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The History of Chattanooga
and Lookout Mountain
Ownership of Lookout Mountain
Mid to Late 1800's
uring the mid and latter part of the 1800s, most of Lookout Mountain lying in Tennessee was owned by the Whiteside and Cravens families.
In 1840, the state of Tennessee auctioned off the property formerly owned by the Cherokee Indians. Due to the lack of any roads up Lookout Mountain, Whiteside faced little competition in bidding for the property on this property. He purchased most of the mountain lying in Tennessee, paying as little at 1c an acre for some of it.
In the mid 1850s, Robert Cravens purchased property on the northern
talus of the mountain and built the house that today bears his name.
By the 1880s, he owned almost the entire northern slope of the
mountain. His property ran from the Palisades to the River and across
to the Incline tracks. At the time of the Civil War, about 30
families lived on the mountain during the summer and about half that
many year round.
The Turnpike and Incline Wars
The Road Up Lookout Mountain
Col. Whiteside build a toll road up the eastern side of the mountain in the 1850s (called the Whiteside Turnpike and the Summertown Road during the Civil War). The road ran up the mountain beginning near the present Incline and crested the mountain where the current Scenic Hwy reaches the top. At this location, on top of the mountain, was the Summertown community where wealthy families spent much of their summers. The Whiteside Turnpike was the only road up the northern end of the mountain during the Civil War. It remained the only road until 1879, one year after the deadly Yellow Fever Epidemic in Chattanooga.
The Yellow Fever Epidemic
In 1878, the Yellow Fever Epidemic hit Chattanooga. Chattanooga was thought to be immune, due to its mountain climate. However, after the death of a child and his mother of the Fever, nearly all the nearly 12,000 people fled the city in panic. The scare lasted nearly two months and 366 people died. Lookout Mountain, known for its healthy climate, was where many of the people fled. To get there, though, they had to travel the Whiteside Turnpike and pay the high toll. Later, many of these people complained about the toll and the next year the St. Elmo Turnpike (now called Ochs Highway) was built up the mountain.
This resulted in fewer people using the Whiteside Turnpike and a loss of toll revenues for the Whitesides. To make up for this loss, the Whitesides decided to charge for access to The Point. (fyi- The Scenic Hwy was built in the late 1920s)
During the late 1800s, the primary reason many people came to Lookout Mountain was to see the spectacular view from The Point (now called Point Park). When confronted with having to pay to experience this natural wonder, many refused. Others began forcing their way onto the property. In response, the Whitesides erected a fence and hired armed guards to stand watch.
In addition, the Whitesides contracted with the Owen Livery Company in Chattanooga to take passengers up the mountain (along the Whiteside Turnpike). The contract prevented anyone, except those who rode up on Owen's Livery, to visit The Point. This outraged competing Livery owners, as well as other real estate interest on Lookout Mountain.
The First Incline
As a result of these events, a group of investors decided to build a hotel off the edge of the mountain immediately below The Point. This hotel would tower to the same level and give patrons the same view as The Point.
To build the hotel, however, they needed a way to get building materials up the mountain, and then a convenient way to get customers to the hotel. To do this, they built the first Incline up the mountain. Incline #1 was built in 1887 (the current incline is Incline #2). The Incline #1 station was located just a few hundred yards north of the current Incline station (at the bottom of the mountain). It ran up the mountain to just below The Point. The Point Hotel served as the Incline station at the top of the mountain.
Incline #1 in 1888 Visitor's Guide
The Hotel Built Off
The Point Hotel, built off the side of the mountain just below The Point, had 4 stories and 58 rooms. It opened in May 1888. The rates ran from $2.50 to $4 per night. To get to the hotel, a round-trip on the Incline #1 cost 50c for adults and 25c for children. The Point Hotel was built at the base of the Palisades (a 75+ foot rock cliff that surrounds the top of the mountain) and the competing Whitesides owned the property immediately above. This presented a dilemma because the Hotel owners needed a way to get patrons to the top of the mountain. The solution to this dilemma was a small train.
The Point Hotel in 1988 Visitor's Guide
The Small Train on The Mountain
To afford patrons access to the top of the mountain, The Narrow Gauge Railroad was built in 1887 (essentially a small train). It ran from The Point Hotel along the base of the western Palisades for 1/2 mile. At this point it ran up though a gap in the Palisades to the top of the mountain. The Narrow Gauge Railroad then ran to Sunset Rock and ended at the popular tourist attraction, The Natural Bridge. In 1894 its tracks were extended from The Natural Bridge to the Lookout Inn on the eastern side of the Mountain.
The Train Up the Mountain
In the late 1880s, Lookout Mountain was becoming very popular, to both residents and tourists. A competing investor group decided that a better way up the mountain was a regular train. The Broad Gauge Railroad carrying passengers to the top of Lookout Mountain was finished in 1889.
This railroad began its climb up the mountain on the east side in St. Elmo (a few hundred yards south of the current Incline station). It ran north up and around the talus of the mountain (going under Incline #1) to a switchback on the western slope. It then proceeded back up and around the talus of the mountain (running in front of The Cravens House and then under Incline #1 again) to the top of the mountain (cresting where Oches Highway now tops the mountain). The tracks then ran west across the top of the mountain to Sunset Park, then back east past The Natural Bridge, ending at the Lookout Inn (which was owned by the Broad Gauge investor group).
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