Andrew Johnson National Historic Site.
Andrew Johnson's old tailor shop has stood since the 1820s. A shrine was built around it 100 years later.

Andrew Johnson National Historic Site

Field review by the editors.

Greeneville, Tennessee

The Andrew Johnson National Historic Site had its genesis in 1923, when a brick shrine enclosed the humble clapboard tailor shop of Johnson, future 17th President of the United States. After some nagging from Johnson's descendants, the Shrine was built by the state of Tennessee, and maintained by a local civic group called the Mothers Club. It ennobled Johnson's rags-to-riches story, and ignored the animosity that much of Tennessee still felt toward "traitor" Johnson for helping the Yankees during the Civil War.

Andrew Johnson National Historic Site.
Visitors can vote to impeach or acquit the 17th President; the votes are counted and recorded each year.

The National Park Service acquired the Shrine in 1941, and concurrently bought the "Homestead" a couple of blocks away, where Johnson had lived. Its last resident, Margaret Johnson Patterson Bartlett, Andrew Johnson's great-granddaughter, wanted $100,000 for the place. The government offered a deal: $44,000, and Margaret could live there as long as she liked and give tours. Margaret got her money's worth, because she didn't host her final tour until October 9, 1976, over 101 years after Johnson had died. The Park Service called her a "human fixture" and later conceded that an objective history of Andrew Johnson was not always easy when the tour guide was his relative.

Johnson died elsewhere, but his body was displayed in the Homestead parlor in 1875, as was Margaret Johnson Patterson Bartlett when she died in 1992. One of the upstairs rooms has a section of wall left unrestored; scrawled on it are the names of Confederate Civil War soldiers and, "Andrew Jackson, the Old Traitor."

Transatlantic Cable.
A few nice things did happen during the Johnson presidency, such as the first transatlantic cable.

The Parks Service built a Visitor Center onto the Tailor Shop Shrine in 1958. It doesn't have a lot of Johnson artifacts, but does encourage visitors to cast votes to impeach or acquit Andrew Johnson, just as the Senate did in 1868. Site superintendent Stephanie Steinhorst told us that the votes are tabulated each year; sometimes Johnson is Guilty, sometimes Not Guilty. When we visited he was clearly heading for acquittal.

We asked Stephanie: Do people still visit the Andrew Johnson National Historic Site carrying a grudge, even after all these years? She said that tourists nowadays are more open-minded. Some even arrive thinking that they're visiting an attraction about President Andrew Jackson.

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Also see: Tributes to a Traitor President

Andrew Johnson National Historic Site

Andrew Johnson National Historic Site

Address:
101 N. College St., Greeneville, TN
Directions:
East side of downtown, at the east end of E. Depot St. Parking lot is on the north side, just before the road curves north and becomes Academy St.
Hours:
Daily 9-5 (Call to verify)
Phone:
423-638-3551
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Andrew Johnson's Backwards BirthplaceAndrew Johnson's Backwards Birthplace, Greeneville, TN - < 1 mi.
Marble Andrew JohnsonMarble Andrew Johnson, Greeneville, TN - < 1 mi.
Bronze Andrew JohnsonBronze Andrew Johnson, Greeneville, TN - < 1 mi.
In the region:
Graveyard Memorial: USA's First Air Ace, Morristown, TN - 27 mi.

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December 18, 2018

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