Nooga.com was invited to walk through and photograph the St. George Hotel in the 1400 block of Market Street.
When Marta Alder purchased the historical St. George Hotel in 2013, her plans were to turn the decaying structure into a mixed-use residential condominium and offer space for upscale restaurants, an entertainment venue and even an art gallery.
But a recent survey of the building’s structure and subsurface revealed major issues for potential renovation efforts because of weather exposure and neglect.
She moved here two years ago after spending 24 years in Miami to care for her aging parents. She began looking for investment property and fell in love with the St. George property.
“When I saw the hotel, I couldn’t believe it had been sitting there abandoned for over 30 years,” she said. “My father, being a Chattanoogan and also with the name George, I just thought this property was waiting for me.”
Her dream for the property is dependent on further investigations of the structure. Alder said she’s been speaking with David Hudson of Artech, which provides architecture and interior design services for clients throughout the United States.
“It really depends on what is left standing,” Alder said. “I had some initial ideas but am realistic and don’t have my heart set on anything yet … It has to be a viable development project for me as a developer and as a future asset for this great city.”
She plans to make an announcement about the future of the property soon.
The four-story brick building was constructed in 1917 to offer a place of rest for travelers arriving at Terminal Station, now the Chattanooga Choo-Choo.
According to Cornerstones, the building was Chattanooga’s first “fireproof hotel.” Abandoned since the 1980s, a 2004 fire destroyed much of the back portion of the building; in 2009, much of it was removed to prevent a complete collapse.
The remaining back of the building was removed in 2012, including a large tree that had been growing up through the exterior and an adjacent wall.
Click here to read a 2012 Nooga.com article about the demolition.
Now, only the original four-story structure remains.
Alder hopes the renovation of the former Ellis Restaurant next door will bring new interest to the St. George property.
She recalls a story that was told to her about Gus Ellis, the owner of Ellis Restaurant, who would associate with hotel owners during Prohibition.
“They would allow moonshiners and bootleggers to have clandestine meetings and hide any bootleg liquor under the hotel through an underground stairwell in the restaurant,” Alder said. “They would [gamble], drink whiskey and have parties with ladies of the night.”
One of the few remaining art deco-style structures in Chattanooga, the building has been boarded up since Alder purchased the property last year.
The interior is littered with debris and evidence of squatters and surprisingly talented graffiti artists. The bones of the building are there, but the higher you ascend, the more the damage is apparent. It’s particularly noticeable around the area where the 2004 fire occurred, presumed to have been caused by a squatter.
The views of Market Street and the Chattanooga Choo-Choo are stunning, as is the view of Lookout Mountain from the exposed exterior.
According to Maury Nicely’s book “Chattanooga Walking Tour & Historic Guide,” the St. George Hotel at 1449 Market St. was originally called the Glenn Hotel in 1917. The 60-room building was then called the Walden Hotel before changing permanently to St. George Hotel in 1948.
The walkthrough of the hotel was facilitated by both Marta Alder and Jim Williamson of River City Company.
The “walkthrough” stories are part of an ongoing series of photographic explorations of Chattanooga’s abandoned buildings and historical locations.
Clickhereto view a walk through Ross Hotel.