The dramatic bend in the Tennessee River here was a Cherokee Nation trading post and later a ferry operated by Chief John Ross of Scotch and Cherokee descent. In 1838 the Cherokee were forcibly removed from their ancestral lands and marched to present-day Oklahoma, leaving behind only their name for the mountains that frame the area, or for good fishing or perhaps for an eagle’s nest. Whatever the origin, Chattanooga became the name for the one-time Ross’s Landing when it was incorporated as a city in 1838.
As the only settlement of any consequence for over 100 miles in either direction on the Tennessee River, Chattanooga flourished on river trade, first in salt and then bacon and flour and whisky and cotton. In the 1850s the railroads arrived and the town became an even more important trade center. And an obvious prize during the Civil War. At first Confederates were able to repel invading Union forces but that only brought more Federal troops in overwhelming numbers and Chattanooga spent the last years of the war under Union occupation, used as a staging ground for General William Sherman’s march through Georgia.
The town’s natural assets and transportation framework attracted Northern money after the war and Chattanooga became a bustling manufacturing center. Growth was so rapid the town fancied itself “the Dynamo of Dixie.” Chattanooga paced the South in the production of iron and steel equipment and hosiery and furniture and patent medicines. After the population doubled in the 1920s, the city claimed more than 100,000 residents by 1930.
While powering the economic engine, industry was not so kind to the health of the community. The same mountains that enabled Chattanooga to officially adopt the nickname “Scenic City” also trapped pollutants from the factories to such a degree that in 1969 the federal government declared Chattanooga’s air to be the dirtiest in America. The city lost more than 10% of its population over the coming years. Not accepting its plight government and civic leaders tackled the problem and Chattanooga became the only major city to actually regain its lost residents in recent years.
Few cities the size of Chattanooga had their streetscape shaped so pervasively by one man as Chattanooga. Reuben Harrison Hunt was born the son of a merchant, planter and Civil War veteran in 1862. At the age of 20 Hunt was in Chattanooga working as a builder and carpenter with the Adams Brothers architectural firm. He studied architecture and won the commission to design a new building for his First Baptist Church. Hunt opened his own design firm and until 1935 was responsible for nearly every important building during the town’s boom years. Although he was not an architectural innovator Hunt interpreted the important design trends of the age for churches, commercial properties and public buildings. Many of Reuben Harrison Hunt’s buildings survive in Chattanooga one hundred years on and we will start our walking tour in the shadow of one of his best, a little project the American Institute of Architects was particularly fond of...
910 Market Street between Martin Luther King Boulevard and 10th Street
This greenspace was developed as Chattanooga’s first downtown park in 1976 and carries the name of Burkett Miller, an energetic booster of the possibilities of downtown Chattanooga. The one-acre trapezoidal space boasts an outdoor amphitheater, a large fountain and landscaped grassy areas.
ON THE EAST SIDE OF THE PARK, FILLING THE BLOCK AND LOOMING OVER THE PARK, IS...
Joel W. Solomon Federal Building and United States Courthouse
10th Street and Georgia Avenue
Reuben Harrison Hunt was one of the most important and prolific architects in the South in the early 1900s. In his home base of Chattanooga he designed every major building constructed in town between the Victorian age in 1895 and 1935, when Art Deco was all the rage. This was his last major work, constructed in 1932-1933 as the U.S. Post Office and Courthouse. Hunt used white marble highlighted with aluminum Art Moderne details to create this epic five-story structure with flanking pavilions. In 1938 the building was recognized by the American Institute of Architects as one of the 150 finest buildings constructed in the previous twenty years in the United States
FACING THE FEDERAL BUILDING, TURN RIGHT ON GEORGIA AVENUE
Walden Security (Emerson) Building
100 East 10th Street at southeast corner of Georgia Avenue
The Emerson Building was in the class of dull, functional office buildings until in 1991 it was renovated to become the headquarters for the Chattanooga Times. Part of the facelift included stainless steel retro elements on the facade to give it an elegant Art Moderne appearance in line with the town’s outstanding model of the form, the old post office across the street.
1 East 11th Street at northeast corner of Georgia Avenue
The Patten Hotel was Chattanooga’s first large-scale skyscraper when it opened in 1908. It was the kind of guest house that United States Presidents and Hollywood stars checked into and helped define Chattanooga as a major league city. Newspaper publisher and civic booster J.B. Pound had agitated for such a hotel for years and was finally able to convince industrialist Zeboim Cartter Patten to finance the hotel to the tune of $650,000. Patten was a New Yorker and Union Army veteran who first saw Chattanooga during the Civil War after being wounded at Chickamauga. Patten came back to town and set up shop peddling books and paper before transferring into the newspaper business. In 1879 Patten shifted gears and began manufacturing patent medicines where his flair for promotion created one of the town’s largest fortunes. Patten also helmed the Stone Fort Land Company which owned the large limestone outcropping upon which the hotel was built. Walter T. Downing, a Georgia architect with a reputation for stylish designs and an elite clientele, worked up the plans for the Gothic-flavored building. The L-shaped hotel (it would pick up another wing in the 1920s) featured a bowling alley, billiards room, ballroom and private baths - a rare touch of luxury at the time - in 225 of the 251 rooms. Like most of its grand urban hotel cousins the Patten fell on hard times in the 1970s, losing its ornate cornice and being converted to a residence for the elderly.
TURN LEFT ON 11TH STREET.
United States Customs House
31 East 11th at Lindsay Street
In the 1890s when the government wanted to erect an imposing public building the brawny Richardsonian Romanesque style based on the works of Boston architect Henry Hobson Richardson was often the style of choice. Such was the case with this federal building that was used primarily as the Chattanooga post office. It boasts such hallmarks of the style as rough-faced stone; broad, powerful entry arches; and turrets. More than a hundred years later the building still houses some federal courts.
101 East 11th Street
Reuben Harrison Hunt designed this four-story Municipal Building in 1908 with a “U-shape” which helped bring ventilation to the offices. The city spent $30,000 for the land and another $156,750 for the building that housed every department of city government, including a jail. The Neoclassical gem received a complete facelift in 2006 that restored many of Hunt’s interior details to the building although the original form of the building has been altered during renovations that brought such modern amenities as air conditioning in 1968.
TURN AND RETRACE YOUT STEPS BACK TO THE INTERSECTION WITH MARKET STREET. ON THE WAY, ON YOUR LEFT ARE THE OLD AND NEW OFFICES OF...
Tennessee Valley Authority Building
1101 Market Street
Seeking a way to wrench the country out of the Great Depression President Franklin Roosevelt asked Congress to create “a corporation clothed with the power of government but possessed of the flexibility and initiative of a private enterprise.” The Tennessee Valley Authority was established in 1933 with a mandate to control flooding along the Tennessee River but soon expanded into power generation and today is the nation’s largest public power company. Headquartered in Knoxville, these are its regional Chattanooga offices.
TURN RIGHT ON MARKET STREET.
Miller Plaza’s Waterhouse Pavilion
850 Market Street at northeast corner of Martin Luther King Boulevard
The River City Company was created as a private, non-profit development agency in 1986 and operates Miller Plaza as a city park, performance stage and event pavilion.
TURN LEFT ON MARTIN LUTHER KING BOULEVARD.
100 West Martin Luther King Boulevard at southwest corner of Broad Street
Rody Davenport, Jr. and J. Glenn Sherrill opened their first Krystal hamburger stand on the corner of Seventh and Cherry streets in 1932 at the depths of the Great Depression. Building on a foundation of cleanliness in its stores, Krystal grew into a chain of over 400 southern stores, cultivating a fanatical following in the process. They moved into this headquarters in 1979 on the site of the former Union Depot.
827 Broad Street at northwest corner of Martin Luther King Boulevard
The history of guest services at this location goes all the way back to 1847 when Thomas Crutchfield built an inn here across from the railroad terminal. The Crutchfield House was swanky enough that Jefferson Davis stayed here after resigning from the United States Senate to head the Confederacy. Crutchfield sold the hotel before the Civil War and the building survived the conflict as a Union hospital only to burn to the ground in 1867. John Read and his son Samuel then built Chattanooga’s finest hotel on this spot, a building that was replaced in 1927 with the current ten-story Georgian brick pile dressed in terra cotta. Luminaries such as Winston Churchill, Gary Cooper, and Al Capone signed the guestbook over the years. But not all who checked in, checked out. In the 1920s a woman named Annalisa Netherly was killed in the middle of a romantic misadventure and her spirit is reportedly still seen in the hotel today.
TURN RIGHT ON BROAD STREET.
735 Broad Street at northwest corner of 8th Street
Charles E. James was raised and educated in Chattanooga and made his fortune in iron and railway supplies. He was instrumental in organizing the Chattanooga Gas Light Company, the Union Railway Company and was the driving force in damming the Tennessee River to supply power. In 1907 he built Chattanooga’s first skyscraper here, using plans from Reuben Harrison Hunt. Hunt followed the standards of the Chicago Style of skyscraper building in making a high-rise in the image of a classical Greek column with a defined base (the oversized lower stories), a shaft (the unadorned central stories with windows placed on an orderly grid), and a capital (the decorated top floor and cornice).
721 Broad Street
The Provident Life and Accident Insurance Company began writing policies in 1887 for high-risk workers such as miners, railroad workers and lumber mill hands. By 1900 the company was in the hands of Thomas Maclellan and growing into a national, multi-line insurance carrier. When it came time to move into a headquarters of its own Maclellan turned to Chattanooga go-to architect R.H. Hunt who delivered one of his landmark designs in 1919 with an elegant shaft rising from an oversized collar fronted by a two-story Ionic portico. The building cost Provident Life $640,000 at a time when its total assets were less than $2 million but the company got its money’s worth - the building became the company logo radiating security to policyholders across the country.
709 Broad Street
The Rapp Brothers, George and Cornelius, were the acknowledged leaders in theater architecture in America in the early decades of the 20th century, with a long list of sumptuous entertainment palaces around the country on their resume. Working with a million-dollar budget here, the Rapps created the “Jewel of the South” in 1921. Patrons walked under a high-domed ceiling and crystal chandeliers on their way to the Tivoli’s silent movies and live stage productions. In 1924 a $30,000 Wurlitzer organ was installed and two years later theater-goers were sitting in some of the country’s first air conditioning. Following a familiar arc, television and suburban flight, doomed the Tivoli and it closed in 1961. The historic theater dodged the wrecking ball and in 1976 it was acquired by the City which kept it standing until a $7 million makeover came along in the 1980s.
701-707 Broad Street at southeast corner of 7th Street
This heritage building from 1888 displays Romanesque styling in stone along the Broad Street facade and brick along the 7th Street elevation. The most famous tenant showed up in the early 1900s when the Fowler Brothers moved their furniture business here. One of the oldest businesses in Tennesee, the company traces its roots to 1885 when James G. Sterchi was peddling housewares from a buggy pulled by his blind horse. A Sterchi son-in-law, John O. Fowler, joined the enterprise in 1911 and in 1930 he incorporated Fowler Brothers Co. with his brothers Frank and Ben in Chattanooga and Knoxville. The Fowlers have long since vacated these premises but the family business trundles on with its fifth generation at the wheel.
TURN LEFT ON 7TH STREET AND WALK TWO BLOCKS TO ITS CONCLUSION AT PINE STREET.
Second Presbyterian Church
700 Pine Street
Although Reuben Harrison Hunt displayed his architectural versatility with every manner of building on the Chattanooga streetscape around the South he was best known for his ecclesiastical work with hundreds of churches to his credit. Many times he donated his services to cash-strapped congregations. Hunt often used the Gothic Revival style in his church work, as he did splendidly here in sandstone for the Second Presbyterian Church in 1890, one of his earliest projects.
TURN AND RETRACE YOUR STEPS ALONG 7TH STREET BACK ACROSS BROAD STREET. ON YOUR LEFT, FILLING THE BLOCK BETWEEN BROAD STREET AND MARKET STREET IS...
Miller Brothers Department Store
629 Market Street
Gustavus Hindman Miller was born on a rural ranch on the Texas frontier in 1857 but came east to the homeland of his father to begin his business career in eastern Tennessee as a country store clerk at the age of 20. By 1889 Miller and his brother Franklin were ready to move to Chattanooga and set up shop on Market Street dealing in distressed merchandise. The enterprise was a success and had expanded into a full-fledged department store when it burned to the ground a decade later. The Millers rebuilt in grand fashion in 1898. Reuben Harrison Hunt designed the new brick store in a Romanesque style with a skylight on the roof flooding the four floors with light. There was over 110,000 square feet of floor space for the Millers to claim to have “the greatest display of merchandise that has ever been in a Southern store.” Chattanooga shoppers could enjoy amenities enjoyed previously only by big-city residents. There was an elevator and a Tea Room and, later, after Franklin died in 1921 and Gustavus retired in 1923, air conditioning and a pedestrian tunnel beneath Broad Street. Suburbanization dealt the flagship store a crippling blow in the 1960s and management tried to modernize the appearance of its building with a porcelain steel casing, which did little to forestall the inevitable. The Miller Brothers downtown store closed in 1986 and it took a $20 million facelift to return the building to its 19th century appearance.
First Tennessee Bank Building
701 Market Street at the southwest corner of 7th Street
Hidden under the dark brown metal skin is a classical creation of Reuben Harrison Hunt, the “master builder of Chattanooga.” Hunt designed the 17-story Beaux Arts tower as the tallest building in town for Hamilton National Bank in 1911. When First Tennessee moved in during 1966 it modernized the structure with the look you see today.
630 Market Street at the nrtheast corner of 7th Street
When this Italianate-influenced commercial building appeared on the Chattanooga streetscape in 1883 it introduced the town to the decorative flourishes of the Victorian age. It has been called “the first pretentious building to go up on Market Street.” In 2003 the United Way finished a complete restoration of the building including fanciful window hoods, an ornate cornice and fancy brickwork.
117 East 7th Street
This nine-story hotel is another legacy from Reuben Harrison Hunt, erected in 1915. The building was renovated by Hamilton County for office space but you can still get a sense for Hunt’s handiwork on the lower level.
Elks Lodge #91
northwest corner of 7th and Walnut streets
The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks evolved from a small New York City social club in 1867 known as the Jolly Corks. In 1887 the 91st lodge of the fraternal organization was chartered in Chattanooga. After some twenty years of meeting around town the Elks settled into this permanent home in 1907. The building was outfitted with carved hardwoods, marble and bronze. Members could avail themselves of a bowling alley, an indoor pool and apartments on the upper floor. The Elks remained here until 1973 and Hamilton County renovated it for offices.
TURN LEFT ON WALNUT STREET.
Title Guaranty and Trust Company
617 Walnut Street
In 1887 Henry Clay Beck was toiling as the Hamilton County Register when he saw a need for a company that would insure titles to newly purchased property. In 1890 he created the Title Guaranty and Trust Company as the first title insurance company south of the Mason-Dixon line. It moved into this Beaux Arts home in 1925 and has operated here ever since, the only title insurance underwriter with its headquarters in Tennessee.
CROSS THE STREET AND WALK UP INTO THE GROUNDS OF...
Hamilton County Courthouse
625 Georgia Avenue
Reuben Harrison Hunt tapped the symmetrical classicism of the Beaux Arts style for this county courthouse in 1912, replacing an earlier building that had been victimized by lightning two years earlier. Working with a $350,000 budget, Hunt clad the courthouse in Tennessee gray marble leading to a glazed tile roof with a colored-glass dome. The bust of Confederate general Alexander Peter Stewart was executed by Tennessee native Belle Kinney Scholz; in 1897, at age 7, she won first prize at the Tennessee Centennial Exposition for a bust of her father.
BACK ON 7TH STREET, CROSS GEORGIA AVENUE AS IT BECOMES MCCALLIE DRIVE. FOLLOW THE TWISTING ROAD FOR ONE BLOCK.
Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Auditorium
399 McCallie Avenue
This historic performance hall was constructed between 1922 and 1924 as a way to honor the area’s veterans of World War I. Reuben Harrison Hunt drew up the plans that called for two theaters, a lower one with seating for 3,866 and an upper hall with 1,012 seats. The flexible seating plans allowed space for boxing matches, roller derbies, and ice shows as well as concert performances andChattanooga’s annual Cotton Ball. The Auditorium has received two major overhauls through the decades and has emerged as a mid-sized theater and concert venue.
RETURN TO GEORGIA AVENUE AND TURN LEFT.
715 Georgia Avenue
Bradford Lee Gilbert, who is credited with constructing the world’s first steel-framed building in New York City in 1889 helped introduce the concept of a wedge-shaped building for irregular-shaped downtown lots with his English-American Building ing in Atlanta in 1897, predating a similar and more famous Flatiron Building in New York City by five years. Chattanooga’s flat-iron building came along in 1911 as a four-story apartment building.
First Methodist Church
southeast corner of McCallie and Georgia avenues
Methodists first gathered in Chattanooga in a log meetinghouse at the corner of Lookout Street and Georgia Avenue in 1839. During the occupation of the town by Union forces in the Civil War, congregants who had been members of northern Methodist churches organized their own church, First Methodist Episcopal Church. They began work on a Gothic-flavored stone church in 1881. It was dedicated in 1885 and served the congregation until 1967 when the two churches merged to form the First-Centenary United Methodist Church. When the rest of the “Stone Church” was demolished the steeple was left to stand.
736 Georgia Avenue at the northeast corner of 8th Street
Adolph Simon Ochs was working in a newsroom at the age of 11 in 1869, as an office boy for the Knoxville Chronicle. When he was 19 he borrowed $250 to purchase a controlling interest in The Chattanooga Times, becoming its publisher. By 1888 the Times was thriving and Ochs set out to build the town’s tallest building to house his newspaper. He brought in Theodore Wilhelm Emile De Lemos and August Wilhelm Cordes from New York City, best known as the builders of Macy’s and other iconic department stores, who delivered this six-story Italian Renaissance structure accented by a gold cupola on the roof above the entrance. In 1896, Och’s moved on to New York City where he purchased an also-ran in Gotham’s newspaper wars, the New York Times. The paper’s circulation would go from 9,000 when Ochs took over to 780,000 by the 1920s. Even so, Ochs held on to the Chattanooga Times until his death in 1935. The Times moved on in 1947 and the building’s new owners changed the name from the Ochs Building to the Dome Building.
southeast corner of Eighth Street and Georgia Avenue
After becoming the world’s richest man, steel magnate Andrew Carnegie set out to give away his money. One of his pet projects was building public libraries, which many communities lacked at the beginning of the 20th century. Carnegie funded the construction of some 2,500 libraries around the world. Chattanooga received a $50,000 grant in 1900 and R.H. Hunt delivered a Beaux Arts marble home for the library in 1905. Set on a rough-faced stone base the building boasts a monumental Ionic entrance and ornamental balustrades at the roofline. The public library moved to more spacious quarters in 1939 and the old Carnegie building shifted to commercial office space.
TURN LEFT ON 8TH STREET.
Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church
214 East 8th Street
The first Catholic church in Chattanooga was raised in 1850 and the parish formed two years later. Work was started on a stone church in 1858 at this location but the Civil War halted construction and during Federal occupation of the city the stones were carted off for other uses by Union troops until nothing was left. Construction on this Gothic church began on February 1, 1888 with a five-ton cornerstone, said to be the largest yet used in America. The church was dedicated on June 29, 1890. More than 100 years later the Pope designated Saints Peter and Paul a minor Basilica, one of only 70 churches in the United States so honored. None are in Tennessee.
RETURN TO GEORGIA STREET AND TURN LEFT.
818 Georgia Avenue at northeast corner of Patten Parkway
This building dates to 1888 when it operated as a boarding house. By 1925 it was spruced up as the Hotel Ross when on July 25 William Jennings Bryan, three-time unsuccessful Democratic candidate for President of the United States, checked in five days after arguing against evolution in the Scopes Monkey Trial. The next day he drove to Dayton, Tennessee to attend church, have lunch and die in his sleep that afternoon at the age of 65.
One Central Plaza
835 Georgia Avenue
This office building was adapted for its unique location in 1912.
Volunteer Life Insurance Building
832 Georgia Avenue
Volunteer Life was another business founded by Zeboim Cartter Patten and he had this Neoclassical headquarters constructed in 1917. The studios of Chattanooga’s first television station, WDEF, were located here in 1954. Local programming included Drue Smith’s House Party, Miller Brothers’ Style Show, and Henry C. Geiger’s Children’s Gospel Hour. One of the first locally-produced shows on WDEF-TV was Point of View. Still on the air, it is one of the longest-running local public affairs programs in the United States.
CONTINUE A FEW MORE STEPS TO THE TOUR STARTING POINT IN MILLER PARK.