Lifestyle Magazine

The Charles

By Afcpam @Yes
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.”

The Charles

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


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