The historic Chattanooga Choo-Choo is undergoing several million dollars in renovations and upgrades in preparation for its centennial celebration next year.
The 100-year-old Chattanooga landmark will drop Holiday Inn from its name and operate independently under the Historic Hotels of America label.
Staff Photo by Allison Kwesell
G&K Sign Installation workers install safety cables on the Chattanooga Choo-Choo sign as part of a safety upgrade for routine maintenance.
Jon Kinsey, managing partner of the hotel, said officials will spend more than $4 million on a variety of projects that include preservation of the lobby’s Victorian-era dome, awarded a Paris Beaux Award in 1907 for its planned design.
“We certainly understand the significance of a centennial,” Mr. Kinsey said. “ We think a big part of our allure is due to its historical nature.”
Mr. Kinsey said officials spent about $3.5 million to renovate guest rooms with new bedding and upgraded bathrooms, new chairs for the train-car rooms, new carpeting, landscaping, a new gazebo and repairs to the Choo-Choo sign on top of the hotel.
Officials expect to spend another $700,000 to renovate the hotel lobby and to repave and stripe the parking lots, he said.
General Manager Jim Bambrey said the repairs were necessary to preserve a piece of Chattanooga history.
“We spent a lot of money on it because we feel it is an icon for the city,” he said.
If you have special memories of a stay at the Chattanooga Choo-Choo or photographs of the hotel, e-mail them and all relevant information to email@example.com.
Architect: Don Barber
First train: 1909
Last train: 1970
Hotel opened: 1973
Chattanooga Choo-Choo: name given by a newspaper reporter to the wood-burning trains that traveled from Cincinnati to Chattanooga.
Song: Glenn Miller wrote the song with the same name in 1940. It first was performed by the Glenn Miller Orchestra in 1941.
Source: Chattanooga Choo-Choo
Renovations to the hotel’s public areas are expected to be completed by October, but Mr. Kinsey said other repairs may continue until April.
Terminal Station, as the facility first was known, opened at 1400 Market St. on Dec. 1, 1909. Officials said it served as the “gateway” to Chattanooga until Aug. 11, 1970, when the last train pulled into the station.
After three years of sitting vacant, the hotel opened in 1973. It was bought by a group of investors, Choo Choo Partners, in 1989, when it began operating under the Holiday Inn name to be dropped next year.
“This property is unique enough that the name, Chattanooga Choo-Choo, does not need to be associated with a chain hotel,” Mr. Kinsey said.
Mr. Bambrey said officials are designing a new logo for the hotel recognizing the centennial celebration to go on all hotel literature and stationery.
There also are a number of events scheduled to celebrate the building’s 100th birthday, but both Mr. Kinsey and Mr. Bambrey are keeping mum on what is planned.
“We have a centennial celebration scheduled for next year with some pretty exciting events planned,” Mr. Bambrey said. “It’s going to be pretty dynamic.”