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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.