Over 100 years ago, in 1910, the Bristol Gas and Electric Company wanted to do something for Bristol so they donated an electric sign to the community. The Bristol Sign, however, was first erected on top of the Interstate Hardware Company building near the railroad tracks off of State Street, originally sporting the somewhat peculiar slogan, “PUSH! THAT’S BRISTOL!”.
Five years later in 1915, the owners of the hardware company asked that the sign, which was extremely heavy, be moved due to possible damage to their building. The Bristol Sign was moved to its current location, rising 25 feet over the line dividing the states of Virginia and Tennessee, on State Street. At the time it was considered to be one of the largest signs in the country.
Throughout the early years the sign was the center of praise and on occasion a good laugh. From time to time some of the lights would go out and the sign would spell “PU__! THAT’S BRISTOL!” or “__SH THAT’S BRISTOl!” In 1921 the Bristol Advertising Club offered a contest for the best new slogan for the sign. The winning slogan was “A GOOD PLACE TO LIVE”. The second most popular suggestion was “THE BEST PLACE TO LIVE”. The club chose the first because they felt it was “modest in claim, and truthful in statement”.
In 1988 the sign, which boasts approximately 1,330 bulbs, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Today the sign is maintained by both Bristol, Tenn. and Bristol, Va.
With over 60 businesses in the downtown area, Bristol offers its many visitors a little bit of everything to go along with pedestrian friendly shopping and free parking.
Thanks to a strong revitalization effort, downtown Bristol is now thriving and continues to grow. Visitors will find a variety of food choices at 20-plus restaurants, several craft breweries, clothing shops, antique stores, museums, art galleries, ice cream and candy stops and much more.
Must-see attractions include the historic Bristol Train Station, which was originally build in 1856 and saw many soldiers off to battle during the Civil War, as well as the Paramount Center for the Arts, an art deco motion picture palace which opened in 1931, along with the Country Music Mural, and the Veteran’s War Memorial in Cumberland Park. Both the Train Station and the Paramount Center for the Arts are on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Birthplace of Country Music® Museum, a 24,000 square foot facility, which opened in August, 2014, in affiliation with the Smithsonian Institute, tells the story of Bristol’s musical heritage. The Museum provides the BCM with a new, permanent facility to house its operations, including the museum, educational programs, and artistic programming.
One of Bristol’s most unique features is State Street, which divides Bristol, Tennessee and Bristol, Virginia. Brass markers, emblazoned with “Tennessee” and “Virginia” on either side, run the length of the street, making this a popular stop for visitors, who like to stand in the middle of the street with one foot in each state for a photo.