Chester Martin Remembers Cameron Hill

Tuesday, October 20, 2015
Every time I see a picture of Cameron Hill from years past I sicken just a bit. It was such a beautiful little miniature version of Lookout Mountain that they made me think "mother and child." Its brutalization should never have been allowed to happen, at least in my opinion. Other cities would never have allowed such an atrocity to happen - certainly not another "Scenic City."

It was sometime about 1960 that the "Golden Gateway" project started; the Olgiati Bridge was new, and "great" new things were beginning to happen in Chattanooga.

Perhaps only the Tennessee Highway people in Nashville had any clear idea what was going to happen in our city, though, and it was all planned out in advance, and in distant places.

Bulldozers duly arrived and started the wrecking process, cutting away at the top, "to get fill-dirt" we were told, for the construction of all the new freeway systems being built throughout the city. The hill would not be entirely leveled - only the top - which would allow for "beautiful new architecture" to be constructed there.

The "beautiful new architecture" amounted to a low series of two- or three-story apartment buildings, very poorly proportioned to the former elegant sweep of the hill and doing nothing to enhance the city's beauty. The present insurance company complex is but slight improvement over the apartments that were there before. But developers loved it.

It is true that there were decaying neighborhoods at the foot of the hill (the old "West Side" on Chestnut and Pine Streets, and south along East 9th (MLK) as well. These were ultimately wiped off the map by construction of U.S. 27 and the widening of 9th Street (MLK).

But in its glory days the top of Cameron Hill had seen some good times. Industrialist Gordon Street, Sr.'s home was there overlooking the city, and a public park at the northern crest of the hill overlooked the Tennessee River and North Chattanooga in the direction of Cherokee Boulevard and Stringers Ridge across the river. The park had a large, white pavilion built in rotunda form, if I recall correctly, with tall, slender columns supporting the roof. It gave a distinctive character to the western side of town, and there was a grassy lawn for picnics where children could play.

My old high school, Kirkman Vocational HS, stood at 216 Chestnut in the exact spot where the Creative Discovery now stands! Our Alma Mater included the words, "Outlined 'gainst the Hill of Cameron." Kirkman HS students came from all over the region, but a few of them came from Cameron Hill, and they all mourned the loss of such an historic landmark.

(Chester Martin is a native Chattanoogan who is a talented painter as well as local historian. He and his wife, Pat, live in Brainerd. Mr. Martin can be reached at cymppm@comcast.net )

Chester Martin
Chester Martin

Signal Mountain Genealogical Society Meets Nov. 6

The Signal Mountain Genealogical Society will meet at 1 p.m. on  Tuesday, Nov. 6 , at the Signal Mountain Public Library.  The speaker for the day will be Linda Mines, a well-known historian within the Chattanooga area and the official historian for Chattanooga and Hamilton County.  She is the First Vice-Regent of the Chief John Ross Chapter of the Daughters ... (click for more)

What Was That Stone Arch Halfway Up Lookout Mountain?

As a child in the early- to mid-70s the majority of our summer vacations were to Tennessee - a stop in Chattanooga then on to Gatlinburg.  We always visited the Incline, Ruby Falls and Rock City.    On the way up Lookout Mountain, I’m not sure of the road, there was a stone/cement type monument along the roadway with what looked to be a tongue sticking out ... (click for more)

Chattanooga Man At Scene Of Carjackings Gets 6-Year Federal Prison Sentence

A Chattanooga man who was at the scene of two carjackings has been sentenced to serve six years in federal prison. Nikolas Milton, 25, appeared before Judge Curtis Collier. A probation report recommended a four-level sentence enhancement, but prosecutor Chris Poole acknowledged there was no proof that Milton was the person who carried out the first carjacking. He said two ... (click for more)

Police Arrest Man On Multiple Car Break-Ins At Signal View Apartments

Police said they arrested a man on multiple car break-ins at the Signal View Apartments on Mountain Creek Road. Maurice Flanigan is charged with three counts of burglary and three counts of theft of property. Police said he was caught by the apartment complex's courtesy office who also works for the Red Bank Police Department. He was also taken into custody on several warrants ... (click for more)

Drink Up, Chattanooga

I attended the meeting to discuss the placement of the sewage treatment plant at the Cambridge Center in Ooltewah today. My problem with the meeting (aka) dog and pony show, is that the meeting started out with the agenda of the Ooltewah Community Council.  After living in this area for 45+ years I have never heard of this group.  I would like for someone to answer ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Vols: ‘Don’t Let Up’

The idea was hatched a couple of years ago. Some Tennessee football fanatic had gotten wind that an Oklahoma player had documented his baptism to havoc inside Neyland Stadium. Offensive lineman Ty Darlington was part of that 2015 double-overtime slugfest against the Vols and, afterwards, remembered OU’s 34-27 win – after being down by 17 points earlier – was an absolute “dissertation” ... (click for more)