CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – The events of 1970 could have spelled doom for Chattanooga’s Terminal Station.
On Aug. 11 of that year, the final train departed from the station. Over the past 170 years, Chattanooga is probably best known for its railroads. But, with the advent of cars and highways, rail travel was obsolete by the 1970s, and the station’s fate seemed sealed.
But in 1971, a group of local businessmen intervened and bought the station. After more than a year of renovations, the Chattanooga Choo Choo hotel reopened in the former station following an April 11, 1973, re-dedication. The structure is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.
Southern Railways hired New York architect Don Barber to design the depot. The railroad dedicated the structure on Dec. 1, 1909. During its 61-year run as a rail terminal, a number of famous people passed through its doors, including Woodrow Wilson, Teddy Roosevelt, William Jennings Bryan and Franklin D. Roosevelt.
“Chattanoogans who have not visited the new terminal station since it has been practically completed have a big treat in store,” the Daily News newspaper wrote on Dec. 10, 1908. “Few persons, if any, who have not visited the station within the past few weeks have any conception of its grandeur and entire fitness for handling passenger traffic. To properly appreciate the new railroad plant a person should spend a few minutes at the Central shed and study the conditions there and then go to the new station. The contrast is great.”
The highlight of the building is the grand dome that spans a waiting room that measures 68 feet by 82 feet.