What Did That Building Used To Be? - Hamilton National Bank

Saturday, August 3, 2002 - by Harmon Jolley
This is what the Hamilton National Bank looks like under its modern skin. Click to enlarge all our photos.
This is what the Hamilton National Bank looks like under its modern skin. Click to enlarge all our photos.

Reuben Harrison Hunt was a local architect who became well-known for stately, artistic designs. Among the buildings which remain as testimonies to his talents are the Hamilton County Courthouse, the Federal Courthouse, the James Building, the Maclellan building, and the former Miller Brothers building (now Blue Cross/Blue Shield).

Some of his works are sadly no longer with us, such as the First Baptist Church at Oak Street and Georgia Avenue and the No. 1 Fire Hall on Carter Street. One of his structures is still with us - though disguised as a more modern building. It was originally the home office of Hamilton National Bank, and is now the downtown branch of First Tennessee.

Hamilton National Bank was founded in 1905 with Thomas Ross Preston, Harry Olmstead, and Gus Miller as its leaders and capitalization of $250,000. The bank was an outgrowth of the old South Chattanooga Savings Bank, and Mr. Preston had taken his banking career there from messenger to president. In November, 1909, plans were announced for new offices for the bank at its location at Seventh and Market Streets. This would become Chattanooga’s third skyscraper – the James Building and the Patten Hotel preceding it. While the new building was under construction, temporary offices were set up across Market Street in space above The Palace, a popular restaurant and soda fountain.

The new, 15-story Hamilton National Bank opened to the public on June 8, 1911. In the dedication ceremony, John Patten of the Chamber of Commerce said, “This is not the last, merely the latest skyscraper for Chattanooga.” The lobby was furnished in Italian marble with bronze grills at the teller windows. Its safety deposit vault was secured by a massive door weighing over two tons. The total cost of the building was an estimated $400,000.

Over the next six decades, Hamilton National Bank grew to become one of the larger banks in East Tennessee. It grew primarily by attracting new customers rather than through acquiring other banks. The bank had many years of stability through times when bank failures were common. The downtown location was first expanded in 1940 and again starting in 1965. In this remodeling, the building would be covered by a modern granite and aluminum façade. It was at that time the popular notion that old buildings needed such face lifts to bring them in line with modern designs. Similar projects would be carried out at the Lovemans and Miller Brothers department stores, though both have since had their disguises removed to reveal the original beautiful architecture.

The stable image of Hamilton National Bank vanished in 1976 as it was revealed by Federal officials that the bank was insolvent. Through a subsidiary, the bank had suffered substantial real estate loan failures. The assets of the bank were sold at auction, with First Tennessee Bank of Memphis being the purchaser. It was said to be the third largest bank failure in the United States.



Former Governor Bill Haslam Has New Book, Faithful Presence

Chattanooga's George Burnham Knew The Grahams Well

John Shearer: Historic Frist Hall And Old Oak Street Home Among UTC Razing Projects


Former Governor Bill Haslam has a new book, Faithful Presence: The Promise and the Peril of Faith in the Public Square. The publisher, Thomas Nelson, notes that “Haslam has long been at the ... (click for more)

Dr. Billy and Ruth Graham spent their 78th wedding anniversary together in Heaven on Aug. 13th. No one knew the Grahams better in the 1950's than News Free Press Reporter George Burnham. He covered ... (click for more)

Many Chattanoogans might not realize it, but an important part of the old McCallie Avenue medical office corridor recently disappeared. UTC had a blog post about it, and chattanoogan.com ... (click for more)



Memories

Former Governor Bill Haslam Has New Book, Faithful Presence

Former Governor Bill Haslam has a new book, Faithful Presence: The Promise and the Peril of Faith in the Public Square. The publisher, Thomas Nelson, notes that “Haslam has long been at the center of politics and policy on local, state, and federal levels, and he has consistently been guided by his faith, which influenced his actions on a wide range of issues. Yet the place of ... (click for more)

Chattanooga's George Burnham Knew The Grahams Well

Dr. Billy and Ruth Graham spent their 78th wedding anniversary together in Heaven on Aug. 13th. No one knew the Grahams better in the 1950's than News Free Press Reporter George Burnham. He covered the 1953 Chattanooga crusade for the paper. His stories even went worldwide on both AP and UPI. Burnham later traveled with the famous Evangelist. He went with Mr. Graham to England, ... (click for more)

Breaking News

Hamilton County Has 3 More COVID Deaths, 286 New Cases; Tennessee Has 52 More Deaths

The Hamilton County Health Department reported three more deaths from the coronavirus and 286 new positive cases on Friday. The case number is up from 245 on Thursday. The total cases in the county now stands at 59,841. The death total is at 597. The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations is 319 in Hamilton County - down from 344 on Thursday. Nine more are hospitalized with suspected ... (click for more)

Janet Hinds Trial Starts Monday With Jury From Nashville

A Nashville jury has been selected to hear the trial of the former Soddy Daisy postmaster who is charged in the traffic death of rookie Chattanooga Police officer Nicholas Galinger. The trial of Janet Hinds will be in the courtroom of Judge Don Poole. Police said Officer Galinger was struck and killed by a vehicle driven by Ms. Hinds as he was inspecting an overflowing manhole ... (click for more)

Opinion

The Honor In Being Unvaccinated - And Response (4)

Amidst the constant bombardment of vaccination headlines and total blitz our politicians push to have Americans do nothing but fantasize the euphoric paradise that is a 100 percent vaccinated populous constantly – above any alternative priority – I feel obliged to come forward and explain why me, and many of my close friends, are not only choosing not to be vaccinated, but finding ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The Saturday Funnies

“Be happy and before long, the Lord will give you a reason why.” * * * As most know, the funnies are not created by me but are shared in the emails that arrive each week. One delightful soul, let’s call him Joe, is unrivaled at the funniest jokes he shares week after week and look at the joy he shared this week. Some one-liners … * -- I was addicted to the hokey pokey... ... (click for more)