3IYT: Chattanooga's Oldest Standing Building
Positioned next to the First Tennessee Pavilion, Chattanooga’s oldest existing building has been given a second lease on life.
The foundry building was built by the Wasson Car Works, a manufacturing company that built railway cars in Chattanooga from 1873-1885. The Wasson Car Works employed 250 workers (one of Chattanooga's largest companies) and could manufacture 8 freight cars and 64 car wheels per day. Wasson made the open trolley cars for the first Incline to Point Park.
The site was purchased by the Ross Meehan Foundry in 1889, and operated continuously until 1986. In 2017 the City of Chattanooga donated the building to Cornerstones, Inc., later reused to house commercial space and a new brewery, Naked River Brewing Company.
"Well it's what historic preservation people call adaptive reuse,” explained Cornerstones board member, Bob McNutt. “That's a little bit of a jargon term but it means if you can save the building itself than it's really more important than what it gets used for."
Cornerstones, Chattanooga's only non-profit Historic Preservation Organization, exists to preserve the architectural heritage and urban fabric of Chattanooga. Cornerstones is a catalyst for promoting the importance of restoring the buildings of our past for today's uses, while bringing together the resources required to effect such change.
"Cornerstones has a really good record of catching distressed buildings or properties and fixing them ourselves or flipping them to a new owner that will do it according to historic preservation standards and therefore preserving them," said McNutt.
Cornerstones facilitated the selling of the building to John Wise. McNutt combed through Sanborn Maps to ensure intricate architectural details remained in the renovated building. One of the most noticeable pieces that remains is the clear story high above the bar area. Of course in the late 1800s, the clear story allowed natural light to illuminate the working area inside the foundry.