Founded in 1778, steeped in history, Abingdon is distinguished by no fewer than twenty blocks of 200-year-old examples of National and Federal styles of architecture. More remarkable, perhaps, it is one of those rare places in America that has somehow managed to preserve not only an elegant architectural heritage, but a cultural one as well.
Bristol is more than a tale of two cities, it’s really a story of one city in two states and it offers the best of each state. With history dating back to the 1700s, Bristol’s unique position, astride the border of Virginia and Tennessee, adds to the city’s distinctive character. Bristol is surrounded by the beautiful Appalachian Mountains and home to the world-renowned NASCAR track, Bristol Motor Speedway. The Virginia/Tennessee state line runs down the middle of downtown Bristol, “A Good Place to Live” as the sign that arches State Street proclaims.
During the 1930s, Robert Porterfield, a native of Virginia, pursued an acting career in New York City. When he returned to Virginia, he settled in Abingdon, bringing 33 other actors with him. Here, they bartered their performances for produce, livestock and other goods brought by local people. Many of the biggest names of stage and screen have appeared on the Barter stage including Gregory Peck, Ernest Borgnine, Ned Beatty and Patricia Neal.
The popular Creeper Trail originates just off Main Street and follows the former rail bed of the Virginia-Carolina Railroad for 34 miles. The trail, with 100 trestles and bridges, sharp curves and steep grades, acquired its name from the early steam locomotives that crept up the steep grades from Abingdon to Elkland, N. C.
In 1927, Ralph Peer, with the Victor Talking Machine Company, first traveled to Bristol to organize the first commercial country music recordings. These historic “Bristol Sessions” launched the careers of the famed Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers, Ernest Stoneman, Flatt and Scruggs, Mac Wiseman and others. In 1998 the U.S. Congress recognized Bristol as the “Official Birthplace of Country Music.”