Chattanooga: Search for Historic African American Hosteleries

Site of Mrs. J. Baker's Tourist Home on 8th Street. Now a parking lot for the Doctors Building.

Site of Mrs. J. Baker’s Tourist Home on 8th Street. Now a parking lot for the Doctors Building whose entrance is on McCallie Avenue. 

What do parking lots, newly built houses, Sisken Children’s Institute and a Days Inn in Chattanooga have in common? They all stand where African American hotels and tourist homes in the 1940s once stood. According to the 1949 edition of the Green Book, there were four hotels and four tourist homes in Chattanooga, the largest number in any city in the state. Today, not one of them stands.

1949 edition of the Green Book entries for Tennessee. Source: University of Michigan. http://www.autolife.umd.umich.edu/Race/R_Casestudy/87_135_1736_GreenBk.pdf

The Green Book (1949) entries for Tennessee. Source: University of Michigan from the Henry Ford Collection. 

After seeing the state of disrepair of the “Colored Hotel” in Union City, the only African American hotel or inn listed on the National Register in Tennessee (see post from Wednesday, December 17th), I headed to Chattanooga –two hours south of Nashville– hopeful to find a few extant hotels and/or tourist homes. (With the paucity of hotels serving African Americans on the road during the Jim Crow era, many people opened up rooms in their homes, for a fee, to travelers.) Instead, I found they have all been wiped from the landscape. As a historian and preservationist, I expect that a certain percentage of buildings from a given era will not longer be standing. That is totally normal. But I was taken aback that they were all gone. For the most part, if my reading of the landscape proves correct, they appear to be casualties of large scale projects and overall urban redevelopment.

Bicycle Transit Station Map located on the site of the former YWCA on 8th Street.  Map labels area as UTC.

Detail of a bicycle Transit Station Map located on the site of the former YWCA on 8th Street. Map labels area as MLK/UTC.

The YWCA and Mrs. J. Baker tourist home on 8th Street are both parking lots in the MLK / UTC area of Chattanooga. It is not a stretch to imagine that the properties were purchased by the University of Tennessee – Chattanooga as the campus expanded. Additional research is required to understand the sequence of events and test my hypothesis.

UTC parking lot. Location of the former YWCA.

UTC parking lot. Location of the former YWCA.

The Lincoln Hotel and Peoples Hotel on Carter Street were replaced by Sisken Children’s Institute which is located across from the Convention Center and Marriott Hotel. The former Martin Hotel, located on the busy intersection of MLK Boulevard and Carter Street across caddy corner from the Read House, is now a Days Inn. The location is prime as it is located at bottom of the interstate exit for downtown Chattanooga.

Sisken on Carter Street where the Lincoln Hotel and Peoples Hotels once stood.

Sisken on Carter Street where the Lincoln Hotel and Peoples Hotels once stood.

Former location of the Martin Hotel. Now a Days Inn.

Former location of the Martin Hotel. Now a Days Inn.

The YMCA on 9th Street (now MLK Boulevard) was replaced with an affordable housing complex named by Magnolia Gardens. A large number of new housing units are under construction and for sale which may indicate the neighborhood is in transition.

Magnolia Gardens where the former YMCA once stood.

Magnolia Gardens where the former YMCA once stood.

Across the street from Magnolia Gardens.

Across the street from Magnolia Gardens.

The last two proprieties, J. Carter tourist home and Mrs. E. Brown tourist home, located on 8th Street are in another area that appears to be in transition. In 2004, new houses were built on both of the sites. How did I know the houses were built in 2004? Zillow.com, a handy tool for dating recent and not so recent residences.

Former location of J. Carter tourist home on 8th Street. This house was built in 2004.

Former location of J. Carter tourist home on 8th Street. This house was built in 2004.

Former site of Mrs. E. Brown tourist home. New house built in 2004.

Former site of Mrs. E. Brown tourist home. New house built in 2004.

One comment

  1. mark cannon · · Reply

    Gina,

    Thank you so much for these fascinating historical postings relevant to your dissertation. I will bet that you are really enjoying all aspects of your research and writing!

    We wish you all a Merry Christmas visiting with you r mother!! Please tell Lolly that we sent her our love and best wishes for an enjoyable trip and visit with her grandmother.

    Mark

    Like

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