Once a Local Staple, Hannah Guesthouse Now Just a Memory

I received a note from the family of a former ETSU professor, referencing an old undated postcard advertisement. Since the responder asked to remain anonymous, I will call her Jane Doe.

The card shows a beautiful two-story brick house, identified as “Westover Manor – Johnson City, Tennessee – Mrs. George S. Hannah, Hostess.” Jane was interested in knowing where the house was located and if it is still standing. She indicated that it looked familiar to her, but that she could not seem to place it. The stately residence is surrounded by a small brick wall with two driveway pillars, each with a large “H” on the front side and a light fixture on top. What appears to be a partially obscured Model A Ford parked in the driveway dates the photo to roughly the early 1930s. The reverse side of the card declares: “A modern, high-class private home catering to transients, weekly or monthly guests. Room rates at $1.00 to $1.50.”

I located a second postcard of the Hannah business, offering additional information: “Westover Manor Guest House – The finest in the south; Known from coast to coast and from Canada to Florida; Johnson City, a central point going north, south, east and west; Three miles from city on old Jonesboro Road; Famous from coast to coast for delicious home-cooked meals.”

Ms. Doe’s mother readily identified the photo, telling her daughter that the house was on the Old Jonesborough Highway just beyond East Tennessee State University. The Doe family had driven past it daily for over 20 years. Ma Doe further recalled that John A. Clack, onetime Bursar for East Tennessee State College, and his wife Vera purchased the house from the Hannah's, rented it for a while and then sold it a fraternity.

Jane searched through a 1974 ETSU Buccaneer yearbook and found a photograph of the house with Sigma Alpha Epsilon frat members and their dates posing in front of it. Jane then recalled a fire in the 1980s that destroyed the interior of a house at about 2800 W. Walnut Street, which she believes was the former Hannah residence. The house was eventually demolished and the property sold, becoming the site of a Sunoco station.” 

According to Jane: “The house was a little over a mile past where W. Walnut Street turns off the State of Franklin Road going toward Jonesborough. The original house and property had four pillars, two on either end of a semi-circular driveway with a brick wall in-between. The drive circled up to the front of the house and back out to the highway on the eastern side. No wonder I felt like I had seen the place; said the Doe daughter. “I grew up driving past there. I remember the brick wall and pillars even more than the house.”

Ned Irwin of the ETSU Archives of Appalachia added more info: “It is listed in the 1939 city directory, but the only address is the Old Jonesboro Highway. The street listing (city limits) for W. Walnut Street then did not extend beyond the railroad overpass. By 1968, the Westover Manor Apartments are found at 2810 W. Walnut, which would be beyond the railroad overpass and across the street from old Bernard School.

According to Jane, the only remnant of the former Hannah guesthouse appears to be an altered east driveway pillar, standing obscurely next to a fire hydrant and metal utility pole. The “H,” like the residence itself, is now but a memory.