I recently found a postcard that shows the 900 block of Market Street in the foreground. Unlike those really old, black-and-white photos of Chattanooga, this one isn’t one that I can say was before my time. Let’s take a trip in time and cruise that downtown block.
We’re riding in a 1970 two-door Chevrolet Monte Carlo coupe, with a 4-barrel 350 V-8 engine. The car has sleek styling that includes a vinyl roof, lots of chrome, and single head lamps.
The Monte Carlo was introduced for the ’70 model year, and is longer and larger than previous Chevrolet models. The ride is smooth as we hang a right turn from Ninth Street and then make our way southbound on Market.
907 MARKET – LUCKY LIQUOR STORE
This is one of several spirited retailers in Chattanooga. There are several more along South Broad Street towards St. Elmo, where I live with my family at the time. A large sign of a bottle of liquor is attached to the building. This is in contrast to South Carolina, where my uncle lives, where liquor stores cannot advertise but are permitted to display a bull’s-eye target to signify their businesses.
909-11 MARKET – LAWRENCE FURNITURE
This is a good example of what many feel is responsible for a declining downtown. Lawrence Furniture is a business with big products that have to be moved out of the building eventually. However, unlike their suburban competitors, Lawrence has no free parking; in fact, not much parking of any kind.
City leaders will later attempt to help the parking and traffic flow situation by redesigning Market Street to have pull-offs for vehicles. This changes the thoroughfare from the straight route that you see in the postcard to one that zigzags. “They took a straight street and made it crooked,” some naysayers will say.
915 – ROGERS THEATER
The Rogers Theater opened on March 2, 1951, and was named for Chattanooga motion picture pioneer Emmett Rogers. The current feature at the theater is “McLintock,” a John Wayne film that was first released in 1963. By this time, the Rogers and other cinemas are often showing re-releases of old movies.
The Chattanooga Motion Picture Operators Union also has an office in the Rogers building.
923 – THE JOLLY SPOT
I wish that I could claim a connection to this business, but I cannot. This is a small confectioners business, one of several in downtown. We roll down the power window of our Monte Carlo (and does that power window mechanism and motor make the door heavy to open and close), and wave to proprietor, Mrs. A.J. Cofer.
925 – VACANT
Downtown is showing signs that it is no longer the retail center that it used to be. There will be many attempts in the future to reverse the trend.
927 – YACOUBIAN BROTHERS TAILORS
On November 16, 1969, the Chattanooga Times had reported that brothers Kevork (Corky) and Johannes (John) Yacoubian were opening a tailor business. Kevork had moved from Lebanon to attend Tennessee Temple Schools in Chattanooga. Johannes later followed his brother.
This business still operates today in downtown, but at a different location.
929 – MARKET STREET NEWS
There are two signs on this building: one has the name of the business, and the other describes some of its merchandise: “Adult Book Store.” This type of business, along with the cinema across the street that I will mention later, became legislative challenges for city leaders in upcoming years.
931 - CHOW HOUND
In the 1963 city directory, William Edward Byrd was listed as a jailer with Hamilton County government. The following year, he opened the first Chow Hound restaurant at this location – a former Krystal, as you can see from the design of the windows.
Signage for the restaurant featured a sailor wearing a cap, and whose eyes seemed to be staring at the first sight of food in a while.
Chow Hound also had stores at 10 East Main Street, 14 West Sixth Street, and 501 Market Street. The building on East Main later housed Choo-Choo Hot Fish.
We have now finished our cruise of the west side of the 900 block, so we go around the next block to head along the east side. Our Monte Carlo is running a bit low on gas – the 350 V-8 can pass everything but a gas station – so we’ll make this a quick cruise.
928 – WHITE WOODS COMPANY, INC.
This was an office supply store, another logical business for downtown and its many offices.
926 – FARLEY STUDIO
This was one of a few photographic portrait businesses in downtown. Another was Peoples Studio. W.D. Barton managed Farley’s.
920 – MID-TOWN TWIN CINEMAS
This is the former location of the Dixie Theater. The Mid-Town Twin Cinemas, however, shows movies that some feel are not in keeping with community standards. This type of business is often on the agendas of city leaders to shut down, and several court cases are held.
918 – GRAND LOAN AND PAWN SHOP
912 – ALABAMA FURNITURE
In the 1960’s, the entire block, going over to Georgia Avenue, was engulfed in a three-alarm fire that my father helped to fight. The fire originated in The Quickie restaurant.
910B – RUTLEDGE BEAUTY COLLEGE
910 – NORTH AMERICAN COIN CORPORATION
908 ½ - AL’S ADULT BOOK STORE
908 – SIDE-POCKET NEWS STAND
906 – VACANT
904 – HAND-CRAFT 1-HOUR CLEANERS
Downtown has always had people who wear suits, so this is a logical business for the area.
OTHER ITEMS TO NOTE
Notice that there is a large concrete median on Market Street. This is an artifact from the discontinuation of trolley rails in the late 1930’s and 1940’s. I recall that there were some intersections where motorists had to drive across the medians, resulting in a loud rumble.
The public bus in the photo is likely from the Southern Coach lines, but could be an early CARTA bus. On October 22, 1971, the Chattanooga Times reported “Panel Organized to Provide Area Transportation.”
There is a street sign marking the junction of US 11 and 64 at Ninth and Market streets. The US routes were notorious for taking the tourists along a circuitous route through downtowns, in order to pass by the large hotels.
In the distance, one can see a weather barometer tower that was atop the Maclellan Building. The neon lights signaled green for a rising pressure (good weather) and red for falling pressure (often accompanied by rain).
BIG CHANGES COME TO THE 900 BLOCK OF MARKET STREET
On September 16, 1973, the Chattanooga News-Free Press reported, “CITY TO RAZE BLOCK FOR PARK” in its all-caps banner headline. This was what resulted in Miller Park. Every building on the east side of the 900 block of Market, bordered by Ninth, Georgia, and Tenth, would be demolished.
On the west side of the 900 block, the Chattanooga Housing Authority had acquired and demolished all structures between 1978 and 1981. On September 14, 1981, the News-Free Presss reported, “United Bank Planning High-Rise Stucture.
United Bank was established as a local bank to compete with American and Hamilton banks. However, by 1981, the bank had become part of the banking organization of Jake Butcher.
Plans for what would have been Chattanooga’s tallest skyscraper never came to fruition. The Unite d American Bank collapsed in February, 1983 – the fourth largest failure in U.S. history.
The block was home to a parking lot for many years, prior to the construction of a new Electric Power Board office in 2005.
If you have memories of the 900 block of Market Street in the early 1970’s, please send me an e-mail at email@example.com.