Andrew Johnson Historic Site
121 Monument Ave
Andrew Johnson has a long history in Greenville. He was born in Raleigh North Carolina in 1808 and was apprenticed there as a child to a tailor. He and his brother ran away from their apprentice ship and ended up in Greenville when Andrew was 17. He set himself up as a tailor and the next year he married a local girl whose father was a boot maker. They had five children together.
In time Andrews tailor shop became the place to discuss politics in Greenville and thus began his political career. In time he was a state representative, a state senator, governor of TN and senator from Tennessee. He was in fact the only senator from a Southern State who retained his seat in the Senate after the south seceded from the Union. In 1862 Abraham Lincoln named him as the Military Governor or Tennessee. In 1864 he was chosen to be the running mate of Lincoln even though he was a Democrat and Lincoln was a Republican. When Lincoln was assassinated Johnson was thrust in the position of President, a position not to be envied even under the best of circumstances, these were the worst of times. No president before or after has gone into the office with better intentions and ended with such a sense of defeat. His story is one that deserves to be told and the US Park Department has done a very good job at this location of doing just that.
There are three separate and distinctive buildings that make up this historic site. There is parking at the homestead and at the Visitor Center. The first Johnson home is located here. It is a small house with small rooms, the type of home typical to a successful tailor in the 1830’s & 40’s. You then cross the street and enter the Visitor Center. There is a thirteen and a half minute video that tells the story of Andrew Johnson. Once you exit the movie you are given a ballot to vote whether you think he should have been found innocent or guilty in his impeachment trial. Also inside the Visitor Center is the original tailor shop where so many lively political debates took place.
While you are at the Visitor Center you need to sign up for a tour of the Homestead which takes place on the half hour. While the other locations are about the professional life the homestead is about the personal life. It is located several blocks from the Visitor Center. There is a real sadness that pervades this part of the experience. Eliza Johnson suffered from tuberculosis and was unable to function as First Lady. All three of the Johnson sons died from the results of alcoholism under tragic circumstances. During the War the house was repeatedly vandalized and the tour will show you just a small section of the wall with the graffiti still visible.
There is one last site to visit, the Andrew Johnson Cemetery. High above the hill overlooking Greenville are the graves of the 17th President of the United States and his family. He was buried with a copy of the Constitution which he so revered under his head and wrapped in an American flag.