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 2010 population for Johnson City was 63,152 by the United States Census, making it the eighth-largest city in the state.
Johnson City is currently ranked the #14 "Best Small Place for Business and Careers" in the USA by Forbes, and #8 "Best Place for African Americans to Retire" in the USA by Black Enterprise magazine. Kiplinger ranked Johnson City #5 in "The 10 Least-Expensive Cities For Living in the U.S.A.", stating the low cost of living is attributed to affordable homes and below-average utility, transportation and health-care costs.
Johnson City is the principal city of the Johnson City Metropolitan Statistical Area, a metropolitan area that covers Carter, Unicoi, and Washington counties and which had a combined population of 195,849 as of 2008. The Johnson City MSA is a component of the Johnson City–Kingsport–Bristol, 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.
William Bean, traditionally recognized as Tennessee's first settler, built his cabin along Boone's Creek near Johnson City in 1769.
In the 1780s, Colonel John Tipton (1730–1813) established a farm (now the Tipton-Haynes State Historic Site) just outside of what is now Johnson City. During the State of Franklin movement, Tipton was a leader of the loyalist faction, residents of the region who wanted to remain part of North Carolina rather than form a separate state. In February 1788, an armed engagement took place at Tipton's farm between Tipton and his men and the forces led by John Sevier, the leader of the Franklin faction.
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 centuries, 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 (including the Charleston, Cincinnati and Chicago Railroad or "3-Cs", a predecessor of the Clinchfield) and a resulting financial panic, halted Johnson City's boom town momentum.
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 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 completion of the 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 began rapidly growing and became the fifth-largest city in Tennessee by 1930.
Together with neighboring Bristol, VA/TN, Johnson City was noted as a hotbed for old-time music; it 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. The Fountain Square area in downtown featured a host of local and traveling street entertainers including Blind Lemon Jefferson.
During the 1920s and the Prohibition era, Johnson City's ties to the bootlegging activity of the Appalachian Mountains earned the city the nickname of "Little Chicago". 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; it shipped his products from the mountain distillers to northern cities. Capone was, according to local lore, 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 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." The song gets the geography wrong, as Johnson City is east of the Cumberland Gap.
For many years, the city had a municipal 'privilege tax' on carnival shows, in an attempt to dissuade traveling circuses and other transient entertainment businesses from doing business in town. 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.
Johnson City is run by a five person commission. The commissioners as of May 2011 are as follows:
M. Denis "Pete" Peterson is the current city manager.
Johnson City is located at (36.3354, -82.3728). Johnson City shares a contiguous southeastern border with Elizabethton. 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 mile (0.8 km²; 0.78%) is water.
The steep mountains, rolling 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.
The Nolichucky River flows close to Johnson City towards its southern side. Whitewater rafting and kayaking opportunities exist where that river flows from the North Carolina state line near Erwin.
As of the census 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 per square mile (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.
Johnson City is served by Tri-Cities Regional Airport (IATA Code TRI) and Johnson City Airport (0A4), located in Wautaga.
Johnson City is bisected by Interstate 26, which connects the city to Kingsport to the north and Asheville, North Carolina and Spartanburg, 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.
Johnson City Transport (JCT) operates a system of buses inside the city limits, including a route every fifteen minutes along Roan Street. 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.
Johnson City is an economic hub largely fueled by East Tennessee State University and the medical "Med-Tech" corridor, anchored by the Johnson City Medical Center, Franklin Woods Community Hospital, Saratoga Technologies, Inc., ETSU's Gatton College of Pharmacy and ETSU's Quillen College of Medicine.
Johnson City is currently ranked #35 "Best Small Place for Business and Careers" in the USA. Due to its climate, high quality health care and affordable housing, it is ranked #8 "Best Place for African Americans to Retire" by Black Enterprise magazine. Kiplinger ranked Johnson City #5 in "The 10 Least-Expensive Cities For Living in the U.S.A.", stating the low cost of living is attributed to affordable homes and below-average utility, transportation and health-care costs.
The popular citrus soda, Mountain Dew, traces its origins to Johnson City. In July 2012, PepsiCo announced that a new, malt-flavored version of the drink will be named Mountain Dew Johnson City Gold, in honor of the city. The drink will be test marketed in the Chicago metropolitan area, as well as Denver, Colorado, and Charlotte, North Carolina, beginning in late August.
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 by the State of Tennessee, is MSHA's flagship institution. Also affiliated with the center are the Niswonger Children's Hospital, a domestic affiliate of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and Woodridge Hospital, a mental health and chemical dependency facility.
Franklin Woods Community Hospital is a LEED-certified facility located in North Johnson City. The "green" hospital (opened July 12, 2010) encloses approximately 240,000 square feet (22,000 m2) on a 25-acre (100,000 m2) lot adjacent to The Wellness Center inside MedTech Park. The hospital has 80 licensed beds and a 22-room Emergency Department. Of the licensed beds, 20 are dedicated to Women’s and Children’s Services.
The James H. & Cecile C. Quillen Rehabilitation Hospital, also 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 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.
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. 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 Umoja Unity Festival is held annually in downtown Johnson City. Initiated in 1978, Umoja, a Swahili word meaning unity, is a festival that spotlights the diverse societies of Johnson City, with an emphasis on African-American and Latino cultures. The downtown celebration includes musical performance as well as food and craft vendors.
The Blue Plum Festival is a free art and music festival held outdoors in the downtown. 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 cycling event, the Sanofi Aventis Criterium.
Each month the Downtown shopping district of Johnson City is home to "First Friday," a meandering art and music festival. Begun at Nelson Fine Art for introducing new artists to the public, First Friday has spread into the rest of the district. It features closed streets, restaurant specials, gallery receptions and shopping specials.
As a regional hub for a four-state area, Johnson City is home to a large variety of retail business, from well-known national chains to local boutiques and galleries.
The Mall at Johnson City is the city's only enclosed shopping mall. . Recently, California-based Forever 21 opened a XXI Forever flagship store in the mall's upper level, and Express opened in late 2010. 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. 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 art galleries, boutiques, and antique sellers. Long-standing businesses include Main Street Antiques and Mercantile, Campbell's Morrell Music, Nelson Fine Art and Masengill's Specialty Shop. Downtown will soon be home to Asheville based restaurant Tupelo Honey Cafe, who plans to open a restaurant in 2014.
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.
Johnson City is part of the Johnson City-Kingsport-Bristol Arbitron radio market. WETS-FM 89.5 FM, located on the campus of East Tennessee State University, is the region's NPR affiliate and the Tri-Cities' first HD radio service. WJCW 910 AM and WQUT 101.5 FM are Cumulus Media stations which are also licensed in Johnson City. The EDGE is a non-broadcasting student-run radio station at East Tennessee State University.