Andrew Johnson, the 17th American President hails from Tennessee and there are several spots in the Greeneville, Tennessee area, approximately 90 minutes from Pigeon Forge, Tennessee to learn about his life. Johnson started as the alderman of Greeneville, then became mayor, state representative, Tennessee senator, governor, vice president (to Abraham Lincoln) and ultimately, the 17th president. Several sites related to Johnson’s life are overseen by the National Parks Service, which provides many ways to explore the area, including a self guided cell phone tour. While we only had limited time in the area (we were traveling from Shenandoah National Park to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park), we were able to learn all about Johnson’s life and infamous impeachment.
Traveling with Kids:
You can walk to at least three of the four major spots (the monument is about a mile away from the main Visitor Center and parking lot- probably easier to drive). The Visitor Center is handicap/stroller accessible.
Restrooms are located right outside the Visitor Center and there are changing tables.
Plan to spend about 45 minutes in the Visitor Center and Early Home. Make sure you get four passport stamps (read about the program here).
Four Main Spots of the Site:
The Visitor Center: Park behind the Early Home and cross the street to the Visitor Center. There is a viewing room with a 13 minute film outlining his life and a small gift shop. The two main rooms contain the actual Tailor Shop owned by the Johnson family and the field desk Johnson used as military governor of Tennessee. Timelines that parallel national events against important events in Johnson’s life, displays on foreign affairs and Presidential Peace Medals (given to Native Americans as a sign of good will) provide good perspective on the time period. There is also a simplified explanation of Johnson’s impeachment. Kids will like dressing up in period clothing and casting a vote as to whether Johnson should be removed from office after he was impeached.
2. The Early Home is worth a quick stop to check our where Johnson lived from the 1830s until 1851 with his family. It was here that Johnson got his start in politics, as the alderman of Greeneville, mayor, and state representative.
3. Take a short walk to the Homestead where you can have a ranger led tour of the house, filled with artifacts from his life. You’ll need to reserve tickets (free) at the Visitor’s Center. The tour lasts about 45 minutes and is child friendly. Bonus: As you walk, you might notice the Statue of Andrew Johnson (presiding over the National Historic Site) and the Birthplace Replica (Johnson was born in Raleigh, North Carolina) which you can explore.
4. Drive one mile and climb the (steep stairs) to the Andrew Johnson Monument and National Cemetery, where Johnson and his family are buried at the crest of Monument Hill. You can also drive and park at the top of the monument if you prefer.