What remains from the 1940s: Deep Zoom Chattanooga highlights changing downtown landscape

Authored By seanphippster

An aerial photograph overlooking Chattanooga’s downtown in the 1940s shows a much different landscape of buildings, structures and street life than present day.

The latest project from Deep Zoom Chattanooga attempts to show how many of those former structures have been lost forever.

The results are both astonishing and heartbreaking.

Click here to view the photograph. 

When toggled to the 2014 view, the indicated overlays in red show how many buildings have been removed since the 1940s.

Buildings like the Southern Hotel at Ninth and Chestnut, the American National Bank at 736 Market St. and the enormous Centenary Methodist Church on Lindsay Street have all been removed.

The photograph-which was taken from above where the present U.S. 27 connects to downtown-shows a central block of buildings remains downtown. 

The Dome Building, Chattanooga Bank Building and Loveman’s Building are still present, as are the Ross Hotel and Volunteer Building.

Strikingly, nearly every structure south of the Sheraton Read House is gone, including the famous Union Depot and subsequent railways.

Sam Hall, creator of the Deep Zoom Chattanooga website, is currently director of interactive and media services at KMT Creative. He said the difficulty lies in determining which buildings are gone and “what remains,” which is the title of the project.

“One of the things I was trying to get working is coordinates,” he said. “So when you start zooming around, you’ll see those numbers changing.”

Hall is encouraging the public to help him fine-tune the project by finding buildings that still remain. Visitors to the page would zoom into a building, copy the coordinates and offer as much background information as possible in the comment section on the site.

Cornerstones Inc., Chattanooga’s only nonprofit historic preservation organization, offers a list of buildings lost throughout the years. Many of the downtown buildings were removed as a part of the Golden Gateway urban renewal project during the 1960s.

Another Deep Zoom Chattanooga photo highlights the destruction of Cameron Hill during that time.

“I think we’re to a point where we’re slowing down that process of destroying the buildings,” Hall said. “It’s mind-blowing how many buildings are gone, but I guess most cities are that way.”

Deep Zoom Chattanooga features historical photographs of Chattanooga brilliantly enhanced with a technology called Deep Zoom OpenSeadragon. It provides the ability to zoom in and out of high-resolution images rapidly without affecting the performance of an application (i.e., crashing your browser).

Hall said he will continue adding content to the site weekly. He is also partnering with the daughters of Roy Tuley, a famous Chattanooga photographer, and the Chattanooga History Center for access to content.

Click here to view more photographs.

Updated @ 12:26 p.m. on 9/26/14 to correct an editing error.
Updated @ 8:58 a.m. on 9/29/14 to correct editing errors.