The natural magnetism and historic relevance of Lookout Mountain has piqued the recreational interests of tourists for years. Since before the Civil War, many have tried to capitalize on Lookout’s scenic overlooks and natural attractions by offering year-round and seasonal overnight accommodations. These hoteliers offered modern amenities and comforts that could suit the tastes of the discriminate traveler of their time. Unfortunately, many of these grandiose hotels would succumb to war, fire, feuds, the Great Depression and a shortfall of demand. Click here to read part one of this series on the historic hotels of Lookout Mountain.
The (Lookout) Point Hotel (1888)
Built in 1888, the Point Hotel was quite strikingly modern in appearance, with four levels of wraparound balconies that rounded at the corners and gavevisitorsan awe-inspiringpanoramicview of the river valley and Chattanooga. The 58-room hotel satstrategically just below Point Lookout and the property of Mrs. Col. James A. Whiteside, who would later become an investor in the nearby Lookout Inn. Mrs. Whiteside was protective of her husband’s estate, and competitive feuding became so ruthless between the two hotels that she had the stairs leading to the point removed to keep Point Hotel patrons from easily reaching the summit of Lookout Mountain and the popular point.
Visitorswould reach the Point Hotel by the 4,360-foot-long steam-powered Incline No. 1 to its west façade and upper station. The narrow gauge railway from the east could also take patrons onexcursionsto Sunset Rock and the popular Natural Bridge. Room rates ranged from $2.50 to $4 a night, and day visitors could ride the Incline, have a nice dinner, then return to St. Elmo for aninclusiveprice of $3. Hotel amenities included abilliardroom, barbershop, running water in each guest room and a bathhouse.
In 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt visited the hotel.
The dismantling of Incline No. 1 at the turn of the last century in favor of the newer Incline No. 2 and fierce competition would eventually fold the Point Hotel-although, briefly, new investors considered converting the former hotel into a music hall. The Point Hotel would sit empty and abandoned before being demolished sometime between 1910 and 1920. A small plaque commemorates the Point Hotel near the bottom of the steel stairs from Point Park, andartifactslike stone stairs and bits of the foundation are stillvisible to hikers.
The Natural Bridge Hotel (McCullough Hotel) (1884)
Originallybuilt by Joseph B. McCullough, the hotel changed names to the Natural Bridge Hotel in 1884 when the property was purchased by the Southern Spiritualists Association. TheNaturalBridge Hotel was located about a mile from Sunset Rock and was advertised as aspiritualistretreat, hosting most ofthe well-knownspiritualistsof the day. Guests weretreatedto lectures and séances. And, as a result of a peak ofpopularityinspiritualism, an octagon-shaped meetinghouse that could hold 500 people was constructed. Over the next few years, interest drastically declined, and the venture was abandoned and sold in 1890. The hotel would soon close because of ever-increasing competition. Sadly, I was unable to locate a photo.
The (first) Lookout Mountain Hotel (1857)
Built byCol. James A. Whiteside, construction of the Lookout Mountain Hotel started in the fall of 1856 inSummertown-thefirst community on LookoutMountain. It opened for guests June 1, 1857, and boasted 25 cottages surrounded by a stately southern Greek revivalhotel that became a wildly popular summer resting place for many well-to-do Southern families who would stay the entire season. However, visiting naturalists thoughtWhiteside’sresort cheapened the area and spoiled the views and environment.
During the Civil War, the hotel was used as a Confederate hospital. Later, after 1863 and occupation of the North, it would serve as a hospital for Federal troops. Jefferson Davis recuperated there in May 1867 after serving time in prison.
Whiteside died in 1861, and his widow was put into Federalcustodyand sent north during the war to be released afterward to return to Lookout Mountain.
Lookout Mountain Hotel burned a few years after the war.
Thesedo not make a complete list or begin to scratchthe surface onthe many people, stories and drama created tomonetizethe millions that have come to Lookout Mountain since the 1830s. But I hope this is enough information to piqueyourinterest to dig deeper into Chattanooga history.
David Moon is a marketing specialist and Chattanooga history enthusiast. This year, he startedPicnooga, a historic image preservation project andFacebook pagethat digitally preserves and shares photos of Chattanooga’s past. Follow David onTwitter, like Picnooga onFacebook,or email him at[email protected]. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, notNooga.comor its employees.