Jerry Summers: The Mountain City Club (1889- )

Wednesday, January 29, 2020 - by Jerry Summers
Jerry Summers
Jerry Summers
On September 3, 1898, a group of prominent Chattanooga males decided to form “a social and civic club where good men could gather and fraternize, could relax and carry on such conversations as they were having, then could rejoice and communicate, play cards and enjoy some of the best food in town, swap tall stories, be solemn about funerals and celebrate their young ones coming into this world.”  This was the beginning of the Mountain City Club (MCC). 

The initial officers were R.M. Barton, Jr., president, F.S. Hyde, vice president, J.M. Phillips, secretary, and H.S. Probasco, treasurer. A membership drive resulted in 137 initial members.


Over the years the membership numbers have fluctuated.  Entry into the club was originally by invitation only and a prospective new member could be blackballed by a single member pulling the application off of the club bulletin board and depositing it in a waste can. 

Such arbitrary procedure has resulted in a false reputation of the MCC as being an elitist good ole boys club of White Anglo-Saxon Protestants (WASP) dominated by members from Lookout and Signal Mountain and Riverview.  Adolph Ochs, editor and publisher of the Chattanooga and New York Times newspapers was a Jewish member as one of the original 28 members organizing group.

Women were not admitted fully into the club until 1992 although a yearly Christmas party was held in honor of the spouses and significant others of the members.  Over the years ladies were gradually accepted as associate members in 1976 with the first being Mrs. John S. Fletcher, Jr., Mrs. Mark K. Wilson, Jr., Mrs. Paul Kruesi, Mrs. Herman Bohr, Jr., and Mrs. H.L. Thatcher.  Mary Navarre Bailey Moore was chosen as the first woman member in 1992 and today ladies constitute a significant number in the club’s membership. 

Over the years the MCC has made several building moves with the first location being in the premises at the southeast corner of Seventh and Cherry Streets.  After vacating the above building, the MCC began leasing space in the old First National Bank Building at the southeast corner of Eighth and Broad Street.  The club built its first large residential club in 1904 at the corner of Eighth and Chestnut Street.  Said building included a number of sleeping rooms available to the membership. 

When the present club was built in 1904 no rooms for rent were erected and a couple of longtime tenants such as Robert Hunt had to find new accommodations.  As downtown has changed over the years so has the MCC.  Women and minorities are welcome members.  If a member objects to the application of a prospective new member the dissenter has to appear before the Board of Directors and give their reason for vetoing the candidate. 

African-American members include Roy Keith, former Morehead College President, and Fred McClure, an attorney.  Although small in number, African-Americans and all minorities are welcomed members and encouraged to join the MCC.

Due to the economic growth of downtown and a substantial increase in the number of eating establishments competition is greater than in previous years.  A rise in the cost of food and competition from other establishments such as the Walden Club and hotels resulted in necessary dues and initiation fee increases that sometimes make it more difficult to recruit young members and minorities.  The door is open for all citizens in the area to apply for membership.  Many activities are held at the club that are sponsored by all sexes and races.

The loyalty of the staff over the years has been outstanding with several employees serving the MCC for over 20 years.  Waiters and other employees are friends of the members and a spirit of congeniality permeate all club functions. 

As the Mountain City Club enters its 130th year of its existence, it is under the capable leadership of Club Manager Michael Jinx, who has risen through the ranks from waiter to become the first African-American chief executive after 15 years of service.  Third generation member Mark Schmissrauter is president and enters his second term with continued optimism for the future. 

Members of the public are invited to contact membership liaison Billy Buchanan to schedule a tour of the premises.  

A history of the MCC from its creation in 1898 through 1998 by late editor and member of the club, North Callahan, and Author John Shearer is available for reviewing (and/or) purchase at the reception desk. 

* * *

Jerry Summers can be reached at jsummers@summersfirm.com

Ornate Masonic Lodge at Seventh and Cherry was the first home of the Mountain City Club. This spectacular building was, unfortunately, torn down to create a parking lot.
Ornate Masonic Lodge at Seventh and Cherry was the first home of the Mountain City Club. This spectacular building was, unfortunately, torn down to create a parking lot.

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