Andrew Johnson National Historic Site | EARLY JOHNSON HOME

First home owned by Andrew Johnson in Greeneville, Tennessee

First home owned by Andrew Johnson in Greeneville, Tennessee

201 East Depot Street

Andrew Johnson first came to Greeneville, Tennessee, in 1826 at the age of seventeen when he, his mother, and his stepfather stopped to rest on their way to meet his brother, William, in the Sequatchie Valley (Tennessee). Nearly penniless at the time, Andrew earned some money by making a suit for the man at whose house his family was staying. The man suggested he remain in Greeneville because the town’s current tailor was getting old, but since the man was not yet ready to retire, after a brief stay the Johnsons moved on and eventually settled in Rutledge, a town forty miles south of Greeneville. Johnson was able to rent a shop and set up a tailor business there.

During his brief stay in Greeneville, Andrew met Eliza McCardle when she helped his family find a place to stay. He fell in love with her, but had to move on to find work. As fortune would have it, six months after moving to Rutledge, the Greeneville tailor retired and Andrew immediately moved back, arriving for a second time in March 1827. He married seventeen-year-old Eliza two months later, and the couple moved into a rented two-room house on Main Street. The front room was used as his tailor shop, while the back room is where the couple lived. Their first two children, Martha and Charles, where born there.

In 1831, after three years of running a successful tailor business, Johnson had the money to purchase a small house and a lot for his tailor shop near the corner of Water and Main Cross streets (Depot and College streets today). Called the Early Johnson Home by the National Park Service, this would be his residence for the next twenty years.

Johnson never had clear title to the property until 1850. He had originally bought it as a foreclosure after the owner died. His two sons, minors at the time, claimed they had inherited the house and that it could not be sold to pay their dead father’s debts. The two parties argued back and forth for years. It wasn’t until 1850 that the matter was finally settled, with Johnson paying the brothers $305 as the result of a long-threatened lawsuit.

In 1851, Johnson purchased a larger house on Main Street (known as the Homestead) from James Brannon for $950 plus his house on Water Street. The house changed hands many times after Brannon sold it a year later.

While the Andrew Johnson National Monument was established in 1942, the Early Johnson Home was not part of the park because it was still in private hands. It wasn’t until 1964 that owner Grover Kerbaugh agreed to sell the house to the National Park Service for $49,250 (the house had been in the Kerbaugh family since 1903). It is at this time that the park designation was changed from National Monument to National Historic Site.

The two rooms on the lower floor of the Early Johnson Home are open daily from 9 AM to 4 PM (except when closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day), and visitors are welcome to walk through on their own. The upper level is National Park Service offices.

Inside Andrew Johnson's home on Depot Street

Inside Andrew Johnson’s home on Depot Street

Unlike the Johnson Homestead house, the Early Home is not furnished. Instead, it serves as a small exhibit area that focuses on Johnson’s early years in Greeneville, as well as on his first forays into politics. Information on his presidency can be found in the Visitor Center.

Exhibits inside Andrew Johnson's home on Depot Street

Exhibits inside Andrew Johnson’s home on Depot Street

Most people won’t do much more than pop in and pop out of the building, but if you want to read all of the information panels, plan to spend about fifteen minutes for your visit.

Information panels

Information panels

Across Depot Street from the Early Johnson Home is a replica of the Raleigh, North Carolina, house in which Johnson was born. This was constructed in 1981 after Margaret Bartlett—the great-granddaughter of Johnson and his last surviving direct descendant—donated funds for the building. According to the National Park Service website for Andrew Johnson National Historic Site, the house is open to the pubic, but it was closed during my visit. The original house still exists and is now on display at Morecai Historic Park in Raleigh.

Replica of Johnson's birth home in Raleigh, North Carolina

Replica of Johnson’s birth home in Raleigh, North Carolina

Though not part of the National Historic Site, there is a statue of Johnson located on the opposite street corner from the Early Johnson Home.

Johnson statue

Johnson statue

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Last updated on March 9, 2020
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