A History

over 7 decades Long

a family tradition

our story

During the 1960s and 1970s, Cookeville, Tennessee only had three bars, but John’s Place stood out as the city’s first fully integrated establishment, where people from all walks of life were welcomed with open arms. Visitors could enjoy a refreshing beer, indulge in a famous John Dog, and socialize with a diverse group of patrons. To capture the essence of this beloved Cookeville hotspot, WCTE set up at the bar and interviewed customers, friends, and family for their documentary, Everybody’s Welcome at John’s Place, which was frequented by Tennessee Technological University students and alumni, among other local residents.

The McClellan Legacy

The restaurant and bar that would become the McClellan dynasty began in 1949 in the county of Putnam in Tennessee. The McClellan family has ran the restaurant in Cookeville, Tennessee since the beginning, and has joined the Four Way Restaurant in Memphis in receiving a grant intended to help venerable small eateries that have been serving their communities for decades. The National Trust for Historic Preservation is in charge of managing this initiative, which is supported by American Express. The African American-owned restaurant was highlighted in a WCTE-PBS broadcast and was included in the National Register of Historic Places in 2011 for its contribution to racial relations. The application for John's Place was written by Mark Dudney, a Historic Preservation Planner for the Upper Cumberland Development District. THC provides matching funding for Dudney's post at UCDD as well as for preservation planners in 8 of the state's 9 development districts.

House McClellan

John's Place was once known as Ed's Place and McClellan's Café. It was the second grocery shop in Cookeville run by African Americans when Ed McClellan opened it in 1949. The structure was originally divided by a partition wall, with doors leading to a restaurant on the south side and a grocery shop on the north side.

In 1963, Ed sold his part of the business to his brother John Lee McClellan. John Lee took the partitioning wall out and made it into one open space with a kitchen area and horseshoe bar, where he sold beer to be consumed on the premises after receiving a license.

His nephew, “Shakey,” also John Lee McClellan, was well-respected. He would be next in line to take over John's Place. The first African American tennis player in Cookeville, he is a strong part of the reason Cookeville has tennis courts.

Shakey managed John’s Place in Cookeville and was a strong supporter of Tech Athletics. For years, he worked the admission ticket gates for Tech football and basketball games and developed friendships with many Tech athletes that lasted for decades.

John's Place Documentary

WCTE Central Tennessee - PBS

In this 30-minute documentary, Everybody's Welcome at John's Place, highlights a beloved hangout for Cookeville residents, including students and alumni of Tennessee Technological University. John's Place was the first fully integrated establishment in Cookeville, where people of all backgrounds were welcome to enjoy a tasty bite to eat, a refreshing beer, and the famous John Dog.