Chattanooga’s Biggest Attractions
In 2022, some of Chattanooga’s biggest attractions celebrated some noteworthy anniversaries!
Tennessee Aquarium – 30 Years
This journey back to the river began in 1984, when Chattanoogans joined in a community planning process called “Vision 2000.” Restoring downtown’s vitality was very much at the heart of the meetings. At the same time a publicly appointed citizens group – the Moccasin Bend Task Force – hosted community meetings about how to reclaim the Tennessee River. Those discussions were focused on public access and meaningful development along the riverfront.
In the 1980s, a group of architectural students from UTK suggested the idea of an aquarium near the downtown riverfront. The plan was finally published in 1985, and included a 20-year plan, $750 million of development, and 22 miles of the Tennessee River. The Tennessee Aquarium opened its doors in 1992, with the Creative Discovery Museum, IMAX Theater, and Chattanooga Visitor Center to follow. The Walnut Street Bridge was renovated and Coolidge Park was constructed in that time frame as well- bringing a collective influx of retail and people in that area. (Source: tnaqua.org)
The Hunter Museum – 70 Years
The gorgeous brick building that houses this museum was designed by the architectural firm Mead and Garfield and was built in 1905. It is filled with ornamental details and Georgian and Federal style elements. This mansion was originally created for Ross Faxon and his family. In 1920, the home was purchased by the widow of one of the founders of the Coca-Cola bottling company, and their nephew, George Thomas Hunter soon became a prominent figure in Chattanooga. After his death in 1951, the mansion was donated to the foundation that Hunter started. In 1952, the doors opened on the George Thomas Hunter Gallery of Art, and the first major painting for the collection was acquired.
As pieces were added, the impact of the museum grew. The first wing, and a renovation of the mansion were completed in 1975, and the museum became known as the Hunter Museum of Art. Years later, in 2002, the 21st Century Waterfront Plan was announced, and by 2005, the $22 million additional and renovation of the Hunter Museum of Art was completed; including the addition of the outdoor sculpture plaza, the reinstallation of the permanent collection, and an additional 28,000 square feet of new space. (Source: huntermuseum.org)
Chattanooga Zoo – 85 Years
The first zoo was established in Warner Park with a singular cage for a pair of monkeys. By 1942, the zoo featured animals such as lions, buffalo, alligators, and bobcats. Between the 1960s and the year 2000, there were many efforts in order to improve the conditions of the facilities and the conditions in which the animals were being kept. Phase 1 of The Zoo Master Plan began in 2000, and expanded the space from 5 acres to 12 acres. The second phase began in 2006, and by 2010, the new and improved zoo was complete. In 2015, the zoo had record-high attendance, with over 200,000 visitors.
In its many years of existence, the zoo has partnered with many worthy organizations and causes. In 2013, they hosted the 6th Biennial Hellbender Symposium, and once again received accreditation from the AZA. In 2017, they began the Kits and Cubs Program- a unique childhood learning program designed for the youngest of animal lovers. They also partnered with Service Systems Associates (a culinary and retail management leader) to improve guest experience. Since its opening, the Chattanooga Zoo has continuously welcomed many animals; just this year we saw The Red Panda Rising exhibit open! (Source: chattzoo.org)
Rock City – 90 Years
By the time the Civil War reached the slopes of Lookout Mountain, more and more people had discovered what was already being called “the Rock City.” During the famous battle of Lookout Mountain, both a Union officer and a Confederate nurse speculated in separate diary entries that one could see seven states from atop the summit. Rock City remained well known to hikers and geologists throughout the later portion of the 1800s, but it would take the dawning of a new century before the fabulous Rock City would reach its full potential.
Rock City officially opened as a public attraction on May 21, 1932. It got off to a slow start because advertising in those days was difficult. A young sign painter was hired to travel the nation’s highways and offer to paint a farmer’s barns in exchange for letting him paint three simple words: See Rock City. Since its beginnings, Rock City has continued to attract an increasing number of tourists from all over the world. Over the years, several features have been added to the original attraction, including the popular Fairyland Caverns and Mother Goose Village, the Cornerstone Station, as well as a myriad of shops and restaurants and Rock City’s Enchanted Garden of Lights during the holiday season. (Source: seerockcity.com)