Incorporated in 1839, early Chattanooga was a river and rail town. The geography of the region made it a convenient junction for river and rail traffic. When the first train of the Western & Atlantic Railroad arrived in 1849, the future of the community was secured.
Both commercial traffic- with regional merchants using Chattanooga as an export hub - and passenger traffic gave a boost to fledgling businesses. Traveling by private railroad car was the height of luxury at the turn of the century, and Chattanooga welcomed thousands of travelers during the golden age of railroads.
Aiming to provide luxurious lodging for rail passengers, John Stanton of Boston invested $100,000 in 1870 in the construction of his exquisite Stanton House on the southern end of Market Street. When it opened in 1871, the five-story hotel boasted a dining room, barbershop, observatory, saloons, billiard rooms; and, representing the pinnacle of luxury, a bathroom on every floor. French doors opened onto long balconies that overlooked expansive lawns and flower gardens.
The Stanton House quickly became the place to be, hosting balls, business meetings, and dignitaries like President Rutherford B. Hayes, who visited in 1877. The historic Chattanooga hotel was the site of the community’s introduction to Alexander Graham Bell’s invention. A primitive telephone was installed in the lobby, and it was among the city’s first locations to have electric lights.
Nonetheless, Stanton House eventually struggled in its location, far removed from the river and the center of town. Stanton had speculated that the city would expand to the south and envelop the Stanton House. By the turn of the century, however, the gleam had worn off the once-grand hotel; and a dejected Stanton returned to his native Massachusetts.