Tennessee Ernie Ford House (By Appointment Only)
In 1991, the Bristol Historical Association discovered that the Birthplace of Tennessee Ernie Ford, located at 1223 Anderson Street in Bristol, Tennessee, was available for purchase. The house, while outwardly unassuming, had historical significance. The Association decided that this house was just what was needed and would be a great location for meetings and display of memorabilia.
The Ford House, as it has since become known, was ideal for the organization and provided an opportunity to preserve a bit of Bristol’s history. Prior to proceeding with the plan to restore the house, Ernie Ford was contacted to determine his feelings about the project. He was elated to discover the intentions of the Association. When he returned to Bristol for the grand opening of the Paramount Center for the Arts, he met with members of the organization on several occasions. Later, upon his return to California, BHA received several phone calls from him desiring to know how the restoration was progressing.
Restoration of the interior began with replacing the narrow woodwork. The next big project was to uncover the two fireplaces and locate suitable mantels. These were found in a nearby old house that was being demolished. Four windows needed to be replaced and were obtained from another old house. The original pine floor, which was heavily damaged by the fire, had been covered with carpeting which was removed and a new pine floor installed… The dropped ceiling, not original to the house, was replaced with bead board.
All rooms have furnishings from the era when the Ford family resided there. The living room includes a Victrola, a settee and a matching chair, a rocker, and a Bible table which were purchased; and a beautiful antique piano and floor lamp, both donated. Over the mantle hangs a large oil portrait of Ernie, which was painted and donated to the Association by Patricia Woody, a local resident.
The center room houses a large collection of the star’s personal memorabilia. Most of these plaques, awards, photos, and other items were donated by Mr. Ford’s son Brion. One of Ernie Ford’s favorite features of the house was the original clawfoot bathtub. On his last visit home in 1991, Ernie reminisced about being bathed in that bathtub as a small child.
Much time and effort went into the entire project. The house restoration was completed in 2007. An historic marker, 1A 142, installed at the house by the Tennessee Historical Commission reads as follows:
Tennessee Ernie Ford’s Birthplace
Ernest Jennings Ford was born 13 February 1919 in Bristol, Tennessee. In 1937 he began his career at WOPI Radio in Bristol. Known professionally as Tennessee Ernie Ford, he began his rise to fame in1948 with Capital Records. The 1955 success of Sixteen Tons brought him to prime-time TV as host of the Ford Show (1956-1961) and the Tennessee Ernie Ford Show (1961-1965). His 1990 induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame, placement of three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his achievements in radio, television, and recordings, and receipt of the Presidential Medal of Freedom all reflect his status as one of America’s top entertainers.