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Chattanooga History 3
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Chattanooga History 1815 through The Civil War
Reconstruction through The Great Depression
Chattanooga History 3|Chattanooga History World War II through modern day

When you hear the whistle blowin' eight to the bar,
Then you know that Tennessee is not very far,
Shovel all the coal in, gotta keep it rolling,
Woo, woo, Chattanooga, there you are.
Chattanooga Choo-Choo
Music has always played big part in the history of this
city. The start of the 20th century saw Bessie Smith singing on the streets of
Chattanooga. The woman who would be recognized by many critics as the greatest
blues singer of all-time grew up here. However, it was bandleader Glenn Miller
that gave Chattanooga its signature song. Miller introduced "Chattanooga Choo Choo" in the 1941 movie, Sun Valley Serenade. The song also introduced The Modernaires (Mr. Miller's vocal group) and sold more than a million copies. Soon, though, the world would be at war and Mr. Miller would be one of its casualties.

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One Chattanooga industry that helped the war effort was shipbuilding. Combustion Engineering Company (now a part of ABB) was one of two manufacturers of pressure vessels for ships in the country and was home to the largest coal press in the world. Chattanooga's iron and steel industries adds extra shifts to increase the output of plants that had laid dormant off and on during the Depression.

In 1948 the city became the first major southern city to have police officers who were African-American. At first the four men hired were only allowed to patrol black neighborhoods, but in 1960, these policemen were permitted to patrol all neighborhoods and arrest white citizens.

After World War II America's love affair with the automobile blossomed. While rail passengers to Chattanooga's Terminal Station peaked in 1948, the family car was already making advances as the vacation transportation of choice. And Chattanooga was a natural choice for the newly mobile families. Conveniently located along major north-south and east-west highways, centrally located, near ample recreation and with a developing tourist industry thanks to Ruby Falls, The Incline Railway, Chickamauga-Chattanooga National Military Park and nearby Rock City, the city quickly claimed the prize of vacation destination.

Chattanooga, Tennessee skyline in 1955

As the Civil War Centennial approached Confederama (now the Battles for Chattanooga Museum) was added to the list of attractions. From 1961 until 1965 the city that had been devastated by our nation's bloodiest conflict enjoyed a renewal of sorts, with record numbers of visitors throughout the time period.

By the late 1960's the downtown Chattanooga area was having problems. Decreasing population and increasing crime would mark the Scenic City as an area to be avoided in spite of the growing crowds at tourist attractions near the city. Terminal Station, the destination of Glenn Miller's Chattanooga Choo Choo closed in 1970.

One major reason for this shift was a fundamental change in traveling ended America's century-long love affair with the train. Another the move away from an industrial economy. For example, Combustion Engineering, who ran the shipyard in Chattanooga during World War II continued as a dynamic part of the city. Yet, changing fortunes in the 1970's cut CE's workforce by 80%. Other industries suffered similar fates. The iron and steel business was destroyed by Japanese competition. The last coal mine closed. And reductions in the textile and apparel workforce totaled 25%. To some it seemed as though this was the final nail in Chattanooga's coffin. To others, it was a wake-up call.

A group of businessmen came up with an idea of resurrecting the now boarded up Terminal Station as a combination tourist attraction/hotel in 1973. In 1976 the city opened Miller Park, however, it would be more than a decade before Chattanooga was fully committed to the idea of rebuilding downtown.

Five black women were shot in the Alton Park area of the city in April, 1980 and three men with ties to the Ku Klux Klan were quickly charged with the crime. The assailants' acquittal later that year resulted in racial violence on the streets of Chattanooga causing half a million dollars in damage. Mayor Pat Rose claimed he was "packing heat" and Jesse Jackson agreed to visit the city to help defuse the situation. That same year the industrial base came back to haunt the city.

Combustion Engineering's building at 911 Main Street was placed on the Environmental Protection Agency's "Superfund" list. Other names on the list reflected the many industries that once powered Chattanooga's economy including Chattanooga Glass, JIT Terminal and Morningside Chemical. Today 19 sites within the city limits are on the Superfund list.

Modern Chattanooga
Courtesy State of Tennessee
In 1982 the first of the festivals now known as Riverbend is held on the banks of the Tennessee River, mostly in the downtown area. Planning begins on the RiverPark, modeled after the success cities like San Antonio had with creating a tourist attraction based along the river.

1989 was a key year in the turnaround of the Chattanooga downtown area. A second group of businessmen purchase the old Terminal Station and improved it while working with the city, state and federal government on improving the downtown area. In addition to the reworked Chattanooga Choo-Choo, construction began on the Tennessee Aquarium (completed 1992), largest aquarium in the Southeast at the time, but now surpassed by the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta. The addition of an I-MAX theater, the Creative Discovery Museum (a hands-on children's museum) and the Southern Belle riverboat brought tourism spending in Hamilton County to more than half a billion dollars in fiscal 1998.

In 2008 Chattanooga attracted German auto manufacturer Volkswagon to the city, coming full circle and returning to its manufacturing base.

Today Chattanooga sits as the diamond in Tennessee's crown. No other Tennessee city offers the combination of attractions and history that has popularized Chattanooga as America's Scenic City. But the city has also played an important role in north Georgia history, just as north Georgia has been an integral part of the city's history. Even today people think that north Georgia attractions like Rock City and Lake Winnie (site) are actually in Tennessee!

Chattanooga History 1815 through The Civil War
Reconstruction through The Great Depression
Chattanooga History 3|Chattanooga History World War II through modern day

Chattanooga, Tennessee
Chattanooga, Tennessee

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Battles for Chattanooga Museum
Chattanooga History 1815 through The Civil War
Georgia Aquarium
Incline Railway
Reconstruction through The Great Depression
Rock City
Tennessee Aquarium

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