Johnson City, Tennessee  
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Early 1970s- Old National Soldiers Home Buildings slated for abandonment by U.S. government (VA Admin.). Possible reuse discussed was as a state prison.

Congressman James. H. Quillen
The Quillen Papers at ETSU

1972 - Richard Nixon signs law co-sponsored by James H. Quillen creating new Medical Schools affiliated with VA Centers

Quillen-Dishner Col. of Med.
Now Quillen College of Medicine
Johnson City Medical Center
Construction - 1979
VAMC Campus Redevelopment Plan

1977 - Mountain Home Sign
at Lamont Street

Medical School Reconstruction

State of Franklin Road
Highway System - 1987

State of Franklin Road - 1986
State of Franklin Road Construction

State of Franklin Road
near ETSU

State of Franklin Road -
Completed Section

State of Franklin Road
Downtown to ETSU Connector

State of Franklin Road -
Downtown to ETSU Connector

Completed Section ETSU to Downtown

"Fall at Mountain Home "

Mountain Home Cemetery - 1990

Aerial - JCMC & VA Hospitals
Rendering of VAMC Domiciliary
VAMC Domiciliary

North State of Franklin Road
Northern Anchor of
"Med-Tech Corridor"

U. S. 23 Sams Gap
TN - NC State Line

Replaced by I-26

North State of Franklin Road - 1994

I-26 Construction near Sams Gap - 1990

Eddie Williams, Jr.
Father of I-26 in Tennessee

Morris "Mac" McGough
Father of I-26 in North Carolina
"Mac" McGough Plaque
I-26 Welcome Center

Millennium Park - 1999

Millennium Park - Rendering

Millennium Park - Construction

Carnegie Hotel Construction - 1999

Quillen College of Medicine - 2006

Downtown Johnson City - 2006

ETSU Main Campus - Spring 2007, Photo by Larry Smith, ETSU

State of Franklin Road - January 2006, Photo by TVA
Note - Click on the thumbnail images above to link to larger images.

Sources - Archives of Appalachia, James H. Quillen VA Center, Tennessee Valley Authority, ETSU
Photographers: Ron McCarley, Don Kiel, Glenn Berry, Alan Bridwell, Larry Smith

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In the early 1970s, Johnson City faced potentially its biggest challenge in the 20th Century. As part of a restructuring of the Veterans Administration national capital facilities plan, several older hospitals were targeted to be closed. One of these was the former National Soldiers Home in Johnson City which was extremely old in comparison with other VA facilities. A reuse suggested for the old Soldiers Home/VA campus was as a state prison. This possibility was not well-received by Johnson City's leadership and working with First District Congressman James H. Quillen, powerful Chairman of the House Rules Committee, an alternative plan began to emerge. The plan would include an entirely rebuilt VA Medical Center on the eastern end of the old Soldiers Home Campus, a new College of Medicine to be housed on the western part of the campus, and the relocation of Johnson City's public hospital to adjoining property (again part of the original National Soldiers Home) which became Johnson City Medical Center Hospital.

Another website would be necessary to document the formation of the "med-tech" foundation for Johnson City undertaken since 1970, but the aerial photo above bears testimony to the success of the bold medical redevelopment plan. Success was won in spite of vetoes by a former governor and opposition from throughout the state for the creation of a second medical school in Tennessee.

Ned McWherter
was a powerful ally of Congessman Quillen to secure the Medical School, first as Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives and later as Governor. McWherter led the effort to override the veto roadblocks in the Tennessee legislature and later defeated the same veto-prone former governor in a landslide 1986 election victory.

A new highway system named appropriately, the State of Franklin Road, was planned and implemented to create access to the new/rebuilt medical facilities. Recalling the "State of Franklin" attested to the political clout the once self-declared independent state could still muster to achieve its vision, along with powerful Congressional help and unswerving dedication to the cause. In addition, another self-initiated effort was completed in 2003 when U.S. 23 (I-181) through the city was upgraded to full interstate highway status as part of the Interstate 26 system. The I-26 extension into eastern Tennessee was achieved without initial endorsement by either the federal government or the State of North Carolina. Today I-26 between Johnson City and Asheville is recognized as one of the most scenic interstate highways in the U.S. and strategically important due to the geological instability of Interstate 40 between Asheville and Knoxville.

The first 25 years of the 20th Century in which a medical/educational base was created via the National Soldiers Home and Normal School, and the last 25 years when the facilities were rebuilt a second time were quite fascinating time periods. New transportation systems, initially railroads and later improved highways were critical to serve the city's growth as well.


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