3IYT: Saving St. John's Restaurant
In 1913, Victor and Gus Ellis hired famed architect R.H. Hunt to design a hotel at the corner of Market and King Street. It was primarily built to serve travelers using the Southern Railway Terminal. Set on a triangular lot where two major grids of the city join, Hunt had little choice but to design a flatiron-shaped structure.
The three-story terra cotta and brick building was originally built as the Ellis Hotel. Although the building was abandoned in 1983 and originally slated for demolition, it was instead renovated and reopened in 1999 as a mixed-use structure for restaurants, retail shops, and apartments. Joining in the revitalization of the Southside, Cornerstones acquired this property, fronted the cost and structural engineering reports, and eventually transferred the property to a developer who could return the property to productive use.
Several years earlier, architect Thomas Johnson set to work on creating the Southside Historic District.
"I bought the building in '98 about 30 days before it was gonna revert back to the city and be torn down," explains Johnson. "The restaurant opened in September of 2000. This September they'll have been here 19 years. That's a pretty good run for a restaurant these days."
It's a theme Cornerstones and their partners like Thomas Johnson understand. Maintaining the historic fabric of a neighborhood is essential to a city's identity.
"Lotta people have connections to these old buildings", he said. "Once you tear them down you lose all that. America is always, once it's 50 years old you tear it down and build something new. It's important that we keep our history."
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.