Tree Streets Neighborhood

Johnson City, Tennessee • Southside Neighborhood Organization

"A Peek into Our Backyard" -- a tour of the gardens of the Historic Tree Streets District

Nashville Gardening Examiner, Dena Bolton

Anyone living in Johnson City is familiar with the Historic Tree Streets District. Johnson City was founded in 1856 by Henry Johnson and was originally known as “Johnson’s Depot,” emphasizing the town’s significance as a major railroad station and rail hub for the southeast. Later Johnson City, which was incorporated in 1869, grew as a railroad town but was then hit hard by the depression of 1893. Nevertheless, in 1901, a veterans center was established (now known as the U.S. Veterans Affairs Medical Center and National Cemetery, Mountain Home, TN). A few years later in 1911, the East Tennessee State Normal School (now known as East Tennessee State University) was authorized and built across from the VA Center on one side and what is now known as the Historic Tree Streets District on another side. The Tree Streets gained their own bit on notoriety during the 1920s when Montrose Court became a favorite temporary lodging for Al Capone and his cronies as they traveled between Chicago and Florida, giving rise to Johnson City’s nickname – “Little Chicago.”

Today, the Historic Tree Street District offers a genteel and at the same time very family-friendly atmosphere and is a favorite area of most Johnson City residents. Tree-lined streets with sidewalks weaving throughout the district invite residents and visitors alike to take a leisurely stroll and take in the sights of these older homes. Not only are the homes in this area of historic value architecturally, they also feature beautiful gardens. This year the Southside Neighborhood Organization is sponsoring “A Peek into Our Backyard” – a tour of 10 absolutely wonderful gardens in this area of Johnson City, rich in history. The tour will be taking place on Saturday, July 18 from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

A variety of gardens will be featured. These include formal landscaping, water features, and vegetable gardens. There will also be “earth-friendly” gardens that include rain barrels, composting, and even “solar” clothes dryers. In other words, there will be something for everyone.
Events include not only a walking tour of the district but also a tea for all participants. Vendors will have products – including all types of perennials, annuals, herbs, and garden accessories – for sale in Veterans Park next to South Side School on Southwest Avenue near Montrose Court. (Vendors may begin setting up at 9:00 a.m.) Tickets for “A Peek into Our Backyard” Garden Tour may be purchased in advance for just $8.00 and are available at Mize Farm and Garden on the corner of Watauga and State of Franklin Road. Tickets are also available on the day of the event for $10.00.
Anyone interested in additional information or in participating as a vendor can contact Mary Lee Jondahl at 423-926-7185 (email: or Wanda Buda at 423-928-4779 (email:

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