JONESBOROUGH, Tenn. (WJHL) – State officials are celebrating the completion of a major upgrade to the Chester Inn State Historic Site in Jonesborough.
According to the latest edition of ‘The Courier’, the Tennessee Historical Commission’s (THC) seasonal publication, the $710,000 rehabilitation project brought cosmetic repairs, safety improvements and mechanical upgrades to the building.
“In addition, an innovative solution has reopened the long-closed front porch,” the Courier said. “And one of the most iconic historic buildings in Tennessee’s oldest town is now safer and more accessible to the public.”
The Chester Inn was built in 1797 by Dr. William P. Chester and was originally around half its current size. The left-hand side of the building was added later in an expansion. Around the late 1880s, the Courier said the building’s recognizable façade was added in an “Italianate” style.
The site served as a fine inn on Tennessee’s frontier and hosted all of Tennessee’s presidents to date:
- Andrew Jackson
- James K. Polk
- Andrew Johnson
According to the Courier, the building had largely fallen into disrepair before the project’s start. Upper-floor windows had been rebuilt multiple times, the rear porch was failing, drainage was clogged and the second-floor porch wasn’t up to code.
“This historically important community-use area, which had also been a favorite spot for tourists and locals to enjoy rocking chair respites,” the Courier said. “Had been closed off to the public for all access and uses for decades.”
The rehabilitation effort brought new, more durable materials like mahogany wood to the building with a focus on historic accuracy. The addition of a new, bespoke handrail on the second-floor porch means the space is now up to code and ready for the public again.
The inn also serves local organizations in Jonesborough like the Heritage Alliance and International Storytelling Center, and is managed by the Heritage Alliance of Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia.