From the founder of Picnooga, David Moon, Chattanooga Then elevates and shares Chattanooga’s history through photographs, postcards, and other historical artifacts.

The Lookout Mountain Inn

There are at least thirty glass plate negatives to go through, and there could be more. Here’s the first one scanned. Zoom in on the image using your mouse scroller or the tools below the image.

This one is easily identified as the front lawn of the Lookout Mountain Inn, which once sat just above the Incline Railway’s upper terminus on Lookout Mountain. The men in uniform date it to 1898 when training for the Spanish American War took place at Camp Thomas on the Chickamauga Battlefield. The white building was a souvenir stand and Engel’s War Museum in the background.

The lawn is still there! Although this image doesn’t quite line up, it’s close to the 1898 image but a little farther back on Hooker Street. Slide the diamond-shaped tool to see the Google view compared to the 1898 photograph.

The Lookout Mountain Inn (Contributed)

The Lookout Inn opened in 1890 and was situated just above the top station of the existing Incline No. 2 on the eastern face of Lookout Mountain, Tennessee. The steam-powered incline was built as a direct route to the hotel and a connection to the Chattanooga & Lookout Mountain Railway.


Open year-round, Lookout Inn was 365 feet long and four stories tall. It had two five-story towers, a huge network of wide porches and verandas, 450 rooms that could accommodate over 500 guests, and was built for $150,000-which is more than $3 million today. The fine-dining hall was 114 feet long and finished in quarter-sawn oak. There were billiards rooms, reading nooks, lounges, and smoking rooms. An 1895 advertisement for the hotel boasted a “liberal plan,” the “finest climate in America,” and the “most enchanted scenery the sun ever shone upon.” Modern sanitation systems, drainage, and an abundant water source were all selling features to prospective guests. It was also marketed as “Tennessee’s great health and pleasure resort,” seemingly to appeal to the nation’s popular health craze.

Its large ballroom often hosted soldiers in training for the Spanish-American War posted in Fort Oglethorpe. A visiting Prince Henry of Prussia pronounced it the ideal spot he had visited and the scenery more breathtaking than the Swiss Alps.

Thought to be fireproof, the inn was engulfed in a blaze on November 17, 1908, with the flames and smoke seen from downtown Chattanooga. At the time, only a few guests were staying in the hotel. Luckily, they all escaped from harm.

On the day of the fire, Lookout Inn was under contract for $135,000, with the deal expected to close the same day. The owners had the hotel insured for only $20,000.

A defective flue was blamed for the disaster.


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