Chattanooga Choo Choo

Chattanooga Choo Choo Train Station

The property changed hands in 1905, when Southern Railway acquired it for $71,500. The railway leveled the neglected Stanton House in 1906 to make way for a new passenger station. The Terminal Station was erected in 1908, with its centerpiece - a magnificent dome - that rose majestically over the concourse. Built of steel and concrete and buttressed by huge brick arches, the dome rested on four steel supports 75 feet apart. Suspended from the ceiling were four brass chandeliers, each with 40 lights circling an 18-inch opal globe. From an architectural standpoint, this dome over the entire 68 x 82 foot general waiting rooms was the most attractive design feature of its time.

It was on the underside of this dome, the part in view above the waiting room, that the only attempt to decorate in colors was made -- artistic plaster embellishments of heraldic emblems, which are now fully restored. The dome was truly lavish and beautiful in its different prismatic colors, especially when lighted at night.

An interesting bit of history surrounds the architectural drawings and specifications chosen for Terminal Station. In the year 1900, the greatest school of art, Beaux Arts Institute, was located in Paris, France. The students themselves offered a prize that to all individuals in the architectural department...for the best plans which could be drawn up for a railroad station suitable for the needs of a large city. A flood of plans were drawn up by interested students; and soon railroad stations of every shape and size, big, little, round and square, were presented. The winner was an American, Don Barber, of New York City.

In 1904, when the president of the Southern Railway System decided to build a new passenger terminal in Chattanooga, one architect who offered an entry was none other than this same Mr. Barber. When the Southern Railway president saw Mr. Barber's design, he was much impressed and summoned the gentleman to his office. He said he felt the exterior plans were perfect but asked Barber if he could possibly alter the interior design to conform with the interior of the then fashionable National Park Bank of New York City. This young man agreed; and Chattanooga's Terminal Station became a combination of the plans which won Barber the first prize at the Paris Beaux Arts Institute and of the famous New York bank, which had been admired by visitors from all over the world.

On the bitterly cold winter morning of December 1, 1909, a crowd of several hundred gathered in the 1400 block of Market Street for the dedication of Chattanooga's "Gateway" - Terminal Station, and the first train pulled into the station that day. The depot grew to serve nearly 50 passenger trains a day. Over the years, the bustling terminal greeted Presidents Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Franklin Roosevelt.

Passenger train traffic slowed to a near halt in the 1960's with the dominance of auto and air travel. Railway activity was replaced by these faster modes of transportation.

Almost 61 years after the opening, the grand old building was closed to the public when the last train stopped on August 11, 1970. Doors and windows were boarded up, and Southern Railway vacated the entire building.

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