3IYT: The history, and the future, of Chattanooga's Terminal
In the late 1880's through the early 1900's, Chattanooga was a major hub for both industrial and passenger railway service in the South. In 1904, Southern Railway System began plans to build a new passenger terminal to relieve the over-crowding of Chattanooga's rail system. Construction of Chattanooga's Terminal Station began in 1906 at the cost 1.5 million dollars.
"What's interesting about this property at 120 years old, it's been put through it,” says Cornerstones Inc. board president, Ann Gray. “It's been used a lot. It's been roughly treated and it's just as solid as can be. We're anxious to bring it all back."
Cornerstones, Chattanooga's only non-profit Historic Preservation Organization, exists to preserve the architectural heritage and urban fabric of Chattanooga.
"It was built in 1906, explains Gray. “It was built to be the Terminal Station for the Southern Railway Railroad, which was a byproduct of the city of Cincinnati. What they did is that they found a design that they liked for a terminal. This is an award-winning design by the architect Don Barber out of New York City.”
The architectural design of Terminal Station is a combination of the plans which won American architect Don Barber first prize at a Paris Beaux-Arts Institute competition and of Barber's design of the famous New York Bank. At the center, stood a 90-foot brick arch. At the time, it was the largest brick supported arch in the world.
"Everybody was memorized by that engineering feat,” says Gray. “If you stand on this mezzanine and look over there you can still see the arch today. You can see the bricks through the holes of that metal so everything is still in place."
Cornerstones has a 10-year plan in place to restore the Terminal Station. It’s capital campaign, anchored by events like Wine Over Water, help pay for the restorations.
"Right now we're still in our due-diligence phase of the profession of preservation,” explains Gray. “And that means we're really doing a paint analysis so we're going back to look at some of the original colors. We're also going to do a plaster analysis. It's clear if you look around you'll see some spots in the plaster that are falling apart. What they've done is that they've come in and put new plaster over old plaster. Those chemically do not mix. So we need to go back and see what that old plaster is. Then we can go back and do the repair."
Visit Cornerstones website for more on the Terminal Station and the other endangered buildings in Chattanooga.