Welcome back to Designing Chattanooga, a series where we dive into the history and architecture of Chattanooga’s iconic buildings.
In honor of World Architecture Day, we thought we would highlight one of Chattanooga’s greatest architectural works — The Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel.
Chattanooga was a major hub for industrial + passenger railway services in the south during the late 1880s and early 1900s. To accommodate, the Southern Railway began the construction of Terminal Station (now known as the Choo Choo Hotel) in 1906.
Terminal Station was the first train station to connect the north to the south (keeping it incredibly busy), but as the years went on and railway services began to decline, the station was destined to be demolished in the early 1970s.
However, the station was saved by local businessmen who were inspired by the song “The Chattanooga Choo Choo.” After investing more than $4 million, Terminal Station was redeveloped and renamed The Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel in 1973.
The design was headed by American architect Donn Barber, who used his studies from the École des Beaux-Arts school in Paris to influence the Choo Choo’s design. Large archways and an 82-ft high ceiling dome with a skylight in its center are some of the building’s highlights.
When its doors reopened, it welcomed visitors as a vacation complex spanning 24 acres in downtown. After several years, the hotel went bankrupt. But in 1989, former mayor Jon Kinsey purchased and revitalized the building.
The complex now includes hotel accommodations, restaurants, shops, gardens, an ice skating rink during the winter, and so much more.
The Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel has remained a major tourist attraction for those near and far and is well-loved by locals, too. Bonus: it’s almost time for the complex to transform into a winter wonderland.