The city of Chattanooga currently has no history center or museum. That is because several years ago it was conveyed to the public, in the blinking of an eye, that $9 million that had been raised mysteriously vanished for reasons unexplainable to this date. In the meantime, valuable artifacts and collections are sitting in cellars, basements and storage facilities instead of being publicly displayed.
Native American history like the ancient Muskogee-Creek City of Citico, the Brained Mission, Dragging Canoes last stand and the Trail of Tears; the pivotal battles which made up the Chattanooga Campaign during the Civil War; the rich Civil Rights history which includes Lincoln Park and the Howard High Class of 1960; and the international industries synonymous here, like Krystal, Coca-Cola, Little Debbie, Chattanooga Bakery and the Moonpie, Chattem which makes products like Icy Hot and Gold Bond, Praters which makes basketball courts, and many other renowned products and industries known worldwide.
Now, it defies believe that if the city planners wanted to surplus three downtown buildings that one couldn't be dedicated for the purpose of an adequate history museum for this city. The absence of one, in lieu of the fact that these buildings are currently owned by the city, would be highly unfortunate.
We should have a public debate on the wisdom and practicability of classifying three city buildings as surplus buildings because we have no further purpose for them. Similarly, what will be the public cost of moving goods and services to other areas because we know we are paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for goods and services that moved to the Edney Building.
Nevertheless, we know of a good purpose of these buildings, like a proper history center and museum, befitting for a city so richly steeped in history and that can save valuable artifacts from deteriorating and decaying. We know of a purpose for these buildings when we have no jobs welfare and training center in the inner-city. We know of a purpose when we need a trade and vocational school to enhance Career and Technical education for our students. We know of a purpose when we need agencies to address chronic poverty and homelessness.
If anything, these buildings should be refitted, redesigned, reconstituted and rededicated as buildings that fulfill essential public goods and needs, and not just cut-rate properties that the gentrifiers can add to their already hefty and high priced collections.
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As someone who, over the last few years, has solicited space in Chattanooga for a physical venue for local history Mr. Atkin's suggestion is a great idea! I certainly have not gotten very far with my efforts.
I think most Chattanoogans would agree that somehow local history has been lost or is grossly underrepresented. The city's history deserves a bigger voice and presence. Most major cities in Tennessee (or anywhere) have a brick and mortar space dedicated to its area's history, and many small cities also can sustain a regional museum or active historical society.
I'd be ecstatic to talk to Mayor Berke and the City Council about transforming the old Water Building at E. 10th and Lindsay into the most innovated history facility in the South. Not only would it be a small walk-in public history venue with rotating exhibits but a center for inspiration to incubate more local historical initiatives throughout the area. It would also serve as a resource for existing history organizations.
There are so many people with more passion than resources who could turn around the bad experience with the Chattanooga History Center with a donated space like the Water Building into something really special that fills an outstanding public need and secure Chattanooga history's future today.