For those who are waiting for part two on the historic hotels of Lookout Mountain, I have to disappoint you. I promise that it will be published in my July column, which will appear the last Wednesday of July. I need a little more time for research than the month of June has allowed.
The Stanton House mystery
The stereoscopic images (below) came to me via Picnooga several months ago from Matthew Miller, a young collector of rare vintage images of Chattanooga. At the time, he had attributed them to a rooftop view from the antebellum hotel Crutchfield House, which would later become the site of the Read House on the southwest corner of Broad and Ninth streets (Martin Luther King Boulevard). Even with my somewhat-limited knowledge of 1860s Chattanooga, the lack of the massive train shed that was across the street from the hotel and the relevant position of Lookout Mountain and Cameron Hill in one of the photos had me puzzled. Also, Crutchfield House had an open gabled roof, which made it nearly impossible to stand and take a level photo from. And a balcony shot would have revealed the wooden railing and balustrades from that angle. Cameras were pretty large and cumbersome back in the day, and snapping off a few shots was more complicated and required care and planning.
One clue was the decorative metal cresting that was in the foreground. Also, the building had to be at least three stories high or more. I have since found the image of the lumberyard (below) in a Tennessee State Archives collection, which attributes the photo to Chattanooga at about 1900.
After some digging and deduction, it’s my guess that these photos were taken from the roof of the Stanton House either in the 1870s or very early 1880s. The hotel was located on the present-day site of Terminal Station, or, as you probably know it, the Chattanooga Choo-Choo.
The Stanton House was built in 1871 by John C. Stanton, the president of the Alabama and Chattanooga Railroad. At a cost of $100,000, it was grand in scale and luxury and was the first building in Chattanooga to exhibit an early telephone in its lobby. Sadly, Chattanooga’s slow-moving expansion south led to financial failure that would become Stanton’s folly, which would eventually bankrupt the hotel and the Alabama and Chattanooga Railroad. It was demolished in 1905, and Terminal Station was built on its former location in 1909.
You can see the cresting on the mansard roof is a match to the slightly peaked deck of the Stanton House. This angle is looking southwest toward Main. In this photo, you can see the geographic relation to Lookout Mountain and how it corresponds to the area of the Choo-Choo. You can also see the picket fence that surrounded the hotel and where Market Street intersected with Montgomery Street, which would later be renamed Main Street.
This view perplexes me a little. In the inset illustrated map from 1886, you can see the footprint of the Stanton House. From this and the previous photo, you can tell that the photos predate 1886 by the lack of infrastructure shown. Directly to the northeast of the hotel was a roundhouse for the Alabama and Chattanooga Railroad. My best guess is that this is looking northeast from the northeast corner of the roof (indicated on Figure A by the red dot).
This view is an unpaved Market Street and an empty lot where Ellis Restaurant and the St. George Hotel are today.
The below photo is taken from the book "Chattanooga's Terminal Station" by Justin W. Strickland—a highly recommended read.
David Moon is a marketing specialist and Chattanooga history enthusiast. This year, he started Picnooga, a historic image preservation project and Facebook page that digitally preserves and shares photos of Chattanooga’s past. Follow David on Twitter, like Picnooga on Facebook, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.