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Johnson City, Tennessee
—  City  —
Downtown Johnson City
Location of Johnson City, Tennessee
Coordinates: 36°20′7″N 82°22′22″W / 36.33528°N 82.37278°W / 36.33528; -82.37278
Country United States
State Tennessee
Counties Washington, Carter, Sullivan
 - Type Council-manager government
 - Mayor Jane Myron
 - City Manager M. Denis "Pete" Peterson
 - City 39.6 sq mi (102.5 km2)
 - Land 39.3 sq mi (101.7 km2)
 - Water 0.3 sq mi (0.8 km2)
Elevation 1,634 ft (498 m)
Population (2008)
 - City 61,990
 - Density 1,412.4/sq mi (545.3/km2)
 - Urban 195,849
 - Metro 500,538
Time zone Eastern (EST) (UTC-5)
 - Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
Area code(s) 423
FIPS code 47-38320[1]
GNIS feature ID 1328579[2]

Johnson City is a city in Carter, Sullivan, and Washington counties in the U.S. state of Tennessee, with most of the city being in Washington County. The 2008 population for Johnson City was estimated at 61,990 by the United States Census, making it the eighth largest city in the state.[3] Johnson City is currently ranked the #44 "Best Small Place for Business and Careers" in the USA by Forbes,[4] and #8 "Best Place for African-Americans to Retire" in the USA by Black Enterprise Magazine.[5]

Johnson City is the principal city of the Johnson City Metropolitan Statistical Area, a metropolitan area that covers Carter, Unicoi, and Washington counties[6] and which had a combined population of 195,849[7] as of 2008. The Johnson City MSA is a component of the Johnson City–KingsportBristol, TN-VA Combined Statistical Area – commonly known as the "Tri-Cities" region. The Tri-Cities is the fifth largest CSA in Tennessee with an estimated 500,538 people in residence.[8]



Founded in 1856 by Henry Johnson as a railroad station called "Johnson's Depot," Johnson City became a major rail hub for the southeast, as three railway lines crossed in the downtown area. In the late 19th and early 20th century, Johnson City served as headquarters for the narrow gauge East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad (the ET&WNC, nicknamed "Tweetsie") and the standard gauge Clinchfield Railroad. Both rail systems featured excursion trips through scenic portions of the Blue Ridge Mountains and were engineering marvels of railway construction. The Southern Railway (now Norfolk Southern) also passes through the city.

During the American Civil War, before it was formally incorporated in 1869, the name of the town was briefly changed to Haynesville in honor of Confederate Senator Landon Carter Haynes. Henry Johnson's name was quickly restored following the war, with Johnson elected as the city's first Mayor on January 3, 1870. The town grew rapidly from 1870 until 1890 as railroad and mining interests flourished. However, the national depression of 1893, which caused many railway failures and a resulting financial panic, halted Johnson City's boom town momentum in its tracks.

In 1901, the Mountain Branch of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers (now the U.S. Veterans Affairs Medical Center and National Cemetery, Mountain Home, Tennessee[9][10] was created by an Act of the US Congress introduced by Walter P. Brownlow. Construction on this 450-acre (1.8 km2) campus, designed to serve disabled Civil War veterans, was completed in 1903 at a cost of $3 million. Prior to building of this facility, the assessed value of the entire town was listed at $750,000. The East Tennessee State Normal School was authorized in 1911 and the new college campus located directly across from the National Soldiers Home. Johnson City again entered a rapid growth phase becoming the fifth largest city in Tennessee by 1930.

Johnson City along with neighboring Bristol, Tennessee was noted as a hotbed for old-time music and hosted noteworthy Columbia Records recording sessions in 1928 known as the Johnson City Sessions. Native son "Fiddlin' Charlie" Bowman became a national recording star via these sessions.[11] The Fountain Square area in downtown featured a host of local and traveling street entertainers including Blind Lemon Jefferson.

During the 1920s, Johnson City's ties to Appalachian Mountains bootlegging activity gave the city the nickname of "Little Chicago".[12] Stories persist that the town was one of several distribution centers for Chicago gang boss Al Capone during Prohibition. Capone had a well organized distribution network within the southern United States for alcohol smuggling that shipped his products from the mountain distillers to northern cities. Capone was, by local accounts, a part-time resident of Montrose Court, a luxury apartment complex now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The city is featured in a song and video by Travis Tritt called "Modern Day Bonnie and Clyde," although the line "rollin' north on 95," is fictionalized, as Interstate 81 and Interstate 26 intersect near Johnson City. The city is also mentioned in a song by Old Crow Medicine Show called "Wagon Wheel", in the lyric "Walkin' due south out of Roanoke, I caught a trucker out of Philly had a nice long toke. But he’s a heading west from the Cumberland Gap, to Johnson City, Tennessee." [13]. However, the song gets the geography wrong, as Johnson City is southeast of the Cumberland Gap.

Johnson City has long been known for its curious ordinances in comparison to other Tennessee municipalities. For many years, the city had its own municipal 'privilege tax' on carnival shows in an attempt to dissuade traveling circuses and other transient entertainment businesses from doing business in town.[14] The use of drums by merchants to draw attention to their goods is prohibited. Title Six, Section 106 of the city's municipal code, the so-called Barney Fife ordinance, empowers the city's police force to draft into involuntary service as many of the town's citizens as necessary to aid police in making arrests and in preventing or quelling any riot, unlawful assembly or breach of peace.[15] Johnson City also prohibits the sale of air guns or air-propelled guns, though firearms sales are allowed.[16]


Johnson City is run by a five person commission. The offices as of April 2009 are as follows:

  • Mayor: Jane Myron
  • Vice Mayor: Dr. Jeff Banyas
  • Commissioner: Phil Carriger
  • Commissioner: Stephen Darden
  • Commissioner: Marcy Walker

M. Denis "Pete" Peterson is the current city manager.


View of midtown Johnson City.

Johnson City is located at 36°20′7″N 82°22′22″W / 36.33528°N 82.37278°W / 36.33528; -82.37278 (36.335399, -82.372760)[17]. Johnson City shares a contiguous southeastern border with Elizabethton, Tennessee. Johnson City also shares contiguous borders with Kingsport to the far north along I-26 and Bluff City to the east along US 11E.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 39.6 square miles (102.5 km²), of which 39.3 square miles (101.7 km²) is land and 0.3 square miles (0.8 km²; 0.78%) is water.

The hills and valleys surrounding the region are part of the Appalachian Ridge-and-Valley Province, and Johnson City is just west of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Roan Mountain, with an elevation of over 6,000 feet (1,800 m), is approximately 20 miles (32 km) to the east of the city. Buffalo Mountain, a ridge over 2,700 feet (820 m) high, is the location of a city park on the south side of town. Boone Lake, a TVA reservoir on the Holston and Watauga Rivers, is also partly within the city limits.


  • Antioch
  • Arbor Heights
  • Avondale Forest
  • Asbury
  • Boones Creek
  • Camelot
  • Carnegie
  • Carroll Creek
  • Carter Crossing
  • Carver
  • Cedar Grove
  • Cherokee
  • Downtown
  • Dunbar
  • East Ridge
  • El Rancho
  • Flourville
  • Gilmer Park
  • Greenfield Heights
  • Hunters Lake
  • Hunters Ridge
  • Keystone
  • Lake Ridge Estates
  • The Gump Addition
  • Highland Heights
  • Mountain Home
  • Mountcastle Hills
  • North Hills
  • North Johnson City
  • Pine Crest
  • Piney Grove
  • The Ridges
  • Round Tree
  • Shadowood
  • Sherwood Forest
  • South Side
  • Steeplechase
  • Stoneridge
  • Sunny Slopes
  • Tanglewood
  • Timberlake
  • Towne Acres
  • Tree Streets
  • Tunbridge
  • Tyler
  • West Oakland Park
  • Willows Ridge
  • Wilson Projects
  • Wiltshire
  • Woodstone

Nearby Towns and Cities


Condominium development in North Johnson City.

As of the census[1] of 2000, there were 55,469 people, 23,720 households, and 14,018 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,412.4 people per square mile (545.4/km²). There were 25,730 housing units at an average density of 655.1/sq mi (253.0/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 90.09% White, 6.40% African American, 0.26% Native American, 1.22% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.69% from other races, and 1.32% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.89% of the population.

There were 23,720 households out of which 25.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 44.1% were married couples living together, 11.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 40.9% were non-families. 33.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.20 and the average family size was 2.82.

In the city the population was spread out with 19.8% under the age of 18, 13.7% from 18 to 24, 28.1% from 25 to 44, 22.5% from 45 to 64, and 15.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females there were 91.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 88.0 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $30,835, and the median income for a family was $40,977. Males had a median income of $31,326 versus $22,150 for females. The per capita income for the city was $20,364. About 11.4% of families and 15.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 18.9% of those under age 18 and 12.7% of those age 65 or over.


The transit center in downtown Johnson City.

Johnson City is served by Tri-Cities Regional Airport (IATA Code TRI).


Interstate Highways

Johnson City is bisected by Interstate 26, which connects the city to Kingsport to the north and Asheville, North Carolina and Greenville, South Carolina to the south. The city is also served by Interstate 81, which intersects I-26 a few miles north of the city limits, and carries drivers to Knoxville to the west and Bristol, TN/VA to the northeast.

Major Federal and State Routes

  • U.S. Route 19W runs through the city, signed partially on I-26, before joining 19E near Bluff City en route to Bristol, TN/VA.
  • U.S. Route 11E connects Johnson City to Jonesborough and Greeneville to the west, and reunites with 11W to the east in Bristol before continuing on to Roanoke, Virginia. In Johnson City, route 11E forms a concurrency with North Roan Street, a major artery in the city.
  • U.S. Route 321, also partially located on the 11E route, connects Johnson City to Elizabethton (forming a high-speed, limited-access freeway) before continuing on to Hickory and Gastonia, North Carolina.
  • U.S. Route 23 is concurrent with I-26 from North Carolina, through Johnson City, and north to the I-26 terminus in Kingsport.

Public Transport

Johnson City Transport (JCT) operates a system of buses inside the city limits, including a route every fifteen minutes along Roan Street.[18] The Johnson City Transit Center, located downtown on West Market Street, also serves as the transfer point for Greyhound lines running through the city. JCT operates the BucShot, a system serving the greater ETSU campus.


Colleges and universities

The main campus of Northeast State Community College is located in nearby Blountville.

Private Schools

Johnson City School System

Elementary Schools

  • Cherokee Elementary
  • Fairmont Elementary
  • Lake Ridge Elementary
  • Mt. View Elementary
  • North Side Elementary
  • South Side Elementary
  • Towne Acres Elementary
  • Woodland Elementary

Middle Schools

  • Indian Trail Middle School

High Schools


Johnson City's economy is largely fueled by East Tennessee State University and the "Med-Tech" corridor,[21] anchored by the Johnson City Medical Center, the forthcoming Franklin Woods Community Hospital, and ETSU's Quillen College of Medicine.

Major companies headquartered in Johnson City

  • American Water Heater Company
  • Banta Southeast, Inc.
  • Cantech Industries
  • General Shale Brick LLC
  • Mullican Flooring
  • NN, Inc.
  • TPI Corporation
Top Employers in Johnson City[22]
Mountain States Health Alliance 3541
East Tennessee State University 1990
Citi Commerce Solutions 1700
Washington County School System 1275
James H. Quillen VA Medical Center 1259
American Water Heater Company 1194
AT&T (formerly Cingular) Wireless 1000


Johnson City serves as a regional medical center for northeast Tennessee and southwest Virginia, along with parts of western North Carolina and Kentucky. Although there are two major hospital systems in the Tri-Cities, only one – Mountain States Health Alliance – has a presence in Johnson City.

The Johnson City Medical Center, designated a Level 1 Trauma Center[23] by the State of Tennessee, is MSHA's flagship institution. Also affiliated with the center are the newly-constructed Niswonger Children's Hospital and Woodridge Hospital, a mental health and chemical dependency facility.

Under construction is Franklin Woods Community Hospital, a LEED-certified facility.[24] Once completed, the complex will replace two existing hospitals in the city, the Johnson City Specialty Hospital and North Side Hospital.

The James H. & Cecile C. Quillen Rehabilitation Hospital, located in North Johnson City, serves patients who have suffered debilitating trauma, including stroke and brain-spine injuries.

Additionally, the James H. Quillen VA Medical Center, located in the Mountain Home community in Johnson City's southside, serves veterans in the four-state region. The center is closely involved with the ETSU College of Medicine.



The Hands On! Museum, located in downtown Johnson City, houses an interactive gallery of exhibits and is a local favorite for school field trips.

The Gray Fossil Site in nearby Gray hosts the ETSU and General Shale Brick Natural History Museum and Visitor Center. The site, dated to the Miocene Era, contains the world's largest collection of fossil tapirs, and the only near-complete fossil red panda in existence.[25]

The corporate headquarters of General Shale Brick, between North Johnson City and Boones Creek, is home to a museum that showcases a collection of historically significant bricks including a 10,000-year-old specimen from the ancient city of Jericho.[26]

The Tipton-Haynes State Historic Site is located in the south of the city. Along with a museum and education center, there are eleven other buildings on-site dedicated to preserving and sharing traditional Appalachian farming and craft methods.[27] The site hosts the Bluegrass and Sorghum Making Festival every year, as well as other events during holidays and in the summer.


The Little Chicago Blues Festival is an annual celebration of the legendary Prohibition-era speakeasies and railroad glory days of Johnson City. The festival is housed in the historic Down Home, a regional hub for Americana and bluegrass music performance. The event is also a fundraiser for WETS-FM, the local NPR affiliate.

The Blue Plum Festival is a free art and music festival held outdoors in downtown Johnson City. Many regionally and nationally-acclaimed musical artists perform each year, mostly from the bluegrass, folk and Americana genres. The Blue Plum Animation Festival is held in conjunction with the main festival and East Tennessee State University. The festival also hosts a Division I[28] cycling event, the Sanofi Aventis Criterium.[29]


As a regional hub for a four-state area, Johnson City is home to a large variety of retail shopping, from well-known national chains to local boutiques and galleries.

The Mall at Johnson City is the city's only enclosed shopping mall. Anchor tenants include Belk, JCPenney, Sears, and Dick's Sporting Goods. Abercrombie & Fitch, American Eagle, Aeropostale, Gap, Victoria's Secret, Hollister and Journeys are also located in the mall. Recently, California-based Forever 21 opened a XXI Forever flagship store in the mall's upper level. The nearby Target Center houses Target, TJ Maxx, Books-A-Million, and Pier One.

Much of the new retail development is located in North Johnson City, along State of Franklin Road. Johnson City Crossings, the largest of these developments, hosts Old Navy, Home Depot, PetSmart, Michaels, and hhgregg. On the other side of the highway are retailers Kohl's, Lowe's, Sam's Club and Barnes and Noble.

Downtown Johnson City is seeing an increased retail presence, including new businesses like Johnson City Beadworks and Atlantis. Downtown mainstays include Main Street Antiques and Mercantile and Campbell's Morrell Music.

Local media


The area is served by the Johnson City Press, one of the three major newspapers in the northeast Tennessee region.
The Loafer is the Tri-Cities' free weekly alternative arts and entertainment magazine.
The Johnson City News and Neighbor is a free weekly community newspaper.
The Business Journal of Tri-Cities, TN/VA, based out of Johnson City, is the region's largest business magazine.


WJHL-TV is a CBS affiliate licensed in Johnson City. The city is part of the Tri-Cities DMA. See the box below for the local television stations:


WETS-FM 89.5 FM, located on the campus of East Tennessee State University, is the region's NPR affiliate. WJCW 910 AM and WQUT 101.5 FM are Citadel Broadcasting stations which are also licensed in Johnson City. See the box below for Johnson City-Kingsport-Bristol Arbitron Metro stations:

Notable residents

Points of interest

See also


  1. ^ a b "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.  
  2. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2008-01-31.  
  3. ^ "Annual Estimates of the Population of Incorporated Places and Minor Civil Divisions". United States Census Bureau, Population Division. 2009-03-27. Retrieved 2009-07-01.  
  4. ^ 2009 Best Small Places for Business and Careers
  5. ^ Best Place for African-Americans to Retire
  6. ^ METROPOLITAN STATISTICAL AREAS AND COMPONENTS, Office of Management and Budget, 2007-05-11. Accessed 2008-07-30.
  7. ^ "Annual Estimates of the Population of Metropolitan and Micropolitan Statistical Areas: April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2008 (CBSA-EST2008-01)" (XLS). 2008 Population Estimates. United States Census Bureau, Population Division. 2009-03-27. Retrieved 2009-06-25.  
  8. ^ "US Census 2008 CSA Estimates". 2009-03-27. Retrieved 2009-07-05.  
  9. ^ Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Mountain Home, Tennessee.
  10. ^ Cemeteries - Mountain Home National Cemetery - Burial & Memorials
  11. ^ Johnson's Depot: Old-Time Music Heritage
  12. ^ "Little Chicago"
  13. ^ Encyclopedia of Road Subculture: Wagon Wheel lyrics by Old Crow Medicine Show
  14. ^ Blue Ridge Country, The Day They Hanged An Elephant In East Tennessee, 13 February 2009
  15. ^ Title 6, Sec. 106, Municipal Code of Johnson City, Tennessee
  16. ^ AirSoft In The News 10 July 2007
  17. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2000 and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2005-05-03. Retrieved 2008-01-31.  
  18. ^ "Johnson City Transit, General Information". Retrieved 2009-07-01.  
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^ The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture
  22. ^ "2030 Long Range Transportation Plan". Johnson City Metropolitan Transport Planning Organization. p. 3–9. Retrieved 2009-07-03.  
  23. ^ "Emergency Services Johnson City Medical Center".  
  24. ^ "Franklin Woods Community Hospital". Retrieved 2009-07-05.  
  25. ^ "Gray Fossil Museum - About Us". Retrieved 2009-07-04.  
  26. ^ "General Shale Brick - The Company". Retrieved 2010-01-09.  
  27. ^ "Tipton-Haynes Website". Retrieved 2010-01-09.  
  28. ^ "Blue Plum Cycling Event". Retrieved 2009-07-05.  
  29. ^ "Tennessee Bicycle Racing Association". Retrieved 2009-07-05.  
  30. ^ "Kenny Chesney: 1998 Distinguished Alumnus in the Arts". ETSU Alumni Association. Retrieved 2008-06-01.  
  31. ^ Patrick Cronin (I)
  32. ^ Flynn Sports Management
  33. ^ Aubrayo Franklin
  34. ^ Jake Grove
  35. ^ Del Harris
  36. ^ Waymarking: Robins' Roost Historical Marker
  37. ^ Brad Teague Career Statistics -
  • Greater Johnson City, by Ray Stahl, 1986.
  • A History of Johnson City, Tennessee and its Environs, by Samuel Cole Williams, 1940.
  • History of Washington County, Tennessee, by Joyce and Gene Cox, Editors, 2001.
  • Fiddlin' Charlie Bowman, by Bob L. Cox, University of Tennessee Press, 2007.
  • The Railroads of Johnson City, by Johnny Graybeal, Tar Heel Press, 2007.

External links


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