a quick (and cute) shower gift.
After my visit to the streets of downtown Greeneville, I drove just a couple blocks to find another charming antique store called MacAbbey Road Antiques. This once private home boasts two floors of old finds and is still set up just like a home, with kitchen goodies on the counter and clothes hanging in the bedroom closet. If you’re very quiet and keep your eyes peeled, you’ll find the little shop cat appropriately named “Socks.”
Right on the edge of downtown lies the Andrew Johnson National Historic Site Visitors Center, where Andrew Johnson’s tailor shop is amazingly preserved within the site itself. I learned numerous interesting facts about the nation’s 17th POTUS, including the fact that he broke his apprenticeship at the age of fourteen because he fell in love with a girl whose parents did not approve of him. So he ran off to Greeneville and opened his tailor shop then went on to begin his political career. If you catch it at the right time of year, the site puts on shows as well.
Next up was my walking tour of downtown with Ms. Beverly on this chilly and windy day. But the sun was shining and we definitely made the most of our time together. She educated me on almost every little detail of Greeneville, things I never would have even noticed. She pointed out the first public school in town, the natural spring that’s no longer used, history of chimney in homes back in the day; no rock was left unturned with her. Perhaps one of my favorite parts of the tour was the Dickson-Williams Mansion, tucked right behind the famed
General Morgan Inn. The hand carved details and well-kept lawn drew me in as we walked up the steps in the fading sunlight. Inside, the home was decorated as it would have been back in the 1800s, with Victorian decor and slave quarters upstairs (only for the most trusted of the help). I felt like we could have spent another hour exploring Greeneville’s regal history complete with the City Garage Car Museum and the Greeneville-Greene County Museum. Ms. Beverly was the perfect guide full of inspiration and excitement.
After touring the home (and getting inspired to do more antiquing) I realized I was almost late for my dinner reservations at Brumley’s which is located in the General Morgan Inn. Thankfully, the walk to dinner was short because I had definitely worked up an appetite. The charming door that invites you into the hotel felt cozy. I immediately was at home and welcomed. The General Morgan Inn has been serving guests since 1884 and only shows signs of more growth. The high ceilings and detailed decor made it feel elegant, but not fussy or stuffy. I knew I had to come back and book a stay.
My seat at dinner was probably the best in the house: right in front of a large window which looked out onto a bustling downtown street. It gave me a sense of history, that I had lived a day in the “old” Greeneville and was about to go home and read a book by candlelight. Thankfully, the dinner nowadays is probably much more delicious than 150 years ago. I ordered a pork loin with brussel sprouts and sweet potatoes. The pork was wonderfully juicy and the sweet potato added a surprising sweetness. I’m big on desserts so I ordered a chocolate cake with a whipped topping plus strawberries and blueberries on top. Complete chocolate goodness, but not too sweet.
After my meal I was treated to a tour of the hotel by the chief engineer, Bronson. He was kind enough to show me around, give me a brief history and even unlocked a few of the rooms for me to explore. This historical hotel is one to put on your Must-Visit list.
Last, and quite possibly the highlight of my trip, was the Rhonda Vincent and The Rage show I attended at the impressive Niswonger Performing Arts Center. Each year, dozens and dozens of shows of all varieties perform at NPAC. From ballet to bluegrass, you’ll surely find one to suit your entertainment fancy. This particular show was like nothing I’ve seen. Rhonda dressed to the nines in glitter and gold but her voice was reminiscent of bluegrass singers of old. Not only was the show entertaining, but all of the staff were very helpful in assisting with finding my seat and greeting me with a friendly smile.
I couldn’t help but look at a few of their upcoming shows for another trip to Greeneville. From Ireland with Chloë Agnew and the Atlanta Pops Orchestra on March 17 to beloved children’s classics with Brown Bear, Brown Bear and Other Treasured Stories on April 1 and the legendary Clint Black on April 9, I’ll be making plans for another show at NPAC. Their season boasts top performers such as the Gibson Brothers, Broadway Comes to Greeneville, the Marshall Tucker Band and even Jack Hanna. For a complete list of upcoming shows, visit www.npacgreeneville.com.
It’s not hard to tell that Greeneville is a close-knit town, full of people who take pride in what they do and are aiming to do it even better. From homegrown shops, Presidents, walking through history, elegant meals in a regal inn to award winning performers, Greeneville is set to roll out the red carpet and welcome you to town.
For information on what to do, where to eat and more fun in Greeneville, go to www.visitgreenevilletn.com.