BHA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and has owned and preserved a number of properties over the last 20 years including the E.W. King House, the Tennessee Ernie Ford House, the I.C. Fowler House, and the Robert Preston House. Although BHA's original charter did not include acquiring real estate, its mission to identify, preserve, interpret, and promote Bristol's heritage and culture has led to the ownership and protection of a number of historic structures. Most notable of the properties that BHA has been instrumental in protecting is the Bristol Train Station. By placing the Train Station under its non-profit umbrella until the Train Station Foundation acquired tax exempt status, BHA was able to initiate fundraising for the successful restoration of what is now a thriving downtown asset and source of pride for the community at large. In other cases, through temporary ownership of important properties like the E.W. King House and the I.C. Fowler House, BHA has found new owners with the vision and ability to restore these pieces of Bristol's historic fabric and preserve them for future generations to learn from.
The Development of
After Bristol was planned and laid out in 1852, one would have expected the earliest development to have been along Main (now State) Street. The first two buildings erected in the new town, the homes of Joseph R Anderson and Dr. B.F. Zimmerman, did face Main Street. It is clear that an effort was made to be near the railroad and depot, and that was the trend in those early years of Bristol’s existence. Instead of quickly moving down State Street, early builders sought lots along Fourth Street that ran parallel with the railroad. It should be told here that Fourth Street became known as Front Street. It is now Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Business houses and residences were built along its course.
Third and Washington Streets, running parallel with the railroad on the east side of the tracks, saw much of the town’s early residential development. It may come as a surprise to many to know that for years these two streets were the most elite residential sections of Bristol. Many of the “first families” of Bristol lived there. The time came when people avoided building along the tracks. However, in early Bristol such a location was regarded as a status symbol.
The first hotel in Bristol was located within a half block of the depot. This was the Columbia, erected in 1854. The second hotel, the Virginia House (sometimes called Langhorne’s Tavern), quickly followed the Columbia. It was erected on Fourth (later Front) Street across from the depot. The large mercantile firm of W.W. James early located on the corner of Fourth and Main, a choice location near the depot. Other business firms soon opened along Fourth Street.
Within a very short time development did push westward along Main Street. This was both commercial and residential. As late as the 1890's, homes still stood here and there in the business section of downtown Bristol. I have talked to older citizens here who well remembered when the 800 block of present State Street was largely residential. This mixture of business – residential long existed on Shelby and Cumberland Streets.
The big residential expansion came in 1874, when Solar and Virginia Hills were opened for development. These were quickly followed by King’s First Addition to the south and the Burson- Delaney additions to the west. And now, more than one hundred fifty years later, Bristol continues to spread outward, further and further from her beginning point.
History is told through the buildings and homes in a city. The Bristol Historical Association promotes an interest in the history of Bristol by designating properties with historical significance. A generous contribution from Mr. William W. “Bud” Walling financed the cost of the first twenty-five plaques. Much credit is due to the late Mr Walling for his vital part in the promotion of the Landmark Designation program.
Are you interested in applying for a Landmark Marker for your historical building? If so, please complete the Historical Landmark Marker Application Form.
Historic Marker Gallery
Bristol, Virginia Markers.
BRISTOL UNION RAILWAY STATION
(DHR, 2018)* – On the east side of Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard near State Street at the Bristol Train Station.
(VCC - 1948)* – At the entrance to Sugar Hollow Park on Lee Highway.
COL. JOHN S. MOSBY
(DAR, 1962) – At the northeast intersection of Piedmont Avenue and Scott Street.
FIRST BURIAL IN EAST HILL CEMETERY
(PM, 2012)* – Near the grave of Nellie Gaines in East Hill Cemetery.
(CDC, 1927) – On the southwest corner of State Street and Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard.
SLAVE SECTION OF EAST HILL CEMETERY
(PM, 2012) – In East Hill Cemetery
WALNUT GROVE PLANTATION
(DHR, 2018) – Beside the Preston House on Lee Highway.
Bristol, Tennessee Markers.
BIRTHPLACE OF BRISTOL
(THC) – On the southwest corner of State Street and Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard.
(THC) - On the southwest corner of State Street and Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard.
(PM) – Near the grave of V.N. “Bud” Phillips in East Hill Cemetery.
(JKC 52, SCV) – On the south side of State Street just west of the Norfolk Southern railroad tracks.
(THC) – On the south side of State Street just west of Pennsylvania Avenue.
EVAN SHELBY’S FORT
(THC) – On the front wall of the historic E.W. King Building on the south side of Shelby Street just east of 7th Street.
(THC) – On the east side of Volunteer Parkway just south of Avoca Road.
FOUNDER OF BRISTOL
(PM) – Near the grave of Joseph Rhea Anderson in East Hill Cemetery.
(FCC, NSDAR, 2009)* –At the Old Custom House (former Bristol Tennessee Post Office), 620 Shelby Street.
JOHN ISAAC COX
(THC) – At the intersection of Maplehurst Drive and Highway 394.
(THC) – On the east side of Volunteer Parkway just north of Avoca Road.
MISSISSIPPI COUNTRY: THE BRISTOL SESSIONS
(MCMT, 2019)* – On the southwest corner of State Street and Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard.
ORIGINAL SITE OF KING COLLEGE
(PM)* – On the grounds at the front of Gregory Pharmaceutical Holdings, 501 Fifth Street.
TENNESSEE ERNIE FORD’S BIRTHPLACE
(THC)* – In the yard of his home at 1223 Anderson Street.
THE BRISTOL MUNICIPAL STADIUM: THE STONE CASTLE
(THC) – On the stone wall of the stadium at Bristol Tennessee High School on Weaver Pike near Edgemont Avenue.
FCC, NSDAR – Fort Chiswell Chapter, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution.
CDC – Conservation & Development Commission.
DAR – Erected Dec. 8, 1962 by Anne Carter Lee Chapter, Mathew Fontaine Maury Chapter, United Daughters of the Confederacy.
DHR – Virginia Department of Historic Resources.
JKC 52, SCV – James Keeling Camp 52, Sons of Confederate Veterans.
MCMT – Donated to Bristol by the Mississippi Country Music Trail in recognition of “Blue Yodeler” Jimmie Rodgers and his Mississippi-bred music and style. Rodgers was among the artists participating in the 1927 “Bristol Sessions” considered by some music historians to be “The Big Bang of Country Music.”
PM – Private Marker.
THC – Tennessee Historical Commission.
VCC – Virginia Conservation Commission.