Robert Preston Home

Walnut Grove plantation has been given the approval for Highway Marker from the State of Virginia

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The Robert Preston House at Walnut Grove, located on Lee Highway near Exit 7 has great importance to Washington County. This home and its log dependency were constructed around 1780 by Robert Preston, a member of the leading political family in southwest Virginia during the era of the American Revolution. Robert Preston was given his commission as surveyor of Washington County in 1779 by Thomas Jefferson who was the governor of Virginia at that time.

The house has "retained remarkable architectural integrity from the period of its original construction," says John Kern, director of the Roanoke Regional Preservation Office of the Department of Historic Resources. Robert was one of the founding fathers of Washington County, and his home is comparable to Smithfield Plantation at Virginia Tech. On July18, 2002, this Walnut Grove home was found eligible for listing in the Virginia Landmarks Register of Historic Places. This listing will be important to receive grants and funds for rehabilitation. The property can become a major tourist destination for our area.
It is absolutely essential to preserve Walnut Grove as a property that can provide wonderful opportunities for interpretation of history of pioneer settlement in southwest Virginia. The house has been given to the Bristol Historical Association by developer Mack Trammell but the land was not included. In December, 2011, the Bristol Historical Association purchased this land, a one acre portion of the Walnut Grove Plantation

The initial work to insure the moving and preservation of this important landmark has been done by the Bristol Historical Association.

For further information please contact
Jan Rainero at  or
Amy Hopper at

E.W. King Home

E. W. King House Sale in December 2016

President Tim Buchanan reported the highlights of 2016 and the sale of the E. W. King House in his Inside History Newsletters of October, November, and December which may be found in the Newsletter section of the BHA web site

In October of 2016, the Board of Directors of BHA accepted an offer to purchase the E. W. King House, a true Bristol landmark. The stipulations of the sell was to include covenants to protect the integrity of the exterior of the house as well as place it into the hands that will restore the house in the very near future.

The BHA Board was encouraged with this transaction, and the sale of this historic house was complete to Tom Herbert December 15, 2016. The association had campaigned for many years to restore this landmark into a local house museum. Due to the rising expenses of such a project, the Board of Directors voted to change plans and find a suitable buyer for the house.

With the upcoming transaction, it was necessary to have a "Tag Sale" to sale a number of the furnishings and other items that had been stored to be used in the planned museum. The sale was held Saturday, November 19, at the E. W. King House. Victorian furniture, including numerous Eastlake chairs, settees and a marble-top table, a 1920's Victoria phonograph, a White Sewing Machine, patterned china decor, and many books were made available for sale to the public. Everything was sold but four items, and many BHA members and citizens of Bristol helped pack to store in office space made available to us.

We have many people to thank for their work, including Nedra Hartley for chairing the House committee and Sale committee, Rick Armstrong with the TCI Group, and attorney Randy Kennedy. The Bristol Historical Association was able to preserve the E. W. King House, and it will continue to be a treasured landmark in Bristol and in Bristol's history.

Ernie Ford Home

In 1991, the Bristol Historical Association was very much in need of a meeting place in addition to a storage place for memorabilia. About this time, it was learned that a house on Anderson Street in Bristol, Tennessee was available for purchase. The house, while outwardly unassuming was actually of historical significance. It wasn’t long before the Association decided that this house, located at 1223 Anderson Street was just what was needed. This house was the birthplace of Tennessee Ernie Ford.

The Ford House, as it has since become known was ideal for the organization. It was large enough for the needs of the Association, and it also allowed the organization to become actively involved in preserving a bit of Bristol's history. However, prior to proceeding with the plan to restore the house, Ernie Ford was contacted to detennine his feelings about the project. He was elated to discover the intentions of the Association. When he returned to Bristol for the grand opening of the Paramount Center for the Arts, he met with members of the organization on several occasions. Later, upon his return to California, the organization received several phone calls from him, desiring to know how the restoration was progressing.

When the investigation of the history of the house began it was discovered, with some surprise, that it was built in the early 1900s. Its immediate former owner, a Southwest Virginia native living in Florida, had purchased the house to use when she returned to the area for visits. During one of her absences the house suffered a severe fire. Following the fire, a great deal repair was necessary, and the original design was altered during renovation. These alterations assumed several forms including putting aluminum siding over the imitation brick siding, which had previously been installed over the original clapboard siding. Inside, the house took on a modern look with narrow woodwork and small windows. The two original fireplaces were covered over as they were no longer needed when electric baseboard heaters were installed. The wooden floors were covered with carpet.

Restoration on the interior began with replacing the narrow woodwork. The next big project was to uncover the two fireplaces and locate suitable mantels. These were found in an old house being demolished, which was located just down the street. Four windows needed replacement and were obtained from another old house which was being demolished. The mantles and windows were covered with several coats of paint which had to be removed before being replaced. Later, bead board ceiling, recovered from an old house, was used in the living room and bath. Carpeting was removed from the living room floor, and a pine floor was installed.

At about this stage of the restoration, the site was visited by a representative from the Tennessee Historical Restoration department. He was well pleased with the efforts and later forwarded some literature which proved valuable in the remaining restoration efforts.
The property surrounding the house was also in need of some maintenance. A large walnut tree had to be removed as it was in danger of falling and causing damage to the house. Following the removal of the tree, the front and back yards were graded and planted in grass. A six foot board fence was constructed to enclose the back yard. Bulbs, perennials and shrubbery were planted. The driveway has been graded and graveled. A new sidewalk has been constructed in front of the house.

To meet the requirements of the Tennessee Historical Restoration regulations, several changes had to be made to the exterior of the house. The aluminum siding, as well as the imitation brick siding had to be removed. Much of the original clapboard siding also had to be replaced.

In 1995 additional interior renovations were undertaken. Old bead board ceilings were purchased and installed in the middle and back rooms as well as in the kitchen. All ceilings are now pine bead board which is consistent with the early 1900s. Carpet was taken up in the middle and back rooms and pine floors were installed. Modern interior doors were replaced with period doors from a demolished house. Lighting was upgraded in the middle and back rooms to accommodate the needs of the Bristol Historical Association. The house received a new coat of paint on the inside and outside. The driveway was paved in 1996.
Regarding the decoration of the interior the front room and bathroom were dedicated to Tennessee Ernie Ford and his family. Furnishings from the era when the Ford family resided at the house have been purchased or donated. Ernie said he could remember being scrubbed in the old original bathtub. The middle room honors the country music heritage of this region, and tile walls are decorated with plaques from the original Country Music Foundation recognizing several early musicians. The room is used by Bristol Historical Association for various committee meetings. The back room serves as a work area and has storage space for memorabilia. It is the actual room in which Tennessee Ernie was born on February 13, 1919.

Much time and effort have gone into this ongoing project. Bristol Historical Association is appreciative of individuals and businesses that have assisted in our commitment to maintain links to the past.

Bristol Depot

The present train depot is the fourth depot to be built on the land donated to the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad by Rev. James King in 1848. In 1902, John P. Pettyjohn & Company of Lynchburg, Virginia built this depot, then known as the Union Station. George Washington Pettyjohn was the superintendent of construction for the station. The cost was $79,063. Because it was built on a surface of fill, concrete support columns were sunk 20 feet into the ground to a solid rock base.
Early pictures show a large building with a limestone wall and brick upper walls. Intricate plaster on woodwork relief was designed for the tops of several windows. Later a 326 foot tin roof passenger shed was added to run the length of the station from front to back. At one time, the building's main feature was a two-story tower. On the first floor were a newsstand, lunch counter, smoking room and men's toilet. The second story housed railway offices. The long, narrow single story mid-section of the station housed the ticketing and waiting room which was divided into areas for men and women. It had a 36 foot ceiling. The east end of the station was originally partitioned into the baggage and express rooms.
A large grassy sloping bank was on the Front Street side of the depot where an iron fence and sidewalk were added. A roundhouse to turn the trains around and a warehouse were built soon after the construction of the 1902 building.
The depot served Bristol for nearly seventy years. Hauling coal and freight was the main job, but it also provided a widely admired passenger service with clean coaches, sparkling diners, and posh lounge cars. In the 1950's, Norfolk and Western phased out the steam engines, and the 1960's saw a steady decline in all rail service. In 1971 passenger service was discontinued. Bristol continues to serve as a division point and crew change for the merged Norfolk Southern. About a dozen trains a day come and leave Bristol.
The Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission placed the depot on the state landmark register noting that the station "richly deserves this official recognition as one of the Commonwealth's historic resources." It was also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Terry / Bonham House

The Terry / Bonham House was originally built by Colonel John Terry in 1870. The building style is Greek revival. Its initial design was a six room shotgun house which faced Edmond Street formerly known as Terry Street. The house was purchased by Joseph Beyer in the 1800's. In 1910, he removed four rooms from the back portion of the house and turned the house to face Lee Street. He then added the second story and three rooms to the right of the house.
In the mid 1900's the Bonham family rented the house. They were known for the many parties and dances given in the house. Today there are still individuals that attended socials at 422 Lee Street, and they fondly remembered the Bonhams and still refer to the house as the "Bonham House".
In 1976, Dr. and Mrs. James M. Otis (Brenda) purchased the house. They converted it back to a single family dwelling. For the previous 30 or 40 years it had been a two unit apartment house. The integrity of the house has remained intact throughout the years.

C.C. Minor House

On the second day of the Johnson Land Purchase, July 1871, Jacob R. Crumley purchased lots 150, 151, and 152. These lots stood at the corner of Lee Street and Mary Street in Bristol, Virginia. Dr. C. C. Minor purchased lots 150 and 151, total 5/8 of an acre from the Town of Goodson in Apri1, 1879. Shortly thereafter, in January 1880, a lawsuit concerning payment of the property was filed. In these court documents, there is mention of a house on the property in question.
Dr. C. C. Minor was one of the pioneers in Bristol's history and was founder of the Minor Drug store. Dr. Minor, son of W. L. Minor, moved to Bristol in 1862 from Hollins, Virginia. During the final periods of the Civil War, he and his kin underwent numerous hardships. Following the war, Dr. Minor managed to see his way clear to go to Roanoke College in Salem, Virginia. When he completed his courses there, he returned to Bristol and taught school for several years. Not satisfied with the meager income of a school teacher, Dr. Minor conceived the idea of going into the drug business. He opened a small store (1882) on the present site of the Cowan-Grant Company. At this time, he was past forty years of age, and after several "struggling years," the business grew into an established firm. Albenia Minor, wife of C. C. Minor, died intestate, leaving as sole heir Mary Lucie Crockett. The property was sold in 1934 to the First National Bank of Bristol, and many owners followed.
The house that now stands at 522 Lee Street is owned by Gary and Robin Bagnell. The house originally faced Mary Street. It is this portion of the house that is described in court documents. This 1879 structure consisted of four rooms, three handmade brick fireplaces, wide Poplar flooring, and an indoor staircase. The placing of the staircase was discovered by the current owners in 1996 while remodeling the upstairs back room. Under the layers of linoleum were, again, the beautiful wooden boards, and in the corner of the room was evidence of the staircase. The kitchen was detached and was located in the back of the house. The two over two Victorian portion, now facing Lee Street, was added to the existing structure in about 1881. This segment contained four more fireplaces, and the ceilings were raised. A cantilever staircase (which has been altered) with a beautiful crown molding was included also. The original color of the house was a golden mustard yellow with deep green accents on the exterior bull’s-eyes. Two of the more interesting sites are the eves of the house which have carvings of the sun and the pigeon blood stained glass over the front door. The original porch was much larger than the current porch and had much turned detail work. Unfortunately, this was removed several years ago due to structural problems.

Pleasant Hill

Pleasant Hill was the third house built on Solar Hill after the great Johnson Land Sale of July 5, 1871. It was built by William H. Smith an early Bristol contractor for Capt. John Harvey Wood, a local attorney. Construction began in 1872 and was completed in the spring of 1873. The Wood family moved into the house in May of that year. The brick cost one cent apiece at the time and one cent each to lay.
Originally a small portico was over the front door. In 1875 a chimney was damaged by lightning. While having it repaired, Capt. Wood decided to add a veranda extending across the front of the house. The first telephone in Bristol was installed in what is now the dining room.
The story has long been told that Jefferson Davis, ex-president of the Confederate States of America, spent a night in the Wood's home in late 1873. He slept in the north upstairs bedroom. Standing on the portico the next morning, Mr. Davis delivered an address to a large crowd of Bristolians who had gathered in the front yard and on the lot across the street.
The first wife of Capt Wood was Laura Lucretia James, a daughter of a very prominent early Bristol merchant, W. W. James from Blountville, Tennessee. Mrs. Wood died in 1891. Later Mr. Wood married Virginia Holmes, a widow from Winchester, Virginia. It was at this time that he built the late Victorian home which still stands next door at 210 Johnson Street. He and his wife moved into this house, and he gave Pleasant Hill to his daughter Mary, wife of Samuel Harriss. Gertrude, one of the Wood children who was reared at Pleasant Hill, married a Dillard, moved to New York City and became the first licensed woman driver in that city.

The house was rented for several years. At one time it served as the parsonage for State Street Methodist Church. Over the years the house has had several owners. It is now the home of Bristol author, V. N. (Bud) Phillips. It is furnished in keeping with the style and period of the house.

John Nobleton House

This small, one story, frame house is like many others in Bristol, except that an ex-slave once lived here. Located at 412 Clinton Avenue in Bristol, Virginia, it was built in the mid -1890's, likely by H. A. Bickley, an early Bristol undertaker. The lot fronted on Mary Street and extended through to what is now Clinton A venue. Mr. Bickley bought the lot from Capt. Joseph W. and Linnie King Owen on October 6, 1890. In time it became the property of W. T. Senter who, before his death, contracted to sell to John Nobleton. Mr. Senter had bought the house and lot from Sarah, the wife of H. A. Bickley, on October 12, 1899. Mr. Senter's heirs conveyed the property to Oakey Nobleton, widow of John, on February 10, 1908 (the contract to John Nobleton had been made in 1905). Mr. Nobleton had been killed in a tragic accident while working for the Norfolk and Western Railroad.
Rester Ann James, the mother of Mrs. Nobleton, an ex-slave, once lived in this house.
The house is now owned by Mrs. Wilhelmina Banks, whose mother an East Virginia teacher and later a Bristol, Virginia WPA nursery school teacher, also resided there. Mrs. Banks has established the Nyumba Ya Tausi-Peacock Museum in this old house. It contains over 800 pieces of African-American Art, Bristol, Tennessee collectibles, slavery and family heirlooms, and memorabilia.
(Information given by owner, Mrs. Wilhelmina Banks)

I.C. Fowler Home

The I. C. Fowler house, located at 417 Spencer St. in Bristol, VA, was built by Isaac Chapman Fowler in 1867. It is the oldest standing structure from the original town limits of Goodson, VA and the oldest house in the Virginia Hill Historic District. It was constructed by carpenter and furniture maker George Blackley in the Greek Revival architectural style. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as well as the Virginia Landmarks Register as a contributing structure to the Virginia Hill Historic District.

I.C. Fowler was from Tazewell, VA and educated at Emory and Henry College. He served in the Commissary Department of the Confederate States of America. Fowler moved to Goodson, VA soon after the end of the Civil War. He purchased, along with his brother Elbert, the Bristol News and was the editor of that paper. Fowler served as Mayor of Goodson, VA from 1871-1875. He was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates twice, first serving from 1875-1879 and his second term was from 1881-1883. He was Speaker of the House from 1881-1882. Fowler was appointed as Clerk of the U.S. District Court in Abingdon in 1884 at which time he moved from this house to a house on Main St. in Abingdon, VA. It was in the parlor of this house that I.C. Fowler, W.W. James and several other businessmen formed the committee to establish Sullins College that was eventually built on King St. in Bristol, VA. Fowler died in 1905 and is buried in East Hill Cemetery in Bristol, VA.

Charles Finch and his family became the second occupants of the house when Fowler and his family moved to Abingdon in 1884. Mr. Finch worked for the N&W Railroad and was a member of the Goodson Town Council. It was on his motion that Goodson was renamed Bristol, VA. The house has had many owners. It was split into two apartments and used as rental property for years. Blevins Funeral Home, located on Lee St., owned the house and used it for storage. Sid Oakley of Blevins Funeral Home donated the house to the non-profit group Bristol-Goodson Preservationists, Inc. in 1990 with the stipulation that the house be restored. The Bristol-Goodson group worked on the house for several years with plans to use it as a history resource center. Failing to secure the funds needed to complete the restoration, the Bristol-Goodson Preservationists donated the house to the Bristol Historical Association in 2004 with the same stipulation that the house be restored. The Historical Association had plans to use it to display and store all their old photos of Bristol. The Historical Association was also unable to secure the funds needed to restore the house so the Board of Directors voted to sell the house with the stipulation that the exterior of the house maintain its 1867 appearance.

The Bristol Historical Association sold the Fowler house to Scott Otis in 2009. Mr. Otis grew up in the Virginia Hill neighborhood behind the Fowler house at 422 Lee St.; where his parents still live today. Mr. Otis is a graduate of Virginia Tech and has over fifteen years of experience restoring homes in Savannah, GA and Bristol, VA/TN. The I.C. Fowler house is currently undergoing a major restoration. Once completed, it will become Mr. Otis’ private residence.

The Grove

The John Preston House was the second house built on the Walnut Grove Plantation in western Washington County, Virginia.  It is a brick masonry structure that has four thousand five hundred square feet of finished space and is located on an acre and half of land. It sits along the Lee Highway directly outside the current city limits of Bristol, Virginia.  The style of the building is a transition between Greek Revival and Italianate.

The house is a two-story, two rooms deep, brick load bearing masonry structure.  It has a three bay facade with a two story porch that is supported by double four by four posts wich are connected to each with "X" crossing latticework motif.  The front door is centered in the three bay facades.  The flanking bays have full triple hung sash windows on the first floor that begin at the finish floor elevation.  The front door and sidelights have carved rails and pilasters that incorporate Italianate details and accents. The house has five chimneys.

The interior layout is comprised of a grand center hall with two large parlors with fireplaces on the west side of the hall and a large library with built in bookcases and a fireplace on the east side of the hall.  The center hall has a grand winding staircase that leads up to the second floor.  There is a smaller hallway in the east section of the house that leads into the kitchen wing; it has a small secondary staircase that also goes up to the second floor and the attic.  The rear section of the house is comprised of small parlors and a dining room on the first floor while the second floor is similar in layout as the first floor with bedrooms surrounding the center hall.  The kitchen wing is simple with a large cooking fireplace and a small stairway which leads into a small sleeping area above.  The Grove was built by Colonel John Preston, the son of Colonel Robert Preston, who was the first surveyor of Washington County and one of the first influential citizens of Washington County and Southwestern Virginia.  Colonel Robert Preston came to Washington County in 1777 and became the Surveyor of the newly formed Washington County.  It was during this period that he obtained a land patent of seven hundred and seventy-two acres of land west of the Town of Abingdon.  He named this tract Walnut Grove. John Preston was born at Walnut Grove on July 8, 1781.  He was a graduate of Princeton University and a lawyer by education but never practiced his profession.  He was appointed justice of Washington County on January 17, 1804 and became the presiding judge of Washington County in 1820, a position he held for thirty-two years.  John served as a captain during the War of 1812 and later became the colonel of 105th Regiment of the Virginia Militia.

Colonel John Preston married Margaret Brown Preston, the youngest daughter of Colonel William Preston, who lived in Abingdon, Virginia.  John and Margaret Preston had fourteen children, five daughters and nine sons.  Before retiring as the judge of Washington County, John Preston built The Grove as his retirement home in 1850. From 1852 until his death in 1864, John Preston concentrated on farming at Walnut Grove.  Robert F. Preston, the oldest son of Colonel John Preston, lived at the Grove practically all of his life.  Robert Preston married Sarah Marshall of Philadelphia on December 5, 1827.  Colonel John Preston on his death willed to Robert Preston the plantation which is Walnut Grove property.  One daughter, Mary, married Captain Edmund Winston, and they lived at Walnut Grove.  Captain Winston was a surveyor. He surveyed the N & W Railway and much of Bristol. Mary Street, in Bristol, Virginia, is named for his wife, Mary, and Edmund and Winston Streets were named for himself.

Mary Street Methodist Church was also named for his wife.  Later the name was changed to Reynolds Memorial Church.  Elizabeth Preston, daughter of Dr. Robert F. Preston, married Fr. E. M. Sherfey from Wythe County, Virginia in 1855.  Their son Robert F. Sherfey inherited the property when she died.

In June 2000, the Children's Advocacy Center of Bristol/Washington County purchased The Grove with the intent of converting it into their offices.  The Children's Advocacy Center's mission is to combat sexual and severe child abuse by coordinating service for child victims and their families during the whole course of a child abuse case.

Paramount Theatre

The Paramount Theatre is a movie house built in 1930-31 by the Paramount-Publix Corporation, formed with the merger of several movie companies including Paramount, Lasky and Famous Players.  The larger Paramount Theaters in major cities were designed by the architectural firm of Rapp & Rapp design whose trademark is the “starburst” seen in the lobby ceiling.

Once the building construction was completed, Paramount-Publix brought in their interior designer to decorate with the combination “art deco” and Italian Renaissance.  Art deco, newly emerged from the 1925 Paris Exposition, was heavily influenced and encouraged by Frank Lloyd Wright.  Art deco is design for design’s sake… that is geometrics and colors creating the simplistic clean lines.

The property for the future theater was leased from the Daniel’s family.  The theater was built by local contractors, one of whom was Rainero Tile Company.  The theater, as you see it now, is essentially how it looked originally.  The marquee is a replica of the original.  The first marquee, remodeled in the 1950s with much of the fan work removed, was deteriorated beyond repair.  The marquee racing lights consist of two thousand 15-watt bulbs.  The box office also had to be scrapped due to deterioration.  The chandeliers in the lobby are the original fixtures, with the exception of the bottom plate.  These originally were either Tiffany or Lalique glass.  The concession stand which was located in the lower lobby was not installed until the late 1930s, and then only candy was sold.  Prior to the installation, patrons purchased candy and drinks for the movies at the Paramount Sweet Shop on the KP Duty site.  It was not until 1947 that popcorn and soft drinks were introduced by Mr. Gillenwater.  The show cases mirror, and metal posts are original.

There were sets of doors in the upper lobby which were closed during performances.  These doors have been salvaged and may be installed at some future point in the outside foyer.
All the ceiling patterns in the lobby and auditorium, the lobby walls, and the murals in the auditorium are copies of the original.  Prior to beginning the restoration/reconstruction work, craftsmen from Conrad Schmitt studios, historic restoration specialists, came to work, craftsmen from Conrad Schmitt Studios, historic restoration specialists, came to make patterns and copies of all the interior designs.  Then approximately 3-months before completion of the restoration, three craftsmen arrived to re-decorate the interior.  Repetitive patterns were done with stencils; the star-bursts in the lobby ceiling were outlined with charcoal patterns then hand-painted.  The shiny material is not gold-leaf, but rather metallic-leaf.  The theater was designed to seat 1200.  During a 1950s remodeling, approximately 100 seats were lost in bringing the screen forward to accommodate for Cinemascope and stereo sound.  Also, the orchestra pit was removed and the theatre organ dismantled with the pipes going to an amusement park in Alabama, the keyboard to King College, and parts to the Tennessee Theatre in Knoxville.  The 1989-1991 restoration reinstalled an organ which originally was used in the Paramount Theatre in Charlottesville, Virginia.  The organ can be raised or lowered from the orchestra pit by a hydraulic lift at the left of the stage.  Seating capacity today is 756.  There was never a balcony.
At completion of construction, the cost of the theatre was $210.000.  Opening night was February 21, 1931, with a Carol Lombard movie.  Prices were 50 cents night,  35 cents matinee and 10 cents children.  During the 30s and 40s there were live performances of vaudeville shows, the Big Band sounds of Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Charlie Spivak, Harry James, Grand Ole Opry stars Tex Ritter, Ken Maynard, Gabby Hayes,  Johnny Mack Brown, Ernest Tubb,  and Cowboy Copus.  The last movie was shown in 1979.  The theatre essentially sat empty for the next ten years.  The theatre was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985.  Plans to renovate began to form.  Bristol and its surrounding community donated 1.3 million dollars to the project, which was matched with one million dollars from the State of Tennessee by a special act of the legislature.  The restoration/renovation was started in December 1989 and completed seventeen months later for re-opening April 1991.

203 Solar Street

This federal-style home is the oldest split-level house in Bristol, and is among Bristol's oldest homes. It features tiger oak floors, four wood burning fireplaces, a sun room, a built-in gun rack, and a sunken goldfish pond. 

The house is the oldest complete house on Solar Hill. It was the first house built in 1871 after the auction which offered the King family's Solar Hill land for sale as residential lots. The lot was bought by Professor J. H. Winston who sold it to Dr. William Whitten. Mrs. Whitten advertised in the newspapers of the day that she had rooms to rent and that it had a beautiful view of the mountains, which is still true today. 

Later the house was sold to Dr. Wallace who at the time was in business with the Buntings who owned Buntings Drug Store. Wallace sold the home to L. F. Johnson. He eventually gave it to his daughter, Mrs. W. C. Carrington, who became a noted writer and wrote a history of one of the counties in upper Virginia. 

The home was bought by Mr. Blakely who was an owner of the Blakely-Mitchell Company (a men's haberdashery) on State Street. He had the brick house stuccoed over in the 1920s. The entire bill for the renovation back then came to a little over five thousand dollars, quite a bargain by today's standards. 

In 2003 the house was bought by Deborah Jones and her father Robert, who began restoration of the property. Deborah is a published professional writer with graduate training from the University of California and is an alumna of Kalamazoo College, one of Michigan’s oldest and finest private schools. She is director of the Solar Hill Historic District Association ( and has written a grant to bring almost half a million dollars to beautify the area. Solar Hill is named after an astronomical observatory was located there to view the total solar eclipse of 1869. It is Bristol’s oldest residential neighborhood and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks Register. 

Deborah is the daughter of native Bristolian Virginia Kaylor Jones, a gifted pianist and vocalist who once sang in operettas with Tennessee Ernie Ford. Deborah is the granddaughter of Mrs. A. B. ‘Lonnie’ Kaylor of Bristol. Lonnie was one of Bristol’s earliest female real estate entrepreneurs who bought and sold residential homes and owned several businesses, including the Columbia Theater. She was a philanthropist and long-time member of Calvary Baptist Church who donated land to start several churches including Bethel View Baptist Church and Central Baptist Church.

116 Solar Street

The 2-story, brick, Georgian style home at 116 Solar Street was built by and originally owned and occupied by Robert L. Gaut and his wife, Mary F. Butler Gaut. Mrs. Gaut was the great granddaughter of Sarah King Williams, the daughter of Colonel James King and only sister to the Reverend James King, founder of King College. This lineage is detailed as follows:
Mrs. Gaut's mother was Sarah Francis Stringfield Butler, a writer and first woman publisher of the Women's Methodist Missionary Society in Nashville, TN.
Sarah Francis Stringfield Butler was the daughter of the Reverend Thomas Stringfield and his wife, also named Sarah, who was the daughter of Sarah King Williams.
Sarah King Williams was the sister to the Reverend James King and daughter of old Colonel James King. Sarah King Williams lived at Strawberry Plains, Tennessee; in fact, the town of Strawberry Plains is built on their plantation.

Robert L. Gaut was the son of Colonel (CSA) J.W. and Sarah J. Gaut. He was born in Knoxville, TN, in 1853. Mr. Gaut's father was a colonel in the Confederate Army, and during the war his family lived in Moneta, GA, where Robert received his education. Mr. Gaut early learned the flour and milling business and managed the Lenoir, TN Milling Company's business for 4 years; net he managed the Morristown Mills for 9 years. Four 4 years he was chief clerk under Collector of Internal Revenue John T. Essary, during Cleveland's last administration. After this he was manager for many years of the Knoxville City Mills. Mr. Gaut came to Bristol in 1901 and was one of the owners and incorporators of the Sparger Mill Company. In a March 9th, 1909 article in the Bristol newspaper, under the title of "Prominent Business and Professional Men of Bristol", Mr. Gaut is described as "very extensively and most favorably known throughout the territory commercially contiguous to Bristol". He was an active member of the United Commercial Travelers Association, junior councilor of Bristol Council, No. 191, and chairman of the Tennessee State Executive Committee and delegate to the state grand council at Chattanooga. Mr. Gaut married Mary F. Butler of Knoxville, Feb. 24, 1876. They had eight children. The Gauts are buried in historic East Hill Cemetery, Bristol, TN.

The house was designed by C.B. Kearfoot, a well known architect of old Bristol. The First Baptist Church and old Reynolds Building downtown are among his better known designs. The original architectural plans have survived almost a century, fortunately being passed from owner to owner, and are still stored in the house along with a National Geographic magazine also from 1912. Other than the rear two-story addition done in the 1950's and the conversion of an upstairs sewing room into a bath, also done in the 1950's, the house has remained essentially structurally unchanged. It still retains its original side arbor that Mrs. Gaut had designed specifically for her wisteria to climb.

The carriage house at 116 Solar Street, a detached brick and wood building, is said to predate the main house, and was reportedly built in the late 1800's. It served originally as a carriage house for horses, then later as a garage. The upper level contains a small apartment which housed a cook and her daughter, Henrietta, during the years in which the Gauts lived in the home.

Following Mr. Gaut's death in the 1920's, Mary F. Gaut continued to live in the house until her death in 1935. The house was sold at that time to the Buchanan family of Bristol who managed a well-known downtown furniture business. One Buchanan son became a prominent Bristol surgeon. The house was sold again in the 1970's to
Ralph and Vivian Clarke; Mr. Clarke was a Bristol postmaster.

The house was purchased from the Clarke's in 1992 by LTC Clyde W. and Susan O. Long. Dr. Long is a Virginia Military Institute graduate who earned his degree in Dentistry at the Medical College of Virginia School of Dentistry. Dr. Long is now retired after a career serving in the United States Army. Mrs. Long is a native Bristolian, the daughter of W.L. and Dawn Osborne of Bristol, VA, and an alumnus of King College and the Medical College of Virginia's School of Pharmacy.

The King – Lancaster – McCoy – Mitchell House

The 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 his 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 Sapling Grove post office operated from the house from 1839-53, and the house was a stopping point for stagecoaches traveling from Abingdon to Blountville from 1839-56. Mountain View High School, which became Sullins College, began in the house in 1869.

In 1991, the Bristol Historical Association initiated a study concerning the oldest section of the home which is the remainder of Colonel James King’s original dwelling. This fact is verified by an elaborate map of Washington County drawn by John Wood in 1820 in which the site of Bristol is marked 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. These original rooms, enclosed within additions made over the years, make it the oldest existing structure within the city limits of Bristol. The formal entrance was originally on the north elevation. A rear wing housing the kitchen is presumed to be part of the original building or added shortly after the original structure was constructed.

Changes to the house were made by subsequent owners. In 1881, John J. Lancaster, a prominent wealthy banker of New York City, remodeled it as a gift for his mother and two maiden sisters. In 1981, 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.

In 1903, Joseph D. Mitchell added a kitchen wing that is distinguished only by the ornate Carpenter Gothic wood columns. Mitchell came to Bristol in 1882, with only two dollars in his pocket and boarded at the house with Mrs. Thomas Lancaster. She put him in what is now the dining room, and later when he became wealthy, he confessed that on the first night he spent there that he vowed he would someday own the grand house on the hill overlooking the town. About 19 years later, his dream came true. The house belonged to the Mitchell family for over 100 years. Mitchell’s daughter, Margaret, was born in the house in 1901 and lived there for 99 of her 102 years. Margaret willed the house and its contents to King University, and the property remains in the ownership of the school today.

The King – Lancaster – McCoy – Mitchell house is located at 54 King Street, two blocks from State Street. The house was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1994 and included in the Solar Hill Historic District in 2001.



Robert Preston House
E.W. King House
Ernie Ford House
Bristol Depot
Terry / Bonham House
C.C. Minor House
Pleasant Hill
John Nobleton House
I.C. Fowler Home
The Grove
Paramount Theatre
203 Solar Street
116 Solar Street


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