Ten interesting facts about Chattanooga, TN

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Frieda and Garnet Carter
Frieda and Garnet Carter enjoy a game of mini-golf at Rock City in the early 1920s. (Photo: Picnooga)

It’s 6 a.m. NOOGA – do you know everything about your city? 

From MoonPies to mini-golf, to whiskey + music history – we gathered 10 must-know facts about the Scenic City. Check them out + then go forth and impress your friends with your Chattanooga knowledge. 

1. The Great Flood of Chattanooga

March 5, 1867, marks the worst flood in Chattanooga history. It lasted five days, and when the water stopped rising, it was roughly 58 feet above normal water levels. Water swept away Meigs Military Bridge, which meant that ferries were the only way to get to the Northside of Chattanooga. The flood was so substantial that residents feared that the swiftly flowing water between Missionary Ridge and downtown would change the Tennessee River’s course.

2. Civil War 

Chattanooga was an important area during the Civil War. The Battle of Chattanooga consisted of three different conflicts – the Battle of Orchard Knob, the Battle of Lookout Mountain + the Battle of Missionary Ridge. If Ulysses S. Grant’s plans had gone accordingly, the last two days of fighting would have been a single concentrated attack on the entire Confederate line. You can read more Chattanooga Civil War facts here

Bonus: Check out this haunting song from folk duo Shovels + Rope about the battle of Missionary Ridge.

 

3. Coca-Cola bottling 

Atlanta gets to claim the creation of Coca-Cola, but two Chattanooga lawyers are to thank for making the now-ubiquitous beverage widely available. Chattanooga is home to the world’s first Coca-Cola Bottling company. In 1899, Coca-Cola owner Asa Candler sold the bottling rights to Chattanooga lawyers Benjamin F. Thomas and Joseph B. Whitehead for $1. Thomas and Whitehead then opened the first Coca-Cola bottling company at 17 Market Street, where Patten Parkway now stands.

4. Underground Chattanooga 

Right here in NOOGA, there are various doors that lead to nowhere, windows that open up to brick walls, and underground tunnels that have been found in the city. Many people seem to believe that this “Underground Chattanooga” is due to a raising of city streets in the 19th century in response to heavy flooding. Another theory is that the city was simply evolving architecturally at the time. Whatever the explanation, you can see this underground Chattanooga yourself in WTCI’s “Underground Revealed” video. A local history group is planning to make a documentary about Underground Chattanooga. You can learn more here.  

5. Most polluted city 

Today, Chattanooga is a mecca for outdoor adventurers. City leaders, businesses + individuals also do a lot to stay green + environmentally friendly. But that wasn’t always the case. In the 1960s, Chattanooga air quality was so bad that people were warned not to go outside. The smog could eat through women’s pantyhose. By 1963, the mortality rate from tuberculosis was triple the national average. In 1969, on a news broadcast, legendary  journalist Walter Cronkite announced that Chattanooga was the dirtiest city in America. That same year, the Department of Health, Education and Welfare named Chattanooga the worst city in the nation for particulate air pollution.” Wow. What a turn-around. 

6. MoonPies

In 1917, a coal miner asked a  traveling salesman for Chattanooga Bakery Inc. for a snack as big as the moon.The salesman reported back to the bakery in Chattanooga, and soon the popular MoonPie was created. The home of the MoonPie can be found on Manufacturers Road and is still producing the tasty treats for us all to enjoy. 

7. Mini-golf 

The origins of mini-golf (or of the ‘fun version,’ at least) started right here in Chattanooga. Garnet Carter, a founder of Rock City and most well-known for creating Rock City Gardens with his wife, was the first person to patent “Tom Thumb golf” in the late 1920s.

8. Chattanooga Whiskey 

Local startup Chattanooga Whiskey, which has now found success outside the Scenic City, is to thank for changing laws that still prohibited the creation of liquor in Tennessee (except for in three counties). After launching in 2011, Chattanooga Whiskey founders lobbied to get the laws changed. In May of 2013, “The Whiskey Bill” was passed and signed into law. And just this year, the anticipated “Barrel 91,” was offered to customers. Thanks, Chattanooga Whiskey. 

Chattanooga Whiskey founders lobbied to change laws that prevented them from making their product in Chattanooga. Now they have a distillery here. (Photo: Contributed)

 

9. World’s fastest internet 

Although Google and other providers have now caught up, Chattanooga was the first city in the world to bring gig internet speeds to its customers. Chattanooga’s Electric Power Board can offer speeds of 1Gbps, compared to the average U.S. download speed of 25.86Mbps. Because of our relatively small population size, (180,557 according to the most recent United States census) EPB is able to invest heavily in infrastructure + allows everyone to benefit from increased speeds due to having fiber optics connections in an entire community.

10. Chattanooga-related music 

From mega R&B star Usher to the incomparable blues singer Bessie Smith, Chattanooga has a rich music history. Other noteworthy performers from Chattanooga include winner of “The Voice“ Jordan Smith + American Idol runner-up (and current DWTS contestant) Lauren Alaina (who is technically from Rossville, Ga… but we’re still counting it as a win).