Dandridge is a town in Jefferson County, Tennessee, United States. It is the county seat of Jefferson County. It is part of the Morristown, Tennessee Metropolitan Statistical Area.
Dandridge is the second oldest city in Tennessee, behind only Jonesborough. The Jefferson County Courthouse, located in downtown Dandridge, contains many items of local historical importance, civil war relics and a museum of local history. There are many old structures in the town of beautiful design and the area contains a large selection of exceptional golf courses.
The town is situated along the northern bank of the Douglas Lake impoundment of the French Broad River, approximately 45 miles upstream from the river’s confluence with the Holston River and Tennessee River at Knoxville, and approximately 12 miles upstream from Douglas Dam.
Dandridge is centered around the junction of Tennessee State Route 92, which connects the town to Jefferson City to the north and U.S. Route 411 across the lake to the south, and U.S. Route 25/70, which connects the town to Knoxville to the west and Newport to the east. Interstate 40 intersects TN-92 in the northern part of Dandridge.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 5.3 square miles.
When pioneers breached the natural barrier of the Appalachian Mountain range and began exploration into the interior of our country, news of fertile valleys rich with fresh water and game filtered back to the coastal settlements. By the close of the American Revolution in 1783 permanent settlers had set up a western outpost along the banks of the French Broad River in the area that would later become Dandridge. In 1792 there was sufficient settlement for William Blount, Governor of the Territory South of the Ohio River, to carve out a new county named Jefferson in honor of the Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson. Frances Dean supplied 50 acres of land for the new county seat of Dandridge, named in honor of our country’s first First Lady, Martha Dandridge Washington. A courthouse was built and the town prospered with some of the earliest businesses being taverns catering to the travelers and businessmen requiring overnight lodging.
Around 1856 when the East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad constructed its line connecting Knoxville to Virginia, the route chosen through Jefferson County was north of Dandridge and past the communities of New Market and Mossy Creek. As commerce shifted to the railroad system, Dandridge’s growth slowed but its importance as the county seat kept the town active.
Today, Dandridge is still a viable community with a historic Main Street. It is a National Historic District showcased by the second courthouse completed in 1845 of Greek revival architecture. The downtown has the distinction of being a certified Main Street by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Four of the original taverns highlight the historic district ? the Roper Tavern, Hickman Tavern, Shepherds’ Inn, and Thomas Tavern. Federal and Greek revival architecture dominate the building styles of the historic district. Downtown Dandridge sits on the banks of a dike that was built in 1942 to save the town from the waters of Douglas Lake when the Tennessee Valley Authority built a dam across the French Broad River.
Dandridge provides a delightful mixture of old and new. The courthouse contains a free museum displaying historic artifacts from many areas of Jefferson County. Roper Tavern is occupied as a law office. The old Hickman Tavern is now the Dandridge Town Hall, and the Coach House is our Visitor’s Center where one can find information on Historic Dandridge. Shepherd’s Inn is a private residence. The Thomas Tavern is a gift and smoke shop. The old Gass General Store building now houses a steak & barbecue restaurant, general store, antiques & collectibles. One of the most famous places of interest is the Tinsley Bible drug store where you can stop in for an old time fountain soda or mildshake.