Missionary Ridge Historic District
The Missionary Ridge Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1996. Portions of the content of this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document, [†] Adaptation copyright © 2015, The Gombach Group.
Missionary Ridge developed as a neighborhood in the 1880s, at which time it consisted of several large farms. Some farm houses remain, such as the house located at 476 S. Crest Road, which was built for the daughter of one of the Ridge's earliest settlers, F. J. Bennett, a northern soldier, in 1880. The house located at 24 S. Crest Road, was originally part of the Sherwood Homeplace. An orchard farm known as the Thurmin Farmstead was located either side of the Bragg Reservation.
The Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park influenced early development on Missionary Ridge. The park was established in 1895 which followed in the construction of a road to allow tourist access and the setting aside of land for the park sites. The road which is now known as Crest Road was originally named Government Boulevard. The federal government maintained easements along Government Boulevard (Crest Road) which resulted in the road varying in width. Within the district are located five reservations, including the DeLong Reservation at the northern boundary of the historic district, and the Turchin, the Ohio, the Illinois and the Bragg Reservation. All along the road are monuments, markers and tablets commemorating movements in the Civil War.
In the early 1930s, a concrete road was laid which is in use today. Sidewalks were constructed along the length of the east side of Crest Road except from 1 through 119 S. Crest Road where it is located on the west side. The sidewalks are framed by a variety of stone and brick retaining walls and iron and wood fences. Some of the walls are built with rough river stone, some with limestone block and some are laid brick. Several Victorian iron fences remain as well as some modern iron fences and wood board fences. Along the west side of Crest Road is a cast concrete and iron cable fence probably built by the U.S. Government in the 1930s when the road was paved.
In 1887, private individuals bought a right-of-way, prepared surfaces and laid track for a Missionary Ridge streetcar. It began in Ridgedale at the intersection of Dodds Avenue and Chamberlain Avenue, climbed the Ridge via Kyle Street, McCallie Avenue and Shallowford Road and then turned near the crest of the ridge. A switchback there was later replaced with a horseshoe curve. A few years later, a streetcar system developed, throughout Chattanooga and connected with the Ridge line at Dodds and Chamberlain, a corner which became known as Ridge Junction. The streetcar extended from the northern end of South Crest Road to the intersection of South Crest Road and East View Avenue at 444 South Crest Road. The streetcar ran along the rear of the properties along a route that is now known as Sherwood Avenue; it crossed South Crest Road just north of the Bragg Reservation and ran along the west side of South Crest Road to East View Drive where it crossed back to the east side, following East View Drive until the next intersection with South Crest.
The streetcar affected the physical development of the neighborhood in that it caused the southern end of the Ridge to develop earlier than the northern end and provided rear access to properties. The lots that were not on the streetcar line now lack rear access. Many of the houses had private streetcar shelters —small gable roofed structures often constructed of materials to match the houses. There is a covered shelter at 400 South Crest Road that features a tile roof to match the primary structure and at 326 South Crest Road is another streetcar shelter. There are several pedestrian walkways along South Crest Road that provided access to the streetcar, such as a walkway that runs along the side yard of the Grote House at 50 South Crest Road, and another that runs between 94 and 100 South Crest Road. Also located at the rear of the properties are stone steps leading to the streetcar, such as a prominent stairway located at the rear of the house at 386 South Crest Road. At the Gillman House, 112 S. Crest Road, is an elaborate stone stairway that originally functioned as a covered streetcar shelter.
By the turn of the century (1900), Missionary Ridge had been subdivided into lots and started taking on its current appearance. There were numerous large estates owned by the Prestons, Hutchesons, Mrs. M. B. LeClercq, Robert Hunter, J. R. Bennett and E. R. Hochstetter. By 1912, 92 houses had been built within the historic district boundaries. Several of these have since been demolished and replaced with newer structures, such as the Colyarton Mansion, which was located at 14 - 16 N. Crest Road
The Missionary Ridge Historic District is significant to Chattanooga and Hamilton County fot its architecture, community planning and local commerce and industry. The district contains an intact collection of residential structures representing architectural styles common from 1890 to 1945. The district's location on the crest of an imposing ridge, visible from all sections of Chattanooga, creates a unique site for homes with excellent views of the Chattanooga valley and surrounding areas. Missionary Ridge developed as a Streetcar Suburb and was home to many prominent local business leaders, politicians and professionals.
The Missionary Ridge Historic District is also significant for the role it played during the Civil War. The Battle of Missionary Ridge was fought on November 24 and 25, 1863 and marked the end of the Confederate stronghold on Chattanooga. Confederate forces had fled to Missionary Ridge following the Battle at Lookout Mountain and were forced to flee further south after the Battle of Missionary Ridge.
In 1890, the U.S. National Congress passed a bill establishing the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park. The Park was dedicated in 1895. The purpose of the park was to restore the battlefields to the conditions which existed at the time of the Civil War engagements and to identify the battle sites. Battlefield sites were purchased by the government and roads to connect the sites were constructed. Crest Road was built as Government Boulevard with a right-of-way fifty feet in width with historical tablets and monuments placed on the exact ground of movement. The tablets are cast in metal and provide the names of the commanders of the organizations involved in the battles and other data to educate visitors of the movements of both armies. On the sites of the most important battles are stone monuments, such as the Illinois Monument at the Bragg Reservation. There are also cannons that were originally placed on the approximate locations of use. A steel observation tower was erected at the DeLong Reservation but has since been demolished. There are five reservations that are part of the Park which are located within the historic district boundaries including the DeLong, the Turchin, the Ohio, the Bragg and the Illinois Reservations. The Civil War history and sites are documented in the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park National Register nomination.
Chattanooga was settled by Europeans following the removal in 1838 of the native Cherokee Indians by the United States government during the Trail of Tears. The land that had formerly been owned by the Cherokees was then available for development. A key event in Chattanooga's development was the construction of the railroad in the 1850s. In the 1860s, most of the built environment in Chattanooga was destroyed in the Civil War. Following the war, the basis of Chattanooga's economy consisted of iron and coal mining and manufacturing. The beginning of the 1880s was marked by a boom in real estate that had subsided by the 1890s. The Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, the first of its kind in the nation, was created in 1890. Another boom occurred in the 1920s, when many homes on Missionary Ridge were constructed.
The name Missionary Ridge was derived from missionaries who crossed its steep slopes to the Brainerd Mission located several miles east of the Ridge. The Brainerd Mission, established to Christianize the Cherokee Indians, was in operation until the passage of the Treaty of New Echota which initiated their removal from the region. From that time until the Civil War, Missionary Ridge was home to Bauxite mining fields, forest and scattered farms and stood as a physical barrier to Chattanooga's development. During the Civil War, the Ridge was the scene of some of the most intense fighting. The Battle of Missionary Ridge, in November 1863, was a turning point in the war as the Union army won the battle, paving the way for ultimate victory. The war left Missionary Ridge virtually devoid of trees and vegetation. The U.S. Government, following the opening of the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park in the 1890s, constructed a road along the Ridge to connect the park sites. By 1930, the two-lane dirt road, known as Government Boulevard, was paved with concrete. The paving began at Sherman's Reservation on the north end of Crest Road and went south to LaFayette Road and eventually extended to the Chickamauga Battlefield. It was paved partially to allow convenient and safe transportation for park tourists.
Missionary Ridge developed as a somewhat exclusive residential area for persons desiring to escape the congestion and pollution of the industrial city in the valley and to enjoy its unique topography and views. Built along the crest of the Ridge, most houses command wide views of the Chattanooga valley and surrounding mountains. The mountainous topography, the narrow width of the Ridge with both easterly and westerly views, and the high quality of architecture distinguishes the district from any other residential area in Chattanooga. The district conveys a sense of historic and architectural cohesiveness through a collection of circa 1880 - 1945 style homes. Mature trees and gardens line the sidewalk along Crest Road which winds according to the topography. Landscaping consists of well manicured lawns and shrubs with stone walls, paths and flower beds.
A significant event in the history of Missionary Ridge was the development of the streetcar. The streetcar, constructed in 1887, was built on parts of South Crest Road and other side streets but was not built on North Crest Road. Hence, properties on South Crest enjoy access to the old streetcar route at the rear of the properties. The homes on North Crest and part of South Crest that were not connected to the streetcar, do not have rear alley or street access. Today, several streetcar shelters and walkways remain. The streetcar provided convenient transportation to downtown Chattanooga and surrounding suburbs before the advent of the automobile. On Missionary Ridge, some wealthy residents used their own carriages for transportation while their house servants used the streetcar. School children used the streetcar for transportation to the Missionary Ridge School and for some, to the McCallie School. The streetcar was discontinued on Missionary Ridge in 1945 when driving cars became the dominant mode of transportation.
Missionary Ridge was incorporated as a taxing district in 1909 to collect funds for water works. In 1923, a state bill was passed to establish the neighborhood as a separate city—the City of Missionary Ridge. During that time, the Ridge had a Sunday School, a school, a grocery store, a sanitarium, green houses and a town hall, fire and police station. The public buildings were located near the Bragg Reservation. The first mayor of Missionary Ridge was Thomas. R. Preston, president of Hamilton National Bank. He was the owner of the Tudor Revival mansion at 122 N. Crest Road, built with bricks salvaged from the Stanton House which was demolished to make way for the Terminal Station. James F. Holbert was the second and last mayor of Missionary Ridge.
Other businesses located on Missionary Ridge around the turn of the century included a florist and greenhouse business located at 1 North Crest Road known as the Rose Terrace Greenhouses. Rose Terrace Boulevard, located on the site of the greenhouses, took its name from this. Dr. Marx Block, owner of the Live and Let Live Drug Store located in the Central Block building in downtown Chattanooga, owned a small farm on Missionary Ridge where he experimented with French and domestic grapes in order to make wine. Although residential today, prior to the construction of the Interstate there was a small convenience store located on the site of the Ridge cut. The store was used before cars made transportation downtown convenient and was significant as the polling location of the first woman registering to vote in Tennessee in 1919. None of the commercial or public buildings remain.
As Missionary Ridge developed, it became an ideal home for families with children. The Missionary Ridge School, located on the Bragg Reservation, was built in 1912 and provided a high quality elementary education within walking distance of most homes on the Ridge. The school was originally part of the county system, becoming a city school in 1929 when the Ridge was annexed to Chattanooga. Until 1910, an earlier Ridge school was located in the vicinity of the Ridge Cut (Interstate). Many children attended Missionary Ridge school for the first six years of school and then attended private schools for high school. The McCallie School, located at the foot of Missionary Ridge, was a popular and convenient choice.
Missionary Ridge School remained open until the mid 1970s, when it was closed as an indirect result of desegregation. In 1962, Chattanooga schools received an order to participate in a desegregation plan. Along with six previously all-white elementary schools, the Missionary Ridge school enrolled six black students in the fall semester of 1962. By the 1970s, very few children from Missionary Ridge attended the school and due to the financial burden of maintaining an old building, it was closed. The school building was used by the Regional History Museum for several years. Following that, it was unoccupied and was the subject of much discussion over proposed use until it burned in 1992.
Until the 1920s when automobile transportation became prevalent, many Ridge residents attended the interdenominational Mission Ridge Union Sunday School, located within walking or street-car distance from most residents. A two-story building with a bell tower was constructed around 1908 and was used until the late 1920s. By 1942, the building was converted to a private residence which was demolished in the 1960s to make way for the interstate.
A significant event in the history of Missionary Ridge was the decision by the Tennessee Department of Transportation and local officials to engineer an extension of the interstate by cutting a passage through Missionary Ridge. The "Ridge cut" was finished in 1965 and was thought to be a great asset to Chattanooga. The Chamber of Commerce president at the time, Thomas A. Lupton, Jr., stated that "this band of concrete and steel that now binds our community and brings our people closer together gives us the opportunity to march forward in a harmony never before attainable." (News-Free Press). As a result, the physical form of Missionary Ridge was dramatically altered by the carving out of a section of the Ridge spanning a distance of about half mile. Unfortunately, the section that was chosen was originally the heart of the Ridge as it was the location of the only public and commercial buildings on the Ridge. The area was immediately north of the Bragg Reservation which was a convenient neighborhood park and play area. A modern bridge was built to connect the two then separate sides of South Crest Road. A tunnel was considered but not chosen due to the higher expense and lack of support.
In 1929, Missionary Ridge was annexed to the City of Chattanooga. The residents first voted against annexation for fear of being subject to higher taxes and, being a high-income neighborhood, were able to afford good public services without financial assistance from Chattanooga. However, believing that it would impede the development of Chattanooga east of the Ridge if it was not annexed, the public spirited residents voted affirmatively after a second vote.
There are many architectural styles present on Missionary Ridge as well as Eclectic and vernacular homes. Most of the houses are located on large city lots which front onto either North or South Crest Road. The houses represent elaborate representations of the styles that were fashionable when constructed. It was considered prestigious to own a house on Crest Road and most of the people who located there could afford to build notable homes. The growing opportunity for entrepreneurs and industrialists in the Chattanooga area is reflected in the homes constructed on Missionary Ridge and other neighborhoods during boom years. Several of the homes were occupied by successful local, state and national politicians, and the Ridge was the chosen neighborhood for many Chattanooga physicians, lawyers, and other professionals. Missionary Ridge was home to the Hutcheson family, one of the largest employers in Rossville, Georgia, south of the historic district boundary. The Hutchesons owned the Peerless Woolen Mill, a successful enterprise that allowed them to build some of the most impressive homes on Missionary Ridge. One of the Hutcheson Homes, commonly referred to as Windcrest, located at 360 South Crest Road, is perhaps the most notable Queen Anne style house in Chattanooga. It was designed by noted architect Samuel Patton, and is one of a very few remaining in Chattanooga designed by Patton. The two and a half story brick mansion, situated on a large lot with mature trees and landscaping, was built in 1894 for W. Frank Hutcheson, founder of the Mountain City Milling Company. The house and the milling company were later inherited by his son, Samuel Carter Hutcheson, who was director of the American National Bank and Trust Company and director of the Peerless Woolen Mills.
Near Windcrest were three other Hutcheson homes including the John L. Hutcheson home at 386 S. Crest Road, a two-story Classical Revival style home with a grand full height curved portico as its focal point, the Spanish Eclectic house located at 414 S. Crest Road, built by Caswell Hutcheson, and a fourth Hutcheson home originally faced Windcrest, at 334 S. Crest, but was demolished. A wildlife sanctuary, located on the west side of South Crest Road opposite Windcrest, was set aside by the Hutchesons for preservation purposes. The Brock family, also successful business people and creators of Brock Candy, owned several homes on Missionary Ridge including the house at 10 N. Crest Road built as a Queen Anne style house but which was remodeled with a new porch in later years so that it would face East Court rather than S. Crest Road. W.E. Brock, appointed as a Senator for an unexpired term and president of Brock Candy, constructed the Bungalow style house located at 72 S. Crest Road.
The Davenports, also large employers, owned hosiery mills and Volunteer State Life Insurance Company (now Chubb Life). The Colonial Revival house at 318 S. Crest Road which has servants' quarters and a streetcar entrance at the rear of the house, was built by the Davenports and reflects the prosperity of the family. Next door to this house, at 326 S. Crest, is a house built by Sam Campbell, the founder of Moonpies. A noted local industrialist, James R. Hedges, owner of Hedges Manufacturing Company, a predecessor of Combustion Engineering in operation today, built the house at 526 .S. Crest Road in the prosperous 1920s. The Spanish Eclectic house features a tile roof and an arched colonnade on the main facade. His wife, Dorothy (Dot) Hedges and her sister and business partner, Peg Lamb, operated a successful paper doll company on the property. It was known as "Dot and Peg Productions."
Other local business owners who lived on Missionary Ridge included T.H. Payne, whose office supply business is still in operation today, and J. F. Holbert, the second of two Missionary Ridge, mayors and the owner of a jeans plant located in downtown Chattanooga, The Tudor Revival house at 50 S. Crest Road was owned by Dr. Irvine Walter Grote, a chemist who invented Buffrin and many other well known medicines in a laboratory in his house on South Crest Road. Grote Hall at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga is named after Dr. Grote.
Missionary Ridge was home to many politicians active locally as well as on the state and national level. Martin Fleming, city judge in 1911, resided in a Colonial Revival style house at 420 South Crest. E.R. Betterton, mayor of Chattanooga in 1947, lived at 84 North Crest Road. Senators included William Brock, of 72 South Crest and Estes Kefauver, who ran for Vice President of the United States in 1956, co-owned the house at 82 South Crest Road.
There are several architect designed homes on Missionary Ridge. Reuben Harrison Hunt, one of Chattanooga's most significant architects from the 1880s to the late 1930s designed the house at 212 South Crest Road in 1922 for his daughter, Mrs. Louise Street who lived in the house for forty years. He also designed the house at 37 South Crest Road around 1900, and later lived there. Samuel Patton, another successful local architect, designed the Hutcheson House or Windcrest, at 360 South Crest. The house at 1 Clearview Avenue was designed by Henry Gaunt, a local architect who is said to have also designed several other Bungalow style houses on Rose Terrace.
Although there are some intrusive buildings constructed in recent years, the Missionary Ridge Historic District retains a high quality of design and workmanship both in the houses and the surrounding landscaping. The district is one of the most unique historical residential areas in the state of Tennessee due to its location on the crest of a prominent ridge. It is significant to local architecture, commerce, and community planning and for its earlier association with the Civil War.
† Miranda C. Clements, Historic Preservation Planner, Chaqttanooga-Hamilton County Planning Commission, Missionary Ridge Historic District, Hamilton County, TN, nomination document, 1995, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.