Living History: The Exchange Place

The Exchange Place, located in Kingport, Tennessee, is considered a living history farm, which dates back to the 1800s. It is also known as the Gaines-Preston Farm, stemming from the names of the original owners of the property. Today, the Exchange Place offers visitors a view of life in the United States during the 1800s. It is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Exchange Place was originally a self-supporting plantation community, which functioned as a relay station along the Old Stage Road and as the Post Office for what was then known as Eden’s Ridge. The area stemmed from a 3000-acre land grant, which was given to Edmund Pendleton in 1756. Following the War of 1812, John S. Gaines and his wife Letitia received 160 acres of this territory for John’s service during the war. Gaines increased his holdings to include more than 2000 acres, trading the western portion in 1846 to John M. Preston for the Holston Springs property in Scott County, VA. (The family claims that Preston desired the property after seeing where Daniel Boone had carved on a tree: “D. Boon killd a bar o this tree 1775.” This was later cut from the tree and hangs in the Preston home in Abingdon, Virginia, to this day.) The land was then given to John Preston’s son James Wilson Preston when he married Catherine Ann Greenway.

Today, the 62-acre farm is committed to preserving the way of life found in the 1850s. The plants found on the farm, for instance, would have been grown there in the 1850s. (A lot of research goes into determining which plants to plant. There are also Master Gardeners, who donate their time to helping with the planting and keeping the gardens going.) In addition, the Exchange Place has Tunis sheep, which are rather rare in the United States, as well as, Durhams (shorthorn cattle) and Leghorn chickens. (The Exchange Place is interested in preserving minor breeds of animals, which could be in danger of becoming extinct. These types of animals are on a “watch” list so their numbers are not allowed to go down. The preservation of these animals is one reason why the Exchange Place works with the Minor Breeds Conservancy.)

The buildings at the Exchange Place are those which were part of the farm during its beginnings. These include: the Preston House, the Springhouse, the Schoolroom, the Smokehouse, the Kitchen, the Cook’s Cabin, the Granary, the Store, the Blacksmith Shop, the Woodshed, and the Log Barn. Six of the buildings are made of logs, while four are timberframe.

Each year, the Exchange Place hosts special events, which attract thousands of visitors. These include their annual Spring Garden Fair (held every April), the Farm Fest (held in July), the Fall Folk Arts Festival in September, the Witches Wynd in October, and Christmas in the Country. Special attention is given to having events that would have taken place during the era of the 1800s. For example, at this year’s Spring Garden Fair, visitors were able to watch sheep being sheared the way it was done in the 1850s. Also, vendors are encouraged to offer crafts and even heirloom plants that would have been found during this time.

There seems to always be something happening at the Exchange Place. Events are always family-friendly, and adults and children alike can learn a great deal about a part of America’s history when they visit the farm. For more information, you can visit their web site at: https://www.exchangeplace.info/. You can also give them a call at 423-288-6071. The Exchange Place is located at: 4812 Orebank Road, Kingsport, TN 37664.

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