By Robert Sorrell
Sitting a short distance from Main Street in downtown Jonesborough, the Christopher Taylor House—once located more than a mile away in rural Washington County—is often considered one of the best examples of pioneer architecture in the region.
The two-story log house was built about 1777 by Taylor, an officer who served during the French and Indian War and the American Revolutionary War. He died in 1833 and is buried in a cemetery off Old State Route 34.
The historic house was originally built just two years before the founding of Jonesborough and 17 years before Tennessee was granted statehood. Jonesborough, named after North Carolina legislator Willie Jones, serves as the county seat. The historic county courthouse is located a short distance east on Main Street from the Taylor house.
Though small by today’s standards, Taylor thought his two-room home had enough space to accommodate boarders, his wife and their 10 children.
Former president Andrew Jackson visited Taylor and lived in the log house in 1788-1789 while practicing law. While in Jonesborough, Jackson took the oath of office to practice law in the western district of North Carolina and served as an attorney in town. At the time, the community was still part of North Carolina.
In 1974, the town of Jonesborough purchased the structure and moved it intact to its current location on Main Street, between the historic Chester Inn and Jonesborough Presbyterian Church, to preserve it from demolition.
Why does the Taylor house remain an important historic landmark in Jonesborough?
Anne Mason, executive director of the Heritage Alliance, which was established to preserve the area’s history, said the home is one of the few remaining examples of “truly frontier architecture” in Washington County. She added that Taylor was a very prominent citizen.
“When his house was saved and moved in the 1970s, it became a symbol for the preservation movement,” Mason said. “It was moved to be the town’s first visitors center. To this day, anytime we open the door, people come in and want to know more.”
The Heritage Alliance assists the town of Jonesborough with maintenance and interpretation of the house.
In 2019, the Heritage Allliance was able to replace the cedar shake roof with the assistance of a Daughters of the Revolution preservation grant, Mason said.
Since then, Mason said the organization has had storytelling, live music, jam sessions, crafters and more in the building.
The Heritage Alliance also moved its 1700s loom to the building and a volunteer weaver produces hand towels on it that are then sold at the Visitors Center.
“They’re a unique, Jonesborough souvenir,” Mason said.