The oldest town in Tennessee, Jonesborough was chartered by the State of North Carolina in 1779 and laid out in 1780. Named for Willie Jones, a resident of Halifax, North Carolina, who supported the western settlements, the town served as capital of the State of Franklin in 1784-85. Jonesborough was incorporated in 1815 and is the seat of government for Washington County, which had been established by North Carolina in 1777. A year earlier, in 1776, this large region of present-day Tennessee was designated the Washington District.
Most of historic Jonesborough is within a National Register of Historic Places district which includes important places of early settlement and political history as well as a fine range of architectural types from the vernacular log structures of the late 1700s to the Colonial Revival movement of the 1930s. Landmark buildings include the Chester Inn; the Christopher Taylor House, a two-story log dwelling; Sisters Row, an 1820s brick row house; the Presbyterian Church of 1845-47, one of the state’s most impressive Greek Revival church buildings; the Cunningham house, home of railroad investor Dr. Samuel B. Cunningham; the Holston Baptist Female Institute of 1853-55, which later served as a Freedmen’s Bureau school; and the Washington County Courthouse, designed by the Knoxville firm of Baumann and Baumann in 1913. The town’s visitor center and museum provide walking tour brochures and exhibits about the town’s two centuries of history. Jonesborough is also the host every October of the National Storytelling Festival, one of the nation’s premier folklife events.