IThe King – Lancaster – McCoy – Mitchell House is the most historic house in Bristol, Virginia. The handmade brick residence was built 1816-1820 by Colonel James King on the highest point of his property overlooking the meadows where he raised cattle. The settlement was once known as “King’s Meadows” before it took the name of Bristol nearly half a century later.
Colonel James King and his son, the Reverend James King, were key figures in the founding and development of Bristol. They contributed to the business world through the iron business and the commerce of buying and selling. The Reverend James King gifted the land needed to create Bristol’s King University and served as pastor for two early Presbyterian churches. The King family occupied the house until 1853. President Andrew Jackson was a frequent visitor to the house and was escorted to Washington for his inauguration by William King. The house has watched a city grow up around it. Although it was located close to downtown, the property was not actually included inside the town limits when Goodson (Bristol) was incorporated in 1856. The residence housed the Sapling Grove post office from 1839-1853, and it was a stopping point for stagecoaches traveling from Abingdon to Blountville from 1839-1856. Mountain View High School, which later became Sullins College, began in the house in 1869.
In 1991, the Bristol Historical Association initiated a study to determine the oldest section of the home, the remainder of Colonel James King’s original dwelling. An elaborate map of Washington County, drawn by John Wood in 1820, marks the presence of the house with a small square and the legend “Colonel James King’s brick house.” Analysis by the Department of Historic Resources in Richmond, Virginia, revealed that the original structure consisted of a two-room plan, divided by a central winding stair case leading to two bedrooms upstairs. The formal entrance was originally on the north elevation. The central portion is presumed to be part of the original structure. The rear wing housing the kitchen is believed to have been added shortly after the original structure was constructed.
Several changes to the house were made by subsequent owners. In 1881, John J. Lancaster, a prominent wealthy banker of New York City, remodeled it for his mother and two maiden sisters as a gift. This work was done by prominent Bristol builder John Crowell. Crowell built the north half of the house in the late summer and autumn of 1881. In 1891, H.E. McCoy, the founder of Bristol’s Dominion National Bank, built a major addition to the house for a new living room entrance hall and portico redirecting the formal entrance to the east elevation. The addition completed an ingenious composition by connecting an identical two-story gabled façade1820 structure with a flat roofed “hyphen” which housed the bathroom above and formal entry hall below.
The house was purchased by Joseph D. Mitchell in 1899. Mitchell had arrived in Bristol in 1882, with only two dollars in his pocket, and he boarded at the house with Mrs. Thomas Lancaster. She put him in what is now the dining room, and when he later became wealthy, he confessed that on the first night he spent there, he vowed he would someday own the grand house on the hill overlooking the town. About nineteen years later, his dream came true. In 1903, Mitchell added a kitchen wing that is distinguished only by the ornate Carpenter Gothic wood columns. The house belonged to the Mitchell family for over 100 years. Mitchell’s daughter, Margaret, was born in the home in 1901 and lived there for 99 of her 102 years. Margaret willed the house and its contents to King College (now King University). The property has now been restored as the private residence of Daniel and Monica Shew.
The King – Lancaster – McCoy – Mitchell house, located two blocks from State Street at 54 King Street, was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1994 and included in the Solar Hill Historic District in 2001.