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Country Wedding Is Elegant

Whew!  This summer and early fall have been non-stop.  I’ve been so busy with weddings and other events that it’s all been a blur.  The next few posts will catch you up on what we’ve been up to.  They will also give you a look at some of our favorite wedding venues.

Harvest Acres Farm is a new wedding venue in our region.  Locate in Limestone, TN, the acres of rolling hills with the backdrop of the mountains are breathtaking!  There are lots of outdoor spaces to choose from when planning your ceremony site.  The 7,500 square feet barn was completed in 2010.  It can accommodate 200 people on the main (acid stained concrete) floor, with additional seating in the loft area.  You can use the hay wagon to transport your guests from the barn to the ceremony!

The event barn is family owned and operated.  They built it mainly for a place to have functions for their church, but have opened it to use by others as well.  This isn’t just an old barn that has been converted to a venue.  It was specifically built for events, so it has never had the smell of hay, or other usual smells that come with a barn.  The catering kitchen is very nice, as are the restrooms, neither of which will you normally find in a barn.  There are changing rooms for the bridal party.

Above, is a before picture of the barn.  Below are before and after  pictures of the arbor, the huge stone fireplace inside the barn, and what the inside of the barn looked like before we got hold of it.  LOL

(The cute guy in the YMCA shirt is my awesome husband.)

Britney and Logan’s wedding style was casual elegance.  The color scheme of black, white, and green was perfect for the setting.  My talented son-in-law, Joe did the scroll pattern down the aisle.  Give the man a bag of rose petals and he can create magic!  The flower girls were so cute!  They stepped over the petals going down the aisle, which had all the guests laughing.  It was adorable.

To see more pictures from this magazine worthy wedding, go to Pamela’s Event Design.  Coming next…After a year of being married, Lindsey and Isaac finally had their dream wedding.

Thanks for stopping by,

Pam Archer

Banq-The Gathering Place

First National Bank-1927

John and Angela Vachon are passionate about the revitalization of downtown Kingsport, Tennessee.   They have purchased several of the buildings in downtown  for the purpose of restoring them to their former glory days.  They have done a fantastic job of doing so.   Banq is the result of one of their endeavors.

Banq is located on the second floor of the three-story structure.  The building was originally the  First National Bank.   The bank opened in 1927, and was considered to be one of East Tennessee’s finest buildings.  It boasts white marble walls and windows that spanned two stories; something of a novelty back in the day.

First National Bank

John was unaware of any ghosts in the building, but said that it has been investigated for paranormal activity.  I did a little digging of my own to research this building.  While I didn’t uncover any stories of ghosts, I did discover another interesting fact.  First National Bank was the site of Kingsport’s first bank robbery!  The year the bank opened, a 22 year old Paul Jones entered a rear door in the building and demanded that a cashier put all the silver and currency in a bag.  It amounted to $1,000.00.  He attempted to hotwire a car outside the building, but when that failed he took off on foot.  He was forced into submission by police officers in front of Kingsport Feed and Produce Company.  After a mere 33 minutes of deliberation, the jury found him guilty.  He was sentenced to 20 years and one day in the penitentiary.

Today, Banq is host to many wedding receptions, parties, corporate dinners, and other events.  It can accommodate up to 300 guests.  It has a rooftop area that is a gorgeous place for an event.  I love how it lights up and one can see from the street outside many of it’s features.

After the Renovations

If you would like to see a video tour of the space, you can click HERE.

I would wager a guess that since this building remained empty for a number of years, that it does indeed house it’s own creatures of the night, but I’m not volunteering to validate the claim.  Regardless, it is a lovely venue for your wedding ceremony and/or reception.  Here is a yummy desert display for an event there.

Call Banq today for your personal tour.


Thanks for stopping by.  Be sure to spread the word about the series and the blog. 

Pam Archer

Pamela’s Event Design

Bristol Train Station

Bristol, TN is the birthplace of country music.  Bristol, VA is the home of the Bristol Train Station.  The current structure was erected in 1902 and is it’s fourth depot.  The first was built in 1856 and burned during Stoneman’s raid in 1864.  After the Civil War a new one was built and opened in early 1866.  Bristol soon outgrew this structure and one was completed in 1882.

Located on the Bristol Virginia/Tennessee line, this depot received goods, news, mail, and new residents via train.  College students came and went by rail.  At one time, more than 72 brothels were located close to the depot.  With it’s illustrious past, it’s no wonder that the train station  has so many permanent residents.  Paranormal readings have identified at least 68 spirits in the building!

Last summer, I was attending a wedding professionals meeting at the depot.  We were asked to go downstairs to the cellar to record some video footage for our businesses.   While waiting my turn, I was talking to a couple of the photographers.  They began to tell stories of photographing engagement sessions and wedding there, and specifically where we were standing.  When they would bring the images up on their computers, there were many orbs in the photos.  After spending hours editing the images out of the pictures, their efforts were futile.  When the pictures printed, the orbs were still there!  I spoke with the current marketing manager who said she knew that was true, because she has had the same thing happen to her with her snapshots.

One of the previous marketing managers told the story of hearing someone walking on the main floor while he was in his office upstairs.  When he went to see who it was, he could still hear the footsteps, but did not see anyone.  The spirit coughed before exiting the building.  It seems the elevator has a mind of it’s own!  It runs up and down the elevator shaft at random times throughout the day and night, transporting invisible passengers.  Others have heard the scream of a lady at 1:00 am on the railraod tracks outside.    There are numerous reports of sightings and sounds coming from various areas of the train station.  Clocks stop at the same time every night, 8:50.  Former manager says that he can’t explain some of the things he has seen and heard there; like laughing and coughing from disembodied spirits.

The building has been restored to it’s 1930’s state.  It is a very nice location with lots of history.  To read more about it and see pictures, click HERE.

To book a wedding or event:

Train Station

101 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.

Bristol, VA 24201


Come back tomorrow and read the story of Banq-The Gathering Place.  Though teams have come to measure paranormal activity, the current owners do not have the reports, however I uncovered some interesting history.

Thanks for stopping by!

Pam Archer

Pamela’s Event Design

The Martha Washington Inn

The Martha

The Martha Washington Inn was built in 1832 as a private residence for General Francis Preston and Sarah Buchanan Preston and their nine children.

179  years ago the residence was built for just under $15,000 dollars.  In 1858 the Preston family home was sold $21,000 dollars .  It became an upscale college for women.   The school was named Martha Washington College.  Locals call it “The Martha”.  The college operated for over 70 years through the years of the Civil War and the Great Depression.

“The “War Between the States” was soon to have a dramatic effect on the college. Schoolgirls became nurses and the beautiful grounds became training barracks for the Washington Mounted Rifles. Union and Confederate troops were involved in frequent skirmishes in and around the town with the college serving as a makeshift hospital for the wounded, both Confederate and Yankee.  Despite the devastating effects of the Civil War, the Martha Washington College survived. However, the Great Depression, typhoid fever and a declining enrollment eventually took its toll. The Martha was closed in 1932, standing idle for several years.”  – This was to sent to me by a staff person and borrowed from The Martha’s website, with permission.

For the next 50 years The Martha was to experience a number of changes in ownership. For a period of time the facility was used to house actors and actresses appearing at the Barter Theatre across the street. Patricia Neal, Ernest Borgnine, and Ned Beatty are but a few of the prominent actors who began their career here… all of whom have later returned to visit The Martha.  The Barter Theatre is today known as the longest-running professional resident theatre in America.

In 1935, The Martha Washington Inn opened as a hotel and throughout the years has hosted many illustrious guests. Eleanor Roosevelt, President Harry Truman, Lady Bird Johnson, Jimmy Carter, and Elizabeth Taylor are counted among the many famous guests who have frequented the hotel.

In 1984, The United Company, representing a group of dedicated businessmen, purchased The Martha Washington Inn and began an eight million dollar renovation.  Aware of this historic landmark’s importance to the town of Abingdon, the restoration was carefully designed to preserve and enhance much of its original splendor and architectural detail.

In 1995, The Martha Washington Inn joined The Camberley Collection of fine historic properties.

It was from the Civil War era that many of the ghosts came to exist.  Sightings of ghosts and other eery encounters have been experienced by guests and staff, including myself.  Violin music can still be heard coming from room 403.  The ghost, named Beth, soothed a dying confederate solider by playing the violin.  Guests in room 210 have actually been touched by ghosts!  If you stay in room 302, you might witness an entire silent party!  Images appear on the mirrors in the salon.
In 2010 I was at The Martha, tending to some last minute details for an upcoming wedding.  I had my folder in my arms with a fabric swatch securely fastened to it.  I had just left the gift shop where the clerk had told me about often seeing a figure looking at her through the display window.  I laughed it off and made my way down the hall, through the front doors of the mansion, and to my car.  It was pouring rain.  When I got in my car I noticed that the fabric swatch was gone.  I opened the door to look to see if I had dropped it on the ground, then proceeded to look under and around my vehicle.  I traced my steps back to the shop.  Nothing!  I knew I had it in the shop and there was only a hallway and porch between the shop and my car.  Both the swatch and the paper clip had vanished.  The clerk remarked that the ghost was probably playing a trick on me, that it happens all the time.  I don’t know if there is any merit to this, I only know my swatch and paper clip disappeared and were never found.
The gazebo is a beautiful place for an outdoor wedding.  This is the wedding I was referring to:
The ballroom is gorgeous!  It can accommodate approximately 200 guests.
The Ballroom at The Martha Washington Inn

If you are ever in the Abingdon/Bristol, Virginia area, make it a point to visit The Martha.   You can take a seat on the front veranda and enjoy a glass of southern iced tea.

The Martha

150 West Main Street

Abingdon, VA 24210


Tomorrow we will explore one of the most ghostly populated buildings in Bristol, VA,  The Bristol Train Station.  Be sure to come back and tell all your friends, too!

Pam Archer

New Canton Plantation

Lana Kiser Photography

New Canton Plantation found its beginnings before the Declaration of Independence was a twinkle in Jefferson’s eye.  In the mid 1700’s, His Majesty King George II deeded the original tract of 3,000 acres to British loyal subjects Eldridge and Hannibal Hord.  At that time, Tennessee was the western frontier, English settlers were surging westward into the new world, warring Indians were poised to the west.  Historical accounts do not offer, but one must wonder how The Hord family  must have felt as they were  just entrusted  with a large land grant  from King George, and then  suddenly finding themselves with George Washington at the helm,  neck-deep in  the revolutionary conflict  against that same king.  Apparently the Hord family chose the right side and lived to produce another generation.

Little is known in this relatively quiet period but,  a half a century later in 1840, Eldridge and Hannibal utilized  twenty-seven slaves to build a pair of 4,500 sq. ft. brick homes, a 7500 sq.ft. Grist mill, a general hardware store, and numerous barns and out buildings.  At that time slave holding was not only legal, but was a worldwide commodity.  Black and mulatto slaves tended the fields raising corn, tobacco, cutting timber, and running livestock.   Water was hand pumped from Hord creek up to a large cistern above the house which provided a crude form of cool running water to those inside the mansion.  Interestingly, this cool water supply was used primarily for cooling instead of drinking.

Those servants  favored by Mr. Hord held quarters in the basement of the house.  Others who tended to the fields or were involved in milling operations, lived in small cabins near the mill.

Back at the mansion, a bedroom above the kitchen with only an outside door is thought to be the house servant’s quarters.  Those holding these quarters did the cooking, cleaning and day-to-day tasks associated with the mansion.  Immediately below them, the kitchen was the center of constant activity.  Cooking, hospitality, butler’s duties, and any duties associated with the mansion itself were executed around the clock.  Until 1990 the kitchen was actually bricked off from the living quarters of the mansion because of the enormous heat generated there.  Down below at Hord Creek, the mill bustled with trade, milling, locals visiting the local post office and a general store kept patrons supplied with hard to get items such as tools and gunpowder.  People traveled from miles around to trade, barter, catch up on happenings, and grind meal; activity was everywhere.

Slave quarters in the basement

Slave quarters are now groom's dressing room.

The old dinner bell rang at 12 noon for over 100 years.

The home’s architecture would be a twinkle in Jefferson’s eye. The style is Federal, whose specific style arrived from across the pond along with our beloved founders. It is of deep European roots and Jefferson’s own Monticello was fashioned in it. The Palladian style is very strict in its use of space and balance, (some suggest even over use and practicality).  Jefferson’s extensive travels to France and Italy apparently gave him a deep appreciation for this stately form he found across the Atlantic. Now, back in his beloved America, he loved, built, drew, and promoted this style of architecture. Many examples can still be found from northern Tennessee to Virginia to the many white marble state buildings erected in the capital before the War Between the States.


It is often asked, how did the house survive the war of northern aggression? Union troops did indeed occupy the plantation for an extended time.  As Union troops descended on the Kingsport area The Hord family hurriedly hid their valuables in nearby caves and sink holes.  Union commanders  allowed the family to remain in their home while the troops utilized the plantations many facilities.  The story is told of a union corporal who demanded the plantation blacksmith re-shoe his horse.  Apparently the blacksmith was just as sarcastic as the corporal was arrogant.  The blacksmith’s unwelcome comment resulted in him being bayoneted by the angry corporal.  The soldier’s commander upon hearing of the wounded blacksmith, assigned his personal doctor to oversee the man’s recovery.  It is told that the corporal’s treatment was not so kind.  Apparently Mr. Hord’s cooperation with union commanders in offering the plantations facilities to the battle weary troops helped to save the plantation and its assets for future generations.  After the union troops continued their march south to Atlanta, valuables were removed from their hiding places and returned to the home.  Plantation life would carry on much as it had before.

The plantation home is estimated to have more than a million bricks, each handmade and kiln fired. Even the interior walls are a full 18 inches thick.  In response to a challenge from Mr. Hord, the head slave, thought to be Abraham D,  oversaw completion of the house in just over a year.  His reward was a gold coin and first dance at the annual Christmas party. Interestingly, stories suggest that Abraham chose Mrs. Hord as his dancing partner.  Abrahams signature still remains today, carved into the old brick wall near the entrance to his quarters. Abraham’s legend lives long after his passing and he was apparently a wise and faithful servant.

Mr. Hord according to all accounts was a benevolent and decent man. This observation in galvanized into history  by the fact that not only did the Hord family agree to the decree of emancipation but land plots  were provided for those families  whose fates he governed  in that bloodiest of civil  battles. It should not go unmentioned that the American founders were those who first put a stop to this form of human trafficking.  It could not be counted the number of times those close to the history of The Plantation have remarked, “if only walls could talk… what they would say”.   Then, in 1864 after two years of grim war, and almost two million casualties General Lee and Grant agreed to articles of surrender ending the America’s bloodiest chapter. At the proffer of President Lincoln, those indentured servants caught in the middle of this bloody conflict were granted freedom. Some moved to New Canton where Mr. Hord provided property. Some of these newest American citizens took the Hord name and many of their descendants still live in New Canton today.  It is with the upmost respect and honor for all those, indentured or free, remembered and forgotten, those who prospered and those who lay slain in obscurity, that New Canton Plantation still stands to exist as it does today.

For close to two hundred years, the 9 fireplaces churned out heat for those inside, but the dilapidated outbuildings and ruins surrounding the stately old mansion allude to times long since passed. As one walks the property, its trees appear monstrous, their clinging vines, Jurassic. Abandoned roadbeds plead to a curiosity of travels they must have seen, questions left unanswered.  New Canton Plantation is not only a home, but a mysterious time all but gone now, just a haunting curiosity, but such is the mystery of history.

The picture of all the old buildings shows the Plantation in full operation around 1900.  Interestingly,  the difference between a plantation and a farm is that a plantation is 100% self-sufficient, a farm is not. This picture shows the mill, blacksmith’s shop, tannery, and numerous other unidentified buildings.  New Canton Plantation was indeed a center of commerce.

Old Mill, Blacksmith Shop, and Tannery

As far as ghosts, we had heard stories from the previous owners about a soldier in the parlor that had badly frightened the house painter.  He would not come back.  While visiting, a friend of ours, (and we had told him nothing), saw a soldier pacing between the windows in the parlor.  He was wearing an officer’s jacket with buttons, a hat, and a beard.  One night at a wedding, a woman from Kingsport  approached me quite upset and asked if there was anything peculiar about the parlor.  I inquired as to the specifics of her comment and she replied that there was a man in there.  I asked her what he was wearing and she said a long dark jacket with buttons up the front,  a beard and some kind of hat, like the kind a civil war soldier would wear.   She said he was pacing back and forth and was extremely anxious about something.  As we stood there, I asked “Where is he now?”  She said “Right behind you!

The Library where the soldier has been seen pacing.

We also heard stories of a woman in a white dress. Never thought too much about it until I took the  picture attached here. I took 3 or 4 pictures and this is the only one with this girl in the window.  I have walked into that house at 2 am and never think twice about it. I think if you want to see a ghost, you’ll see a ghost, if you don’t, you won’t. The only thing I find odd is why do people see the same man in the same room doing the same thing. O well,  I’m too busy to worry about it.”  – Bill Birdsong, Owner

Picture of a girl seen through a window show up in a photo

New Canton Plantation

826 WEst Main Blvd.

Church Hill, TN 37642


Wasn’t that fascinating?  What do you think of the girl in the window?

Thanks for stopping by!  Tomorrow, come back to read about the historic Martha Washington Inn in Abingdon, Virginia.

Pam Archer

The Charles

The Old Charles

This post is the first in a series that features some of our area’s best wedding venues.  My initial intention was to find out a little bit of history about each venue.  Did I ever get history!  The stories that you will read over the next few days are filled with intrigue, suspense, shock, American History, and ghosts!  You will be spellbound by these accounts.  I certainly was.  The old saying,  “If walls could talk.”, was never more true than in this captivating story you are about to read.

The Charles    Located in downtown Johnson City, Tennessee, it is a popular venue for lots of different events, including wedding receptions.  It’s spacious and beautiful, from it’s first floor banquet hall to the renovated speakeasy floor, to the  roof garden.   I’ve worked with William Bailey and his staff on numerous occasions.  You would be hard-pressed to find a more accommodating group of people.  I admire them and highly recommend The Charles for your wedding reception, rehearsal dinner, bridal shower, or any other event you are planning.

William Bailey tells a little bit of the history of this building.

The Charles  was a red brick Victorian style store built in the 1890s. In 1936,  following a fire in the King’s Department Store building next door, the building
was weakened.   Buttresses were added inside The Charles to reinforce the King building. During that renovation the Victorian facade was removed and the current one attached.

The Charles is haunted!   We know the names of only three – Helen, Arthur, and Alice.   Helen worked at The Charles, and she is sometimes heard going up and down the back stairs complaining about having to move the furniture. Arthur came in with one of the paintings “The Pathway Home,” and now thinks of himself as a member of the staff.

Arthur has been both seen and heard.  A ghost doesn’t know they are dead.  They are attached to a place or thing.  Arthur is attached to the painting and came to The Charles with the painting.   Unlike Helen and Alice, who are attached to The Charles as it was in the past, he knows The Charles as it is now.  He thinks he works there and tries to help the staff.  If we have left a window or door open the night before, when I unlock the next morning the hair on my arm will stand on end.  The energy in the building will change.  We know something is wrong.

Did I tell you the story about Arthur appearing to a guest in the restroom?  He was trying to be helpful to me.  One time he shoved staff aside to get upstairs to me to warn me a staff member was on the ground floor causing problems.

The Pathway Home

The Pathway Home

Alice has been heard and has spoken in the gallery. Helen has been heard on the back stairs, but it was Arthur who told Helen’s name. The ghosts have told guests their names. We only believe after a name is given to separate guests.  We have several others whom we have not yet identified. Among these are two small girls who have been heard several times laughing from the top floor.

The Charles is the site of Johnson City’s only mass murder.  Johnson City was a railroad town. It grew up at the intersection of three rail lines. This is why Johnson City has its Al Capone history. It was located one week by train from Chicago and one week to Miami; his two cities.  He would stop in Johnson City for weeks at a time. During that era the top floor of  The Charles was a speakeasy.  Back then, the African-Americans in town were the service industry. They were the bellhops at the hotels, the porters at the railroad stations, truck drivers and maids. They opened the doors for every white person in town. They knew the comings and goings of everyone. So, they became informants for the police and FBI.

In 1923, 16 blacks were lined up against a mezzanine wall and shot down because they were informants against Capone and his operation.  Incidentally, this is not unknown.   Johnson City was so corrupt that between 1920 and 1923 it had 17 Chiefs of Police!

During the renovation of the building we found bullets in a wall.   We knew the store sold ammunition, so thought little of it. One of our first events was a luncheon for the NAACP.   During the luncheon a lady at a table near the street started crying.   I asked what was wrong.   She told me she was flooded by memories.   She was looking across the street at the old Woolworth building, (now Hands on Museum),  and remembered being turned away from its lunch counter.   Her uncle was one of those killed in the building.  She was the first to tell me the story.   I had never heard it before.   She explained that African-Americans all know it.   It’s part of their history.   The whites don’t know it,  because those killed “where just blacks.”

I marched down to City Hall.   In going back through the records,  sure enough there was an incident report.   It listed the names of all 16 victims, with one sentence written across the bottom.  “No investigation done”.

Alice was one of the sixteen killed at The Charles.  She steals the spoons! Spoons had the most silver and were the most valuable.   If spoons are left in the gallery overnight, she steals them all.

The Charles is now Johnson City’s premier banquet hall,  seating up to 300 guests.   Events include wedding receptions, trade shows, and workshops.  The uses are limited only to a person’s imagination.   Amenities include a thirty-two color, in-house linen collection, place settings for 800 guests, and a twenty-eight foot stretch Lincoln Town Car limousine that is the bride’s to use on her wedding day.”

Upstairs room where the speak easy used to be

The Charles Wedding Venue

First Floor

The Charles Limo

The Limo

Call William today to schedule an appointment to see this historic venue and book your wedding reception or event.

The Charles

308 East Main Street

Johnson City, TN


Tomorrow, come back and read about an historic mansion,  New Canton Plantation.

Thanks for stopping by!

Pam Archer

Saying I Do at Maple Lane Farm

 Maple Lane Farm in Johnson City, TN lends the perfect backdrop for a summer afternoon wedding.   The gazebo is located beside a pond, where ducks and geese swim.  Beth and Jonathan’s wedding had a casual, but elegant feel to it.

Maple Lane Farm Gazebo

Gerbera daisies have long been a favorite of brides for outdoor weddings, and both bride and groom chose them as their favorite flower.  Beth carried a bouquet of gerbera daisies, roses, and stephanotis.

Bridal boquet of stephanotis, roses, and gerbera daisies

For outdoor weddings, this tropical punch color of the bridesmaids dresses really pop against the background of green grass and trees.

The bride must walk through a barn to get to the gazebo

Bride Enters through a barn

The reception pavilion was decorated with gerbera daisies and brightly colored ribbon.

Other tables had submerged gerbera daisies.

How could you be anything but happy when you look at these huge paper flowers?

Maple Lane  is the perfect venue for an outdoor, relaxed wedding.

Above photos courtesy of Cable Photography

Maple Lane Farm

3134 Cherokee Rd.

Johnson City, TN 37604


My next few posts will begin a series which features some of the other popular wedding venues in our region.  You don’t want to miss this!  The stories will make the hair the back of your neck stand up as the owners reveal the secrets of the past.

Thanks for stopping by!  Please share this with your friends, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

Pam Archer