Title: Lookout Mountain Inn, M. S. Gibson Manager, business card

Catalog Number: 2017.039.0001

Date (Years): 1891-1900


Embosed Lookout Mountain Inn business card. M. S. Gibson Manager.

Lookout Inn (1890)

The Lookout Inn opened in 1890 and was situated just above the top station of the existing Incline No. 2 on the eastern face of Lookout Mountain. The steam-powered incline was built as a direct route to the hotel and a connection to the Chattanooga & Lookout Mountain Railway.

Open year-round, the Lookout Inn was 365 feet long and four stories tall. It had two five-story towers, a huge network of wide porches and verandas, 450 rooms that could accommodate over 500 guests and was built at a cost of $150,000-which is more than $3 million today. The fine dining hall was 114 feet in length and finished in quarter sawn oak. There were billiards rooms, reading nooks, lounges and smoking rooms. An 1895 advertisement for the hotel boasted a “liberal plan,” the “finest climate in America” and the “most enchanted scenery the sun ever shone upon.” Modern sanitation systems, drainage and the abundance of water were all selling features to prospective guests. It was also marketed as “Tennessee’s great health and pleasure resort,” seemingly to appeal to the nation’s popular health craze.

Its large ballroom often hosted soldiers in training for the Spanish-American War who were posted in Fort Oglethorpe, and a visiting Prince Henry of Prussia pronounced it an ideal spot he had visited and the scenery more breathtaking than that of the Swiss Alps.

Thought to be fireproof, the inn was engulfed in a blaze Nov. 17, 1908, and the flames and smoke could be seen from downtown Chattanooga. At the time, only a few handfuls of guests were staying in the hotel. Luckily, they all escaped from harm.

The Lookout Mountain Inn was under contract for $135,000, and the deal was expected to close the day of the fire. The owners had the hotel insured for only $20,000.

A defective flue was blamed for the disaster.


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