The Williams/Hardy House celebrates its 90th anniversary on Lookout Mountain this year. Designed by local architect Clarence T. Jones the main house was built for Mrs. Ethel Soper Hardy. Work began in spring and completed by late summer to early fall in 1928. The Williams family would later occupy the house for nearly 60 years before it was purchased by the National Park Service.
At one point the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park considered making the house and garage into a visitors center with public bathrooms and Park offices. My approach has always been to restore Littleholme (a name the original homeowners gave the property in the 1890s) with public funds and lease the property under a nonprofit trust. And although a petition of over 2,000 people has proven a healthy public interest to restore the site, the Park has yet to cooperate or consider opening a formal Request for Expressions of Interest for the re-use of the property. This would provide an opportunity for any interested group to submit a proposal for its restoration and re-use.
How could this property be re-used? Instead of the previously planned visitor center, my proposal involves transforming the Williams/Hardy House into a Visitors Museum and Gallery. Lookout Mountain has been a magnet for tourism since before the Civil War. Millions of visitors through nearly six generations have been drawn to the area's natural beauty. The location and scenic vistas brought many who fought in the Chickamauga and Chattanooga campaigns to return to the area and settle. The years after the War, Lookout continued to be a popular year-round vacationing spot for the world and inspired the creation of America's first National Park decades before a National Park system existed. The United States government would take over its operations in 1933.
A Visitors Museum would focus on the visitor experience through Lookout Mountain history. There would be an emphasis on its time as a National Park, telling its story from a visitor's perspective. This would be a totally unique viewpoint for a museum or National Park. Albeit space is small, it can utilize an online archive to exhibit a larger collection. Littleholme's gallery would be used for special and visiting exhibits. Photography will be a large part of the exhibits, as it's been a huge part of the area's history. Through a collaboration of historical groups and private collectors, there would be years of material available to keep presentations fresh for return visitation. The property would be also open for other local historical organizations and projects to use for meetings and small events.
In addition, there would be a small gift shop and visitor reception area. We'd provide free bottled water from sponsors to hikers, and the garage could be renovated into public restrooms.
This is just a rough sketch of a Littleholme proposed reuse. Our priority would be to restore the exterior of the home to its original 1928 appearance, right down to the ceramic cat the once walked its roofline. The interior would need to be brought up to code, and hopefully, we can retain its original floor plan and replace its missing architectural features like the fireplace in the great room and the iron railings on the staircase.
The goal is to preserve a local historical landmark, but also create a great value for the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park and its one million annual visitors, encouraging visitation and promoting their mission. Although this structure does not fit its Civil War timeline, it has great potential to become an asset, much like other contemporary resources located on the Battlefield like the Visitor Center in Fort Oglethorpe, the Cravens House, and the Ochs Memorial at Point Lookout.
Please help provide a future for Littleholme. Sign the petition at, https://www.change.org/p/u-s-national-park-services-save-historic-williams-hardy-house-littleholme-from-destruction-on-lookout-mountain. Also, visit us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/savinglittlehome for photos and videos of the property.