The Gipsons used to host tours of Buttonwillow Plantation at Christmas, but now their time is dominated by the popular Civil War dinner theater that they opened five years ago in Whitwell – just 40 minutes west of downtown Chattanooga. The business is a creative endeavor in which the Gipsons are just as careful with each historical detail in the show – and the menu – as they are with the details in their home.
At Buttonwillow Church Civil War Dinner Theater, guests watch an original two-hour performance rich in 1860s history while dining on food made from authentic period recipes. The Gipsons put on a Christmas show each year, which includes a Christmas twist on the original show, elaborate Victorian Christmas decorations and some trivia about Christmas in the 1860s.
It’s over the top,” Steve Gipson says. “People think they have stepped back into the time of Charles Dickens. They can come here to get their history fix.”
Servers wear period-style clothing (made by Allison Gipson), and the church has been renovated into a 19th-century-style performance hall.
As the stars of the show, Steve and Allison portray siblings who both play integral roles in the Civil War. Don’t expect a dry history lesson, however. While the play’s historical content is based on rigorously researched facts from first-source material, Gipson uses his comedic background to present history in an entertaining way.
There’s nothing boring about history,” Gipson says. “We are as politically incorrect – and as historically accurate – as possible, and people love it.”
Buttonwillow Church Civil War Dinner Theater has been featured on Tennessee Crossroads, and The Travel Channel recently named it one of the top five attractions in the Chattanooga area.
The Christmas show runs Thanksgiving weekend. All seats are by reservation only. Call Buttonwillow Church Civil War Dinner Theater at (423) 658-7478 for more information.