Remembering the Alamo Plaza Hotel and Courts

Tuesday, August 17, 2010 - by Harmon Jolley
Advertisement for the Alamo Plaza from a "This Week in Chattanooga" tourist pamphlet.  Click to enlarge.
Advertisement for the Alamo Plaza from a "This Week in Chattanooga" tourist pamphlet. Click to enlarge.

The legends of lodging used various strategies to entice travelers to turn in for the night. Col. Harland Sanders placed a model room at the office of his Sanders Court and Café, so that tourists could check out the features. Holiday Inn placed a tall, bright neon sign as a beacon to road-weary riders. Other chains went for unique looks, such as wigwam-shaped cottages.

Alamo Plaza Hotel Courts incorporated history into its original architecture. The chain was founded in 1929 by E. Lee Torrance and Drummond W. Bartlett in Waco, Texas. The entrance to Alamo Plaza was modeled after the San Antonio mission that was a famous battle site of the Texas Revolution.

Chattanooga gained its first Alamo Plaza in 1952, with the completion of a motel at 3000 South Broad Street. Promotional literature noted that the motel was located in an historic area dating back to Chatunuga Village, named for the rock now called Lookout Mountain. “Alamo Plaza Hotel Courts afford modern facilities, real hospitality, and friendly service,” the flyer proclaimed. “Its personnel is (sic) anxious to see that you enjoy every moment of your visit.”

The Alamo had the features that had become common for travelers of the 1950’s. Each room was air-conditioned, and had a free telephone and television. Some rooms had kitchenettes. There was a coffee shop and ample, free parking. The motel had gained the recommendation of Duncan Hines. In this pre-Interstate era, the Alamo Plaza proudly noted its location on four U.S. routes – 11, 41, 64, and 72 – as well as Tennessee 58. “Comfort-Service without Extravagance” was its motto.

Despite all of those nice features, the Alamo Plaza couldn’t escape its location, however. South Chattanooga was a heavy industry haven, and pollution was inescapable. Wheland Foundry was its neighbor diagonally across South Broad Street, and belched smoke that drifted towards the motel. Scholze Tannery’s odors wafted in the breeze, too. Chattanooga Creek flowed nearby, and carried industrial wastes from factories in Alton Park. Buildings north of the motel on Broad Street were old and decaying, and were homes of some un-family friendly businesses.

On June 7, 1961, the Chattanooga Times reported that a $50,000 facelift project was being carried out at the Alamo Plaza, in hopes that their image could overcome the surroundings. The Alamo mission motif gave way to a new face of porcelained steel and aluminum. The design was said to be an improvement over the white stucco for holding up in an industrial city like Chattanooga. More rooms were added, along with a swimming pool.

Despite the changes, the Alamo Plaza eventually lost its tourist appeal and moved into a new era for it. The pages of the local newspapers in the 1970’s and 1980’s carried many stories of crime, suspicious room fires, and safety code violations. The Night Haven lounge on the property had often become a crime scene. On September 14, 1991, City Court Judge Walter Williams ordered that the Alamo Plaza be vacated.

After appeals and plans for revamping the property came to no fruition, the Chattanooga Better Housing Commission ordered the buildings to be torn down. This was reported in a June 19, 1996 Chattanooga Times article.

Today, both the former Alamo Plaza and Drake Motel sites on South Broad have been cleared, awaiting their next use. The former locations of Wheland Foundry, Scholze Tannery, and U.S. Pipe are in a similar state.

If you have memories of the Alamo Plaza Hotel and Courts, please send me an e-mail at jolleyh@bellsouth.net.

Another view of the Alamo Plaza.  Click to enlarge.
Another view of the Alamo Plaza. Click to enlarge.
- photo by courtesy of the Public Library

Earl Freudenberg: Remembering Ricky's Restaurant

Piece Of Early Local Radio Sports Broadcasting, Amateur Boxing History Surfaces

Books 5 And 6 In “The Good Old Days, A History of Soddy, Daisy & Montlake” Series To Be Released


Ricky’s Restaurant on Fourth Avenue across from the East Lake Courts was a popular eatery for at least four decades maybe longer. The restaurant closed many years ago and the building has remained ... (click for more)

It was 62 years ago that Gene T. Reese defeated Richard Bachus in the Chattanooga Golden Gloves classic bout at the Memorial Auditorium. Mr. Reese had won the 1949 and 1950 Chattanooga Golden ... (click for more)

Just prior to Christmas the Soddy, Daisy & Montlake Historical Association would like to let everyone know there are two additional books that have been published in “The Good Old Days, A ... (click for more)



Memories

Earl Freudenberg: Remembering Ricky's Restaurant

Ricky’s Restaurant on Fourth Avenue across from the East Lake Courts was a popular eatery for at least four decades maybe longer. The restaurant closed many years ago and the building has remained empty. Early Sunday morning the Chattanooga Fire Department responded to a blaze that gutted the vacant structure and left one firefighter with minor injuries. The cause of that fire is ... (click for more)

Piece Of Early Local Radio Sports Broadcasting, Amateur Boxing History Surfaces

It was 62 years ago that Gene T. Reese defeated Richard Bachus in the Chattanooga Golden Gloves classic bout at the Memorial Auditorium. Mr. Reese had won the 1949 and 1950 Chattanooga Golden Gloves Heavyweight Championship. The Jan. 29 event was labeled by some as his comeback bout. Retired broadcaster Jerry Lingerfelt said he was at the event pulling for Reese. Mr. Lingerfelt ... (click for more)

Breaking News

Firefighters Battle 2 Sunday Morning Restaurant Fires

Several LongHorn Steakhouse employees acted fast Sunday morning when a fire in the kitchen got out of control, safely exiting the restaurant and calling 911 for help. Multiple CFD Red Shift companies responded to the business at 5771 Brainerd Road. The kitchen hood was on fire and flames were coming through the hood vent on the roof. A second alarm was called to bring additional ... (click for more)

Developer Eyes Save-A-Lot Shopping Center For Multi-Level Townhouse Project

“Close Out Sale,” the large portable sign posted alongside announced. Smaller signs, inside Save-A-Lot – the grocery store that anchors the commercial property – were even more explicit. “STORE CLOSING,” one declared. “Everything is on sale, up to 50 percent off. Shelving and all.” Employees, asked what’s going on, were reassuring. The store is closing so that it can be ... (click for more)

Opinion

Earl Freudenberg: Johnny Haynes Overcome His Disability To Become A Police Department Fixture

Johnny Haynes was a special person. Under almost clear skies and 45 degree temperatures, he was buried Saturday afternoon when a small group of his friends gathered at Greenwood Cemetery off Wilcox Boulevard for the committal service. The retired Chattanooga Police Department employee has been my friend since 1962. The Central High School graduate was born with polio but was ... (click for more)

Employers Broke The Social Contract - And Response

Along with our trust, most employers are going to need to give those who participated in the great resignation something to hold onto. The cliché during the pandemic is that we’re all in the same storm, not the same boat. Some of you are in yachts while the rest of us are drowning, grasping at driftwood. For some it’s being deep in medical debt, for others they suffer from burnout ... (click for more)