You’ve heard of Greeneville, right? No, not that one. The one in Tennessee. From Atlanta, Greeneville, TN is about an hour outside of Knoxville. While Greeneville might not be well known now, the town was once a vibrant center for business because of the railroad that passed through it. The center of business wheeling and dealing was the General Morgan Inn located on Main Street.
Top photo courtesy of the General Morgan Inn
Built in 1884, it was first called the Grand Central Hotel. Besides being a center for business, the Greeneville hotel hosted dignitaries, balls and wedding receptions too, not to mention the thriving tobacco market in Greeneville. Alas, with the end the big tobacco era and the end of passenger train service, business continued on the downward spiral. Main Street, which had once been an integral part of the Greeneville community and the General Morgan Inn, its anchor, had no customers.
Sadly, the hotel had fallen into disrepair for years, though under the ownership of community members who did want to see it thrive. Thankfully, the Greeneville’s General Morgan Inn and Conference Center was able to reopen once again in 1996. Plus, the beautiful architecture and decor that made it, were kept intact. In fact, the General Morgan Inn and Conference is listed on the Natural Register of Historic Places and is part of the Historic Hotels of America. I’ve stayed at a couple other Historic Hotels of America, here and here.
What’s old is new again. And Greeneville, Tennessee is poised to become an exciting destination once again.
An ambitious project called Rediscover Greeneville is currently underway. It focuses on an effort to attract a new generation of families and tech savvy entrepreneurs in a small, but abundant community.
What are some of the features unique to the General Morgan Inn?
- The Portico entrance with hand painted paper on the ceiling
- The Czechoslovakian crystal chandeliers in the lobby were reproduced in New York
- The etched mirrors in the bar feature “dancing ladies” and were commissioned by a former owner. They are covered during the day with curtains so as not to take away from the status of Brumbley’s restaurant.
- The lobby was once an open space as the hotel is really two hotels that were joined together.
My visit coincided with a cousin’s wedding. Yes, the General Morgan Inn is a popular spot for weddings for those close to the Knoxville area. The elegant furnishings and easy parking (both street parking and the lot behind the hotel are free). Imagine that in a big city!
There’s a quaint little coffee shop attached to the hotel for fancy coffees (you can also get free coffee in the hotel lobby) and terrific breakfast sandwiches. Or get brunch at Brumley’s restaurant, which features several gorgeous rooms, including a library room where the wallpaper is actually made of the spines of books. They feature omelettes and a Hot Nashville biscuit that is utterly delicious.
Ghosts of the General Morgan Inn
I’m always on the lookout for ghosts when I stay in old hotels. I’d love to visit some European castles to see if I can meet any ghosts. Friendly ones of course. I was excited as there have been several ghosts noted at the General Morgan Inn in Greeneville. Grace, a playful ghost, was a server at one of the hotel’s former restaurants. She likes to steal spoons as many often disappear and never turn up again. There’s also “Front Desk Bill” who you’ll have to ask the staff at the General Morgan Inn in Greeneville about when you visit.
But I was really hoping to catch John Hunt Morgan, a confederate General, considered the Jessie James of his day. He was rumored to be very vain and said Union soldiers would never take him alive. He was shot in the back just a few feet from the General Morgan Inn’s lobby.
Leave yourself some time to walk around Greeneville (take the tour if possible). It is $5 and the 2-3 hour tour takes you to all the famous sites including a jailhouse, former president Andrew Johnson’s house, a couple tobacco owners’ mansions and more. You can inquire about this tour at the hotel, which is how we found out about it.
Learn more about the General Morgan Inn here.