A weekend in Granville, Tennessee: history, food and plenty of fun on the water
The T.B. Sutton Store
Thick sliced bologna and two slices of buttered bread sizzle slowly on a small griddle by a large window. Eventually slices of American Cheese are placed in between and when it comes off the griddle, the sandwich is topped with lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise. It’s the perfect sandwich to sink your teeth into when you are ordering from the Mayberry Café inside the T.B. Sutton Store in Granville, Tennessee.
The structure was built back in the 1800’s and after nearly fading into history, the store gained new life as a centerpiece of Historic Granville, a town of less than 300 on the banks of Cordell Hull Lake. Bright white siding, a narrow front porch, large windows and screen doors on the outside help set the tone for the experience awaiting guests inside. To add to the rustic charm, there’s a large Coca-Cola sign on the side of the store and a couple of metal Kern’s Bread advertisements on the doors.
I have been in several old General Stores over the years and this one really stands out. As soon as you step inside, it feels incredibly spacious as the center of the two-story building opens up to the ceiling . The fixtures all around the store are originals and the wooden floors creak as you would expect them to.
You can find a wide assortment of candy, cookbooks, cowboy hats, toys, knives and much more throughout the store. And while the shelves are packed with hundreds of different items ,not everything is for sale. In fact, much of the T.B. Sutton Store is like a museum.
On the upper floor of the store is part of an extensive collection of “I Love Lucy” memorabilia (with more down the street at the Granville Museum). There is a doll collection, old books, typewriters and vintage pharmacy bottles lining the shelves. The upper floor of the store also houses a local arts and crafts section as well as a quilt shop.
Guests definitely step back in time when they visit Granville. And while the charm of the old country store remains the big draw, this “Mayberry” of Tennessee gives guests plenty of opportunities to wax nostalgic. Start your journey at the Granville History Museum located inside an old church. Photographs and memorabilia fill the walls of the main room. Collectively they tell the story of an old riverboat town once booming with general stores, churches, banks, warehouses and more.
Across the street, you can tour the Sutton Homestead, one of the oldest homes in Granville. Each room offers a glimpse into different eras of the home. It’s a trip through time you take room by room. Behind the home is the Pioneer Village where arts and craftsmen work on wares from yesteryear.
Classic cars abound in Granville and you’ll find them next to the Pioneer Village in the Transportation Museum. And while you’ll find plenty of cars and trucks, there are also motorcycles, bicycles and even an early motorized lawnmower.
The Sutton Music Hour
Historic Granville really shines on Saturdays when the old general store in the heart of town hosts the Sutton Music Hour. While you might have grabbed a snack at the Mayberry Café earlier, there’s a big family style meal served up in the room next to the main part of the store. On the night I visited, workers brought out plates filled with catfish, hush puppies and bowls filled with roasted potatoes, great northern beans and turnip greens. Since meals are served family style, you get a chance to know the other guests.
Once dinner begins, Randall Clemons, the director of Historic Granville, fills you in on the history of the building including the fact the dining hall originally housed the feed and seed operations of the store. He also points out words in chalk on the wall left there when the store closed.
After the meal everyone goes into the main part of the store where the band of the evening warms up in the corner. Eventually the Music Hour begins and for an hour you are part of the live studio audience of a radio show syndicated and broadcast on more than fifty radio stations. The T.B. Sutton store’s acoustics rival that of much bigger music halls because of its openness, so hearing live music here is truly special.
The Cumberland River brought life to Granville making it an important riverboat stop in the Upper Cumberland Region. However, when the Army Corps of Engineers dammed the river, the lake created swallowed up farms and much of the available land leaving many Granville residents no choice but to leave. Today, the work of Historic Granville to preserve the town and the lake are helping breathe new life into Granville.
A Wildwood Getaway
About a mile away from the T.B. Sutton Store, the Wildwood Resort provides unique ways to enjoy one of the most beautiful sections of Cordell Hull Lake. The Timberloft at Wildwood (only open on the weekends in the fall) is the only place in the county where you can order a cocktail and believe me they have some spectacular selections. During dinner out on the deck, the sun began disappearing behind the ridge on the other side of the lake creating a truly magical setting for a meal or for relaxing.
The food at the Timberloft shines as bright as the sun setting nearby. I started with the Bang Bang Shrimp and chose to have Fish and Chips for the main course. It was served with a side of pineapple coleslaw, a truly surprising combination of flavors. The Holston Café is another option at Wildwood and is open for breakfast and lunch offering a mix of sandwiches and pizza, scrumptious sausage, egg and cheese empanadas, and soft serve ice cream.
A stay at the Wildwood makes a stay in Granville truly special. The resort offers a mix of traditional and more unique options and the “menu” is expanding. I stayed in the lodge where each room is named after a river in Tennessee. A comfortable room with plenty of modern amenities and a big porch outside filled with rocking chairs. There are several small cabins with small kitchens available too.
Have you ever wanted to stay in an Airstream, but didn’t know how to make that work? Wildwood has you covered. Several renovated models in the old campground shine bright, each one named after a country music legend. After going inside a couple of them, it sure seemed like a great place to call home for a night or two.
Houseboats and marinas go together and at Wildwood Resort a “tiny house” on water offers guests modern amenities like a full kitchen and a washer and dryer. There are two decks for outdoor dining or just sitting and enjoying the view. (The houseboats are also available to buy).
Want to get out on the water? Wildwood’s got you covered there two. The resort offers a variety of cruises out on the lake including one in the morning where guests get a light breakfast with their views of the lake and there’s a sunset cruise too. You can also rent kayaks, canoes and paddle boards, to round out your stay at Wildwood.
If you want to stay “in town” the Granville Bed and Breakfast is another option. There’s also an R.V. park and campground nearby. Granville is an hour east of Nashville and about two hours west of Knoxville.
*My trip to Granville was hosted by Historic Granville, Wildwood Resort & Marina and Upper Cumberland Tourism. All opinions expressed in this post are my own.