February is the month for love and East Tennessee combines history and romance for one powerful elixir that entices couples to return year after year. Let your favorite historic romance novel come alive at an inn or hotel located in these cities and towns that are brimming with charm. After all, romance like this can only be Made in Tennessee.
The Oliver Hotel in Knoxville
In 1876, German immigrant Peter Kern built a three-story building in the heart of downtown Knoxville to house his bakery, confectionery creations, and a venue for special events. The building is now The OIiver Hotel and is listed on the Register of Historic Places. The boutique hotel is idea for a romantic getaway.
The Oliver is an original expression of the city, and celebrates its atmosphere with chic, clean, Southern designs that pay subtle homage to the location's rich local culture. The 28 elegant rooms feature handcrafted furniture, original local artwork and amenities that makes for a luxurious experience. Downstairs is the Peter Kern Library, now a popular "watering hole" for guests and visitors to the city.
The hotel is on the corner of Market Square, a popular destination for dining and shopping. Its location is ideal for romantic strolls through Krutch Park and dining in award-winning restaurants such as Tupelo Honey Café and Knox Mason. Live entertainment occurs at the Tennessee or Bijou theaters just a block away.
During the day, bird-eye views of the city from the observation level of the Sunsphere can be enjoyed. If you are looking for inspiration and learning, the East Tennessee History Center and many galleries are also nearby. The shopping experiences range from the country feel of Mast General Store to the more trendy places such as Urban Outfitters. And do not forget to take home a Tennessee souvenir from Nothing Too Fancy which is in proximity.
The Hale Springs Inn in downtown Rogersville is not only a place with romantic charm, but historic appeal as well. Built in 1824, this three-story Federal style tavern and inn played host to many distinguished guests like United States presidents Andrew Jackson, Andrew Johnson, and James K. Polk. Jackson particularly loved the balcony over the inn's front porch, where he stood to address the townspeople.
The inn underwent a multi-million dollar renovation and was fully restored in 2008 to its 1820-30s glory days. The bed and breakfast has three presidential suites all named by its previous guests and six additional larger rooms, filled with furniture from the historic period. There is a bar and upscale dining downstairs at McKinney's Restaurant & Tavern, named after the inn's original owner, John McKinney.
Rogersville is a treasure of sites with historic significance. The Hawkins County Courthouse's brick columns and paladin windows over the front door, is the oldest original courthouse still in use in the state. The first Tennessee newspaper, the Knoxville Gazette, was printed in Rogersville in 1791. The Tennessee Newspaper and Printing Museum is open in the old Southern Railway Train Depot nearby.
Rogersville is 90 minutes north of Knoxville and only 30 miles south of Kingsport on Hwy 11W and is also a designated stop along the Sunny Side Trail, one of 16 self-driving trails throughout Tennessee.
One of my personal favorite getaways is to downtown Greeneville and the historic General Morgan Inn. The hotel is named after General John H. Morgan who lost his life after fleeing from the Dickson-Williams Mansion located behind the property.
The General Morgan's close proximity to Knoxville off I-81 means you spend less time traveling and more time relaxing and sightseeing. The lobby is grand without being intimidating and the rooms provide a place of solitude. Plush bedding and comfortable furniture decorate the rooms. The view of downtown is classic America.
Plan to eat downstairs in Brumley's Restaurant and Bar, named after the Brumley family who operated the then Hotel Brumley from the 1920's to 1980's. Their seasonal menu of Southern American cuisine comes with a creative flair.
Greeneville is also the home of President Andrew Johnson, so plan to visit the Andrew Johnson National Historic Site and the National Cemetery.
There are many architectural landmarks in downtown Chattanooga. One is The Read House Historic Inn and Suites, built in 1926. This 10-story brick and terracotta building designed in the Georgian style was built with lavish adornments now too costly to duplicate: terrazzo floors inlaid with marble; paneling of quarter sawed black walnut, carved and gilded woodwork, mirrors recessed in massive arches; and a lobby beautifully defined by its soaring columns. The Read House is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a prime example of period architecture and decorative art.
The Read House is continually updated with today's modern conveniences while preserving the ambience of days gone by. I have enjoyed my stay in both the traditional rooms and the suites, both providing a luxurious seclusion with plush bedding and heritage style furniture. Club Level Rooms and Presidential Suites are also available.
Be sure and eat at their on-site restaurant, Porter's Steakhouse, which has earned the Best of the Best Award by readers of the Chattanooga Time Free Press six years running. Walk through downtown Chattanooga for a cup of coffee at Mean Mug, Cadence Coffee Company, or conveniently walk to The Read House lobby where Chattanooga's only downtown Starbucks is located.
The Read House is right downtown and within walking distance to the Tennessee Aquarium, Chattanooga Market, and scores of restaurants that make the city a top destination for a romantic retreat. The city also provides a free shuttle that runs right in front of the hotel.