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Archive for the ‘Tennessee’ Category

On a flat rock surface, I sit just inches from the water’s edge, watching an old waterwheel rumble and turn. Set against red, painted wood and natural brick and stone, the wheel works to grind corn, while I relax and listen to the sound of cascading water. To my left, a wide, flat veil of a waterfall spills into the stream. A persistent bird chirps from a branch above and another answers, with a shorter, deeper call. A third joins in with a crisp, sharp tweet. Warm sunlight filters through the trees, lighting up the leaves to a brilliant green. Ribbons of ivy grow along the building, creeping upward as the water journeys down. A sizeable dragonfly takes a seat next to me. He must be equally impressed with the view.

It is this peaceful environment that I’ve found at Falls Mill, an 1873 water-powered gristmill and museum in Belvidere, TN. Owned and operated by Jane and John Lovett, this working mill offers a chance to step back in time and see inside the textile industry of the 19th century, as well as the mill’s conversion during the early 1900’s to a cotton gin, then a woodturning factory, and finally a gristmill.

Inside the three-story building, the work of the day bustles along. The 32-foot waterwheel that I watch will continue to circle for hours, turning two sets of stone grinding mills and producing grain for the mill’s 85 wholesale accounts. Visitors wander inside, viewing the inner workings of the mill and taking self-guided tours through exhibits of antique machinery.

Originally a cotton woolen mill, this is also the home of the Museum of Power and Industry at Falls Mill, thanks to donations of antique textile equipment from an old Kentucky mill, as well as other sources. An 1850’s barn loom, a foot-pedaled power loom from Scotland, and an 1868 model Crompton power broad loom, used to weave blankets for WWII, are just some of the rare pieces that can be seen.

From my resting spot below the mill, I watch visitors step out onto a deck located above the 32-foot waterwheel, one of the oldest in the country, looking down over the churning wheel. For now, I’m content to stay outside, letting the sun soak into my shoulders and observing from a distance, because I have a luxury that the daytime guests don’t have. Long after the activity of the day is over, when the wheel is still and quiet and resting from its productive work, when the museum visitors have already purchased the corn grits and buckwheat flour and other mill products, browsed the country store, said their thanks and goodbyes and returned to their homes, I’ll still be there. Because I have one of the best treats offered by Falls Mill: I have the night reserved in their 1895 restored bed and breakfast log cabin.

With this thought, I rise from my resting place below the mill and walk along Furnace Creek, past picnic tables and benches, around the front of the mill building itself and past an 1836 log stagecoach inn that is currently being restored for future lodging. I pass the upper dam and falls, sauntering past an old barn and up a dirt roadway, until I arrive at the cabin.

Old-fashioned in visual appeal, yet packed with modern amenities and conveniences, this log structure is my idea of perfect lodging. Hand-hewn cedar logs form most of the structure, reconstructed and remodeled after being moved from Huntland, TN, in 1987. It is very reasonably priced and picture-perfect. Admittedly, I love many of the places I visit, but on this day I decide that Heaven is surely in Tennessee, and I have found it.

For this country-loving girl stuck in modern times, there are no compromises necessary in this cabin. I climb the stairs, admire the rocking chairs on the front porch, and enter the two-storied accommodation.

First things first, I immediately hook up my laptop to the phone line, finding local access through nearby Winchester. No backwoods roughing it here. The Internet is at my fingertips, even surrounded with country furnishings and a view of the lush greenery and woods outside.

This is just the beginning. Air-conditioning, cable TV, a VCR library, writing table, comfy couch and chairs circling a wood-burning fireplace, books, magazines, local maps and information, and a dish of chocolates waiting on a side table.

Upstairs, the bedroom offers two beds with luxurious sheets, more reading material and a convenient bath and shower. Another outside porch with rocking chairs is accessible from this level. Additional amenities are everywhere. Hair dryer, iron and ironing board, reading lamps, electrical outlets, pillows and quilts – all provided.

And then there’s the full kitchen, back downstairs, stocked with bed and breakfast offerings. There’s no chance of going hungry here. Not with Jane’s cinnamon coffee cake waiting. Or her blueberry muffins or orange bread, equally delicious.

One glance in the refrigerator adds juice, eggs, ham, and cheese to the feast, as well as Falls Mill’s own Multi-Grain Pancake mix. A bowl of fresh fruit and cereals, as well as a microwave and popcorn, guarantee easy snacking. Starbuck’s coffee guarantees I’ll be able to wake up in the morning.

I settle into the cabin and curl up on the couch. Jane and John, who clearly leave no detail overlooked, have a fire already built and waiting, with extra wood stacked to the side of the stone fireplace. I light the fire, pop a chocolate into my mouth, and read into the late hours of the night, climb the stairs to sleep peacefully, and continue my fireside reading in the morning, coffee nearby.

It’s no wonder I decide to stay a second night, spending my second day quietly roaming the nature trails and enjoying the peaceful sound of the falling water. A picnic table in a side yard, near the log cabin, provides a natural work space.

A quick trip into town allows me to feed my continuing Diet Coke habit, as well as to browse at Belvidere Market, a circa 1910 general store with a great selection of collectibles, both old and new.

On my last morning, I sit on the porch, rocking and looking across the pastoral setting. The rush of tumbling water nearby drowns out not only local traffic, but cares and worries from near and far. I listen to birdsong mix with the sounds of the waterfall. Surprisingly, I watch a hefty gray possum trot down a narrow path alongside the lawn area, out for an early morning jog.

With a collection of recipes and historical notes and a bag of Yellow Corn Grits, I say goodbye to Falls Mill and thank Jane and John for their outstanding hospitality and the effort they put into providing such an educational and peaceful retreat. It’s not an easy place to leave, even with the road calling.

Falls Mill
134 Falls Mill Road
Belvidere, TN 37306
(931) 469-7161
Open Daily (Closed Wed.)
Mon. – Sat. 9:00-4:00
Sun. 12:30 – 4:00
Closed Christmas, Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day
Museum Admission: Adults – $3.00, Seniors – $2.00, Children Under 14 – $1.00
Bed and Breakfast Cabin Rate: $90. (Early reservations recommended)
Convenient to Jack Daniels Distillery in Lynchburg.

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In the midst of the Appalachian foothills, I made my way into Jonesborough, Tennessee’s oldest town. Here I came across the historic Eureka Hotel, located conveniently in town on Main St., the old Stage Road. This lodging establishment is a treasure of a find for anyone who appreciates restored, historic lodging, not to mention being located in a town with plenty of history to offer itself.

Opened for lodging in 1900, the original building dates back to 1797, when it was built as a private residence. It changed owners and names several times during the 1900’s, each time adding or changing the hotel in varying degrees.

As with many historic hotels, it fell into various usages and eventual disrepair. Fortunately, it was purchased in 1997 by a group of local investors, who undertook the sizeable task of restoring it to its original glory. Their two and a half million dollar renovation created a stunning hotel, with unique, beautifully appointed rooms, each filled with antiques and period reproductions.

I settled into “The Cook’s Room,” located in a quiet upstairs corner at the rear of the building. The large, private bath, originally a staircase to the former kitchen below -now “The Kitchen Room” – was immaculate, with a state-of-the-art tub/shower combination, telephone and attractive basket of complimentary bath products.

The room itself was spacious and luxuriously comfortable, with a high ceiling, queen bed, overstuffed chair, armoire, writing desk, data port, voicemail and individual climate control. As an added bonus, a balcony porch just outside (accessed through the main hallway) offered an outdoor seating area, overlooking the garden and surrounded by white, wooden railings and planters filled with ivy and geraniums.

Included in the very reasonable lodging expense was a complimentary breakfast, including bagels, english muffins, danish pastries, fresh fruit, cereal, orange juice, coffee and tea. The leisurely check-out time of noon allowed me to linger over my meal at an antique oak table before sauntering outside to explore the town itself.

The town of Jonesborough has the distinction of being Tennessee’s oldest town, established in 1789, many years before Tennessee became a state. Originally a part of North Carolina, an attempt was made in 1784 by Jonesborough, along with other towns, to form a new state named Franklin, after Benjamin Franklin. But four years later, when Congress failed to recognize it as a state, it reverted back to North Carolina and remained so until the official establishment of Tennessee as a state in 1796.

Shawnee, Chicksaw, Cherokee and Creek Native Americans were the area’s original inhabitants, dating back into the 1500’s. The first cabin built by a white settler was in 1769, ten years before Jonesborough officially became a town.

Not far from the hotel, I found the 1777 Christopher Taylor House, where Andrew Jackson, who would later become the 7th president of the U.S., lived briefly in 1788. Located at that time outside of town, the house was moved into town in 1974.

One of Jonesborough’s main claims to fame is that it is home to the International Storytelling Center, which packs the town full for the Storytelling Festival each year. The website for the Eureka Hotel cautions would-be visitors that their rooms are booked years in advance for this popular event. Any time of the year is a good time for entertainment, though, as the Jonesborough Repertory Theatre is located right next door to Eureka Hotel.

There’s history around every corner in this town. The first anti-slavery papers were written here long before the Civil War and the attempt to establish the “ill-fated State of Franklin” took place. An historic marker commemorates the abolition publications that were generated.

The Jonesborough Visitor’s Center is a gold mine for local information and has a museum and gift shop, as well. It’s a great starting point for exploring the town.
Leaving the Visitor Center, a walk along Main St. will take visitors past the plentiful dining and shopping options. I enjoyed both the “country cafe” ambiance and a plate of soup beans, cornbread and chow chow, a traditional local relish, at The Cranberry Thistle, just across from the old courthouse.

Art galleries and shops along Main St. provide plenty of browsing opportunities, showcasing a wide range of hand-blown glass, paintings, ceramics, quilt-making supplies and local crafts. Antique browsers will not be disappointed, either.

Shoppers can also find a few unusual gift items – I picked up cans of “Tennessee Possum” as souvenir treats for my brothers, a clever re-labeling gimmick that the area has been offering for years.

One day just wasn’t enough time to see everything Jonesborough had to offer, so it goes onto my “must go back” list, as well as into my “great small towns” collection. As an alternative to larger, crowded tourist-type destinations, this quaint southern town was an excellent find.

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