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Lookout Mountain Before 1892

One hundred years ago Lookout Mountain and Chattanooga were experiencing economic growth and a building boom. In the previous five years, St. Paul's Episcopal Church, the Second Presbyterian Church and St. Peter and Paul's Catholic Church had been built in Chattanooga. The city was a railroad hub and an emerging manufacturing center. Horse drawn wagons and trolleys kept a cloud of dust stirring on unpaved Market and Broad Streets.  

PointHotel.jpg (7572 bytes)Incline #1 had been built in 1886 by Clay Evans, the Montagues and Captain Henry Frederick Temple, who had fought here in 1863. Returning after the War, he was elected Mayor of Chattanooga, refusing compensation. This first incline ran just north of the present incline but made a right turned before the bluffs to terminate right below the Point to terminate at their new Point Hotel.


trolley.jpg (26229 bytes)They also built a narrow gauge railroad on the other side of the hotel, which crested the mountain just above Sunset Rock, later extended to Natural Bridge in the center of the mountain. The idea was that rail access to the top of the mountain would permit real estate development. Captain Temple had bought about a half mile of west brow property, extending generally from Sunset Rock southward to 214 West Brow Road, where the Temples built a nice home later replaced by the Summerfield Johnston home.


A pavilion was built just below Natural Bridge, and it at this pastoral pavilion that the Lookout Mountain Presbyterian Church would later be founded in 1892.

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Two broad gauge railroads ran to the top of Lookout Mountain. One started carrying coal in 1892 from the Durham mines down past Lula Lake Falls and into the valley to the coke ovens that supported the foundries. Georgia convicts housed under guard in barracks at the mines dug the coal from vast underground shafts 200 to 600 feet deep. (Georgia would pass a law in 1908 outlawing the working of prisoners underground because the conditions were so harsh. That is when strip mining was begun, using paid labor.

The other train had a brighter prospect: carrying up to 600 people a day from all over the country up to the grand LookoutInn.jpg (11674 bytes)Lookout Inn across from the incline. Many dined and stayed the night in one of its 365 rooms. Most passengers rode in wine red coaches with gold trim but some came and arrived aboard Pullman sleeping cars. The famous "Battle Above the Clouds" fought on its slopes between Confederate and Union forces twenty-nine years earlier had helped to make the world aware of its rare scenic beauty. Congress had created the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park in 1890.

Mountain development had first begun fifty-four years earlier in 1838, when its Cherokee Indian lands were sold after the last of the Cherokees had been shamefully removed. The top had been an Indian hunting ground with no signs of villages, but Indian towns had surrounded Lookout Mountain and Indians had been here for thousands of years. An Indian village below the Point on Mocassin Bend was recently carbon dated to 1700 BC, over a century before Moses was born and some 250 years before the Ten Commandments were given in 1445 BC.

In about 1852 the first road had been built up the mountain by Colonel Whiteside, undoubtedly following the path of the old wagon road, which in turn surely followed an old Indian trail described by pioneers. It was a tortuous road with sixty-eight curves, including six reverses, three W's, a double S and one hairpin. Building materials could only be hauled up with teams of oxen. Named the Whiteside Turnpike, a toll was charged at the top of the mountain. It was also called the Summertown Road, probably a name going back to the 1840's. In 1879, the year after the Yellow Fever epidemic, a second road was added, now called the Ochs Highway, and it was a better road and free of tolls. This road helped construction along.

There had been a growing summer community on the mountain, but even in the 1870's there were only twelve families who lived up here year round. In summer there were still only twenty-five families in residence plus hotel guests.

It was customary for visiting ministers to provide worship services at the hotels in the summer. When our church began, there were three hotels in operation: the Point Hotel, The Lookout Inn, and the much older Mountain House, which was located at 100 Scenic Highway, at the top of the Summertown Road.

Long before we had a church, the mountain had a Sunday School. Starting in 1880 the first organized Sunday School began in the Alexander Hunt home, where the Common now stands. It was to become our church's Sunday School.

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