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The History of Chattanooga
and Lookout Mountain
Other Resort Hotels on
he resort potential of the mountain was recognized early and many hotels were built on the mountain in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The first hotel was built in the 1850s by Col. Whiteside close to where the Scenic Highway tops the mountain. In the 1880s, the most popular hotel on the Mountain was The Natural Bridge Hotel. Another large hotel called The Lookout Inn was built across from the present Incline station in 1890. This hotel burned in 1908. In 1928, a castle-like hotel called the Lookout Mountain Hotel was built on the west brow of the mountain. This hotel is now Covenant College. Most of these hotels were not financially successful.
The Current Incline
In 1895, the Whitesides built Incline #2 (the current Incline Railway). Within 5 years, Incline #1 and the Broad Gauge were out of business. While Incline #1 and The Narrow and Broad Gauge Railroads are gone, the National Park incorporates a portion of these railroad lines into its trail system as well as the site of The Point Hotel.
The Most Popular Attraction on Lookout Mtn.
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the most popular attractions on Lookout Mountain was The Natural Bridge. Located at the north end of Lookout Mountain (just a mile from Sunset Rock, The Point, and the Incline station), people came from far away to see this rock structure and to drink its youth giving mineral water. In 1884, a religious group called the Spiritualists purchased The Natural Bridge Hotel and surrounding grounds. Midnight seances and meetings where mediums talked to spirits were commonplace around The Natural Bridge during the late 1880s. The Spiritualist sold the property in 1890, but The Natural Bridge remained popular through the 1920s when it was featured on penny postcards. Development in the area and the popularity of the commercial attractions has caused this natural rock phenomenon to be all but abandoned although people can still visit it if they can find it.
The Birth of Miniature Golf
In the mid 1920s, two Chattanooga businessmen started the Fairyland development, an exclusive subdivision situated on the eastern brow of Lookout Mtn. about 3 miles south of The Point. The subdivision included the Fairyland Inn and golf course.
One of these businessmen was Garnet Carter. Before the golf course opened, Carter set up a putting green and in so doing began experimenting with using pipes and rocks on a smaller course. Shortly thereafter, his Tom Thumb miniature golf course was a great success and miniature golf courses were going up all over the country. By 1930, more than 25,000 miniature golf courses were in place around the world and the Carters were multi-millionaires.
The Fairyland subdivision included an area on the eastern brow of the mountain that was well know for its unusual rock formations. This area, called Rock City, had been a home to Indians in times past and was on property owned by Garnet Carter and his wife Frieda. Frieda loved to visit this place. In the late 1920s she began to develop trails and plant flowers and shrubs in the Rock City. As time went by, this place became more popular to residents and tourist alike. Garnet, noticing the popularity of the place, decided to begin charging admission and opened "Rock City" to the public in 1932.
Carter began an extensive advertising campaign. His ingenuity at promotion was unmatched. He gave farmers across the country free barn roof paint jobs. He designed and made a large number of Rock City mail boxes. When postal authorities objected, he punched holes in them converting the mail boxes into Rock City bird houses. At first, he paid for his advertising, but soon people paid him for his advertising by buying his Rock City souvenirs.
Lookout Mountain is known for its many caves. One of the most well known is a huge, richly ornamented, cave at the north end of the mountain. This cave was used for hundreds of years, by the Indians and later by the Confederates during the Civil War. In 1905, the railroad drilled a tunnel through the mountain which intersected the cave opening. In 1910, the railroad sealed the entrance to the cave.
In the early 1920s, an entrepreneur named Leo Lambert (who had visited the cave prior to its closure) decided the cave could be a profitable tourist attraction if it could be reopened. Lambert decided the only way to reopen the cave was to drill down to it. In 1928, he purchase land on the side of the mountain (above the cave) and started to drill. After a month of drilling through solid limestone, the drilling crew came upon an unexpected cave (above where they expected the main cave to be). The next day, Lambert and a few others were lowered down the shaft. They made their way through the narrow wet passages for about 600 feet until they could hear the roaring of falling water. It was here they discovered a 100 foot underground waterfall.
Lambert decided to name the waterfall after his wife Ruby. Drilling continued until they hit the main cave. Both caves were opened to the public in 1930, but the depression took its toll and Lambert's company went bankrupt and Ruby Falls was sold for $25,000 in 1932.
Originally, visitors could chose whether to visit Ruby Falls or the lower cave (which extended several miles underground). Ruby Fall, however, proved to be the most popular and the lower cave was eventually closed. The castle-like building at the entrance to Ruby Falls (Cavern Castle) was built with limestone taken from the shaft.
About a mile north of Ruby Falls (next to the river) is a another huge cave and a spectacular 300 foot underground waterfall called Mystery Falls. This waterfall was once used as a water source for parts of Chattanooga and is not open to the public.
The Chickamauga and Chattanooga
In 1893, the Cravens House and 85 acres were deeded to the U.S. government for a Park. In 1898, The Point and 16.5 acres were purchased from the Whitesides and became Point Park. These two properties make up the nucleus of the Park on Lookout Mountain. The Park also includes thousands of wooded areas along the slopes of Lookout Mountain including Sunset Rock. The Park is open to the public year-round.
The Narrow Gauge Railroad
Incline #1 (The Original Incline)
The Broad Gauge Railroad
The Point Hotel
The Lookout Inn
Other Chattanooga &
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