May 2014

The 1908-09 Johnson City Directory identified 60 streets within the confines of the city. Note in the list below that 10 parallel avenues bare the designation “Carnegie,” as part of The Carnegie Land Company (but that is another story).

These roads (and today’s names) were First (Millard/Railroad), Second (Fairview), Third (Myrtle), Fourth (Watauga), Fifth (Unaka), Sixth (Holston), Seventh (Chilhowie), Eighth, Ninth and Tenth. For whatever reason, the latter three were not renamed after the Carnegie empire collapsed.

The street locations in the list below are unique, generally specifying how many streets a particular one location lies from another major street. For instant, the first one, Afton, is south of the East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railway and also the fifth street east of Roan.

Glance over the list below to see if the streets where you reside or have lived were in existence in 1909. All designated roads are streets; avenues are so noted:

Two Old Advertisements in Johnson City in 1908

A: Afton (south from ET&WNC Railroad, 5th east of Roan), Ash (West from Roan, between Cherry and Walnut).

B: Baxter (north from So. Ry., 4th east of Roan), Boone (North from Main, 1st west of Roan), Buffalo (south from Main, 2nd west of Roan).

C: Carnegie (On South and Western Railroad east of the city), Cherokee Road (west from Buffalo, 1st south of Chestnut), Cherry (east and west of Roan, 2nd south of Main), Chestnut (east and west of Roan, 9th south of Main), Commerce Ave. (southeast from east end of Maple).

D: Division (south from East Main, 1st east of Roan).

E: Eighth Ave. (east and west from Roan, 2nd north of Holston Ave.), Elm (north from So. Railroad Depot, 2nd east of Roan), Elmo (west from W. Watauga Ave., 3rd north of Main), Ernest (south from Main, 3rd west of Roan.

F: Fairview Ave. (east and west from Roan, 4th north of Main), Fifth Ave. (Carnegie), Fourth Ave. (Carnegie), Fulton (west from Whitney, 1st south of Main).

G: Grover (south from ET&WNCRR, 3rd east of Roan), Hamilton (west from Whitney, 2nd south of Main).

H: Harris Ave. (east and west from Roan, 6th north of Roan), Henry (south from ET&WNC, 4th east of Roan), Holston Ave. (east and west from Roan, 9th north of Main), Humboldt (south from W. Main, 1st west of railroad).

I: Ivy (west from Roan, north of Holston Ave.).

J: Jobe (east and west from Roan, 1st south of Main).

K: King  (east and west from Roan, 2nd north of Main). 

L: Lamont (west from Whitney, 3rd south of Main), Locust (east and west from Roan, 7th south of Main).

M: Main (east and west from public square, main business street of city), Maple (east and west from Roan, 5th south of Main), Market (east and west from public square, 1st north of Main), Maupin (south from So. Ry), Millard (east and west from Roan , 3rd north of Main), Montgomery (north from Main, 2nd west of Roan), Myrtle Ave. (east and west from Roan, 5th north of Main).

N: New (North of So. Ry., 6th east of Roan), Ninth Ave. (east and west from Roan, 3rd north of Holston Ave).

O: Oak (north from So. Ry., 3rd east of Roan).

P: Pine  (east and west from Roan, 6th south of Main), Poplar (east and west from Roan, 8th south of Main), Public Square  (along So. Ry. between Main and Market).

R: Railroad (parallel to So. Ry. tracks), Roan (north and south from Main, 1st east of Spring, the dividing line for most streets running east and west).

S: Second Ave. (Carnegie), Seventh Ave. (east from Roan, 1st north of Holston Ave.), Sixth Ave. (Carnegie), Spring (south from Main, 1st west of Roan), Stuart (north from So. Ry,), 5th east of Roan), Summer (south from west Main, 3rd west of Railroad).

T: Tenth Ave. (east and west from Roan, 4th north of Holston Ave.), Third Ave. (Carnegie).

U: Unaka Ave. (east and west from Roan, 8th north of Main), Walnut (east and west from Roan, 4th south of Main).

W: Watauga Ave. (east and west from Roan, 7th north of Main), Wellborn (Welbourne?) (north from So. Ry, 1st east of N. Roan), Whitney (south from 301 W. Main, 2nd west of Railroad), Willow  (west from Watauga Ave., 2nd north of W. Main), Winter (south from W. Main, 4th west of Railroad).

You probably noticed that several streets no long exist: Fulton, Humboldt, Stuart, Summer, Willow and Jobe. 

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Today's column shines the big yesteryear spotlight on the long deceased Austin Spring Hotel. It became one of Johnson City's premier resort and vacation hostelry. The East Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia Railroad once tabbed it as one of the finest vacation spots that could be reached by their railroad.

In 1897, a meeting was held in the office of Dr. J.W. Cox by a number of citizens who took an interest in raising fine stock and poultry. A decision was made to hold a three-day fair at Austin Springs for July 28, 29 and 30.

This was the first fair by this association ever held in the county. The officers were Cox, president; M. Jackson and E.C. Baldwin, vice presidents; Harry D. Gump, secretary and treasurer; and Henry George, general manager.

Directors included several well-known public spirited businessmen: Paul Wofford, Weldon DeVault, Tate L. Earnest, W.C. Snapp, Walter Faw and Shade Harris. These gentlemen injected a heavy dose of backbone into the enterprise.

Premiums were offered in several rings: Best saddle gelding, best saddle mare, best harness mare, best harness gelding, best saddle stallion, best brood mare, best sucking colt, best pair of mare mules, best pair of horse mules, best Jersey milch cow, best short horn milch cow, best boy rider under 15 years old, best lady rider and best pair of goats attached to a wagon.

The first premium of each ring consisted of 80 per cent of the entries for that ring; the remaining 20 percent was  awarded as a second premium. General Manager Henry George prepared a premium list and other information regarding the fair.

Poultry displays were conducted daily with the popular baby show being held on the last day of the three-day spectacle. A special track was constructed at the site to allow a daily bicycle race; merchants and others provided premiums for the winners.

Austin Springs was described as being one of the loveliest places in all the country (yes country). It further was said to have the best assortment of entertainment ever offered to the public. The hotel at the springs was open, which included the immaculately cultivated grounds. Mr. George provided dinner to everybody attending the event for a nominal fee. Also, hotel accommodations were available for those desiring an extended stay.

Two Old Advertisements for the Austin Springs Hotel

In 1903, Austin Springs was ready for “the good old summer time.” The opening ball was successfully launched, being received by an appreciative public. The weather man could have been a bit kinder but dancing could not have been more pleasant. To the music of McLeod's Orchestra, the devotees of Terpsichore (dancing and choral singing) tripped the light fantastic toe until the wee hours of morning. The new dancing pavilion and the elegant refreshments were entirely satisfactory and much enjoyed by many well-known society people.

One year later, E.G. Earnest became the new manager of the popular facility. He was described as being in good health and fine spirits. He noted how successful the business was. Unfortunately, some over-scrupulous individual circulated a phony report that he was bedridden with typhoid fever and the resort was closed. Earnest posted an ad (see my photo column) in the newspaper stating that the lodge was open and planned to stay that way.

Mr. Earnest had a closed contract for the lease of the property. His plans called for enlarging the mineral springs surrounding the hotel and installing additional baths in the hotel. Vacationers then often shared common bathroom facilities.    

In 1905, Mr. and Mrs. W.B. Johnson posted an unusual rhyme in the newspaper, inviting the public to attend a party honoring two special guests at the springs:

“On Wednesday night, the twenty-third, About the hour of eight, Will Johnson and the Mrs. Too. Now don't forget the date, To a country party will welcome you, At Austin Springs Hotel. Come dressed in calico or jeans, Work clothes will do as well. The good will find amusement there, And the dancers watch with awe. Miss Scarborough is one honored guest, Another is Mrs. Faw.” 

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I recently uncovered two interesting articles from my yesteryear collection. Tom Hodge, a former Johnson City Press writer, penned the first one in April 1987. It contained an unidentified, undated poem sent to the columnist by Rena Helvey, providing a less-than-complimentary but interesting lyrical reflection of the old city:

“Come, little children, gather round my knee.

“I'll tell you of a town that used to be.

“The town of Johnson City was its name.

“For long-hanging wire overhead and cracked sidewalks it soon won its fame.

“When Rip Van Winkle awoke from his sleep,

“He took a walk down into West Main Street.

“The first sign he saw was United Sales and Salvage Stores.

“And he said, “The same old sign after my 20 years of snores.

“On down West Main he continued to walk.

“And the sidewalks were so cracked they seem to talk.

“Telling their troubles to Pip, they seemed to say,

“'No repairs have been made since your younger day'.

“Other towns around continued to grow.

“But not this town, it was too slow.

“Now, little children, don't you think it's a shame and a pit.

“What once could have been a metropolis is still the backwoods town of Johnson City.

“Now my friends, the town of which you have heard,

“Is just as dead as the dodo bird.

“Do not disturb nor rouse us from our sleep.

“For dirty streets and cracked sidewalks, we want to keep.”

Whether this rhyme is serious or a satire is unknown, but it was obviously written a long time ago when Johnson City was a sleepy little town still in its infancy. Over time it managed to shed its backwoods image by putting downtown power lines underground, paving streets and fixing cracks in sidewalks.

My efforts to locate the United Sales and Salvage Stores came up dry. If we assume the sidewalks were paved ones, the date of the poem was after 1908. Possibly the cracked sidewalks referred to those in the wooden sidewalks that were in place. We can only speculate.

Stereo view of downtown Johnson City looking east in 1896

Anne Newton, who penned the second article in June 1987, shined a much different light on our favorite city. Area folks viewed their town in three dimensional photography as early as 1896 through the use of a stereoscope.

Between 1858 and 1920, stereoscopes and an assortment of views were commonplace in middle and upper class parlors across America.

Wannabe travelers could sit in the comfort of their favorite soft chairs and explore unfamiliar foreign and domestic lands in 3-D, unlike those in two dimensional books and magazines.

The leisure device was used to view stereographs, a pair of photographic prints of the same scene but at slightly different angles. They were mounted side by side and seen through a stereoscope to show the real life effect.

According to Hodge, the Sherrod Library at East Tennessee State University bought the stereograph of Johnson City in November 1986 for the Archives of Appalachia.

The dual card depicts a crowd of citizens facing west at Fountain Square in Johnson City in 1896. The railroad tracks that passed through our bustling city are visible at the front.

It was suggested that, even without a stereoscope, the viewer could hold the card at a slight angle, stare at the center of it and observe downtown Johnson City in 3-D. I did not have much success doing that.

The view included a brief historical overview, boasting of our city's industries: a foundry and machine works, ice factory, two insulator pin factories, one steam flouring mill, one 125-ton capacity furnace, one cannery, three hotels, five brick schools, three grocery stores, one bakery, three drug stores, two laundries, two banks and five dry goods clothing stores, five smith and carriage shops, three harness and saddle shops and one livery stable.

Johnson City was definitely a booming city in 1896.

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On June 10, 1984, Terri Higgins, Johnson City Press-Chronicle staff writer, composed an article titled, “1934, Bad Times and Good Times.” It concerned the 50th anniversary of the newspaper, which began publication on June 12, 1934.”

The Press Used to Publish the First Johnson City Press in June 1934

Photo Courtesy of Eddie LeSueur

The country was deep into the Great Depression with job shortages, little cash on hand and people wearing worn and patched clothes. Local residents, who numbered about 25,000, somehow managed to savor life. “Draggin' the Main,” became a popular amusement with youth who cruised the downtown area just to see who was present. Trendy stores included King's, Dosser's, Beckner's, Masengill's and Kress's.

Popular hangouts were The Chocolate Bar, The Shamrock, Peoples' Drug Store, The Savoy and The Gables. The Smoke Shop provided an atmosphere where young men could hang out and partake of tobacco products. In the 1930s, girls on dates usually had to be home by 11 p.m. at the latest. It was common for couples to date together, frequently gathering on someone's front porch and talking for hours.

Dances were held regularly in people's homes where thick, breakable 78-rpm records were played on windup Victrolas. The fox trot and waltzes were popular. Songs included “Stardust,” “Sophisticated Lady,” “I'm Looking Over a Four-Leaf Clover,” “I'll Never Smile Again” and “I'll Always Be in Love with You.” Upscale dances were held in the John Sevier Hotel Ballroom where the Buddy Dean Band and others regularly performed. The hotel was also the center of social activity for businessmen and women who assembled there for lunch in the trendy restaurant.

Afternoon tea dances were all the rage. Ballroom dances were dress-up occasions where young men wore suits and ties. Young women usually owned one or two evening dresses that could be slightly altered for each use. No one ever laughed at hand-me-down or worn-out clothes because it was more the norm than the exception.

Downtown entertainment venues provided “picture shows” at the Majestic, Capital (later Tennessee)  and Liberty theatres. George Arliss could be seen in “The Green Goddess” or John Wayne in “Sage Bush Trail.” Sometimes live shows were provided in the theatres with traveling magicians, dance teams and actors, making routine appearances on the downtown stages.

At the beginning of the tobacco season, everyone flocked to the Big Burley Warehouse on Legion Street for visits by big bands with such leaders as Sammy Kaye, Ted Fio Rito and Guy Lombardo. The cost  was $2 a couple.

In the summer months, the Sur Joi swimming pool (now the Carver Recreation Center) at W. Watauga and W. Market was the place to go. Women wore wool swimsuits that cost between $2 and $6 and covered their head with plain white swimming caps. Men's outfits were cheaper at $1.50 to $3.50. Pool admission was $.30 for adults and $.20 for the youngsters. Season tickets were also available.

A nickel ride on one of the five streetcars in operation in the city would take the traveler to Soldiers' Home, East Tennessee Teachers College, Carnegie or the recreation area that carried a variety of names: Lake Wataussee, Lakeview Park and Cox's Lake. Two streetcar conductors warmheartedly remembered from that era were D.T. Cash and John Lusk.

Cabs became a necessity because not everyone owned an automobile. People often rented cars for special trips and dates. Although driver's licenses were not required, vehicles had to have a tag on the front and back. Longer trips called for a ride of one of the nostalgic steam locomotives that chugged through the city daily.

This was the way of life on June 12, 1934 when the Johnson City Press opened for business, 80 years ago.

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