Rogersville is Tennessee’s second oldest town, but don’t let that second place qualification fool you. This historic Tennessee town wins first place in southern culture and progressive thinking as far as we are concerned. Rogersville, TN is bursting at the seams with historic charm, entrepreneurial growth and expansion, and good ole’ southern Appalachian hospitality. Rogersville stole my heart from the moment I set foot on Main Street. The admixture of stepping into the 18th century at the restored Hale Springs Inn combined with soon to be opened hipster restaurants like the aptly titled Hollywood Hillbilly, makes Rogersville very alluring.
A Tale of Two Buildings Then and Now
Rogersville’s Main Street is not without its sordid past. Two of its most prominent historic buildings have quite a story to tell. During the Civil War, Rogersville’s residents, like many of its neighboring communities, held deeply divided loyalties between Union and Confederate sides. The stories of brother being against brother during the Civil War was greatly played out in the hills of Northeast Tennessee. If walls could talk, these two historic Rogersville buildings could tell some tells and, in fact, they do.
Hale Springs Inn- The Inn was built in 1824 by John McKinney, a local lawyer and businessman, and provided competition to local tavern owned by the town’s founder, Joseph Rogers. The Inn’s 9 guest rooms are named for its historically significant guests including three United States Presidents, Andrew Jackson, Andrew Johnson, and James K. Polk. The Inn was closed in 1998, but was purchased in 2003 by the Rogersville Heritage Association and brought back to its original charm. The now fully functioning Inn is considered the “Crown Jewel” of Rogersville, TN. Room rates are $99/night for all room types and can be booked here.
With regard to the Inn’s role during the Civil War according to the Inn’s website,
Early in the war, Union forces captured the town, and during their occupation, they set their headquarters in the Hale Springs Inn, which was on the south side of Main Street, but faced north.Hale Springs Inn
The Kyle House- Just across the street from Hale Springs Inn, the Kyle House was built in 1837 as a twenty-two room mansion for William Simpson. The Kyle House subsequently became the residence for the Confederacy in 1863 during the Battle of Big Creek when the Confederate army retook Rogersville. It is reported that shooting actually took place between the two buildings across main street and folks refused to walk on the side of the street which opposed their views.
Dining on Main Street Rogersville: Where History Meets The Future
Perhaps the mixture of past and future is no better revealed than on the dining forefront in Rogersville, TN. Very soon diners will be able to have dinner and drinks in an 18th century Tavern on Friday, take the dog for a walk and enjoy outdoor eating on Saturday afternoon, and then later return for an upscale California inspired dinner with local brew on Saturday night.
McKinney’s Restaurant & Tavern- Located in the Hale Springs Inn and named for the Inn’s founder, McKinney’s Restaurant & Tavern offers dinner on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday from 4:30 pm until 8:00pm or Friday and Saturday from 4:30pm until 9:00pm.
Coffee at the Kyle– is located in the historic building and offers great locally sourced coffee, fresh baked goods, and smiling faces. I had an opportunity to speak with one of the owners, Stephanie Lord, whose passion for Rogersville and entrepreneurial spirit is contagious. Stephanie and her husband also own Red Dog Ridge Farms in Rogersville where you can pick your own locally grown berries and peaches and they are currently in the process of opening a new restaurant (more on that below) also located on Main Street.
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Red Dog On Main: Taproom and Eatery-Did I mention that the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in Rogersville? If you are seeing a theme with the Red Dog, you are right. The owners’ passion for their rescued pup is maybe only equaled by their passion for local community and bringing Rogersville into the 21st century while simultaneously maintaining it’s 18th century heritage. Their soon to be opened new restaurant on Main Street, Red Dog On Main: Taproom and Eatery, is sure to be another amazing local establishment in Rogersville which this local gal is eagerly anticipating.
The Hollywood Hillbilly– Speaking of amazing entrepreneurial spirits in Rogersville, let me introduce you to the Hollywood Hillbilly. I had the opportunity to also tour this soon to be opened restaurant on Main Street (directly next door to Red Dog on Main, I told you things are happeinin’ in Rogersville, TN). Owner and designer, Dean Fowler, spent his adult life in California and moved back to Rogersville to be close to family. His enthusiasm for Rogersville and bringing a new era of history plus progress to the town is refreshing and exciting to watch. Rest assured, I will be bringing a full review of the Hollywood Hillbilly as soon as it’s doors are open. In the meantime, check out this virtual tour.
The city has also given approval for the alley between Red Dog and Main and Hollywood Hillbilly to be turned into an outdoor eating area which will, of course, be dog friendly.
Sweet Tooth Cafe– Alright folks, you had better not visit the historic downtown Rogersville, TN and miss this one! As we say in the south, the food’s so good here it’ll make you want to slap your mama.
Seriously, though, these waffles are amazing. They also have some pretty kickin’ chicken salad! Go to Sweet Tooth Cafe in Rogersville, TN! You will thank me. (But don’t really slap your mama!)
Shopping, Culture, and Heritage
Local Artists Gallery- The local artists gallery features arts and crafts from local artists as well as offering weekly classes for children and adults taught by the local artists themselves.
Luella’s Gift Market– Beautifully appointed gift shop located on Main Street offering such brands as Vera Bradley, Eno, Volunteer Traditions, Bourbon & Bowties, Brighton, Hobo, Cindy B, Life is Good, Kavu, Simply Southern and so much more.
Cruise In On The Square–We can’t leave a discussion of the Rogersville Main Street without mentioning the very popular Cruise in On The Square. Beginning in May, on select Friday’s each month, the community comes together for a pre-1989 classic car show. The local merchants and restaurants are open, there is live entertainment, activities for the kids, and a fun family friendly atmosphere for everyone.
Heritage Days– Every year downtown Rogersville hosts a celebratory festival the second weekend of October. Heritage Days celebrates the unique and important history of this American small town with traditional music, food, crafts, and community. Demonstrations of Pioneer skills, dancing, and a Civil War Reenactment are also among the weekend festivities.
As you can see, downtown Rogersville, TN has a lot to offer. Perhaps best known for their rich heritage and contribution to American History, the forward thinking spirit that created this nation over 200 years ago is alive and well in this small town in Northeast Tennessee. Don’t let the size or the location fool you, Rogersville is going places and I am excited to be here to watch!