EDGE Historic Chattanooga home showcased benefits of newfangled electricity [photos]

EDGE Historic Chattanooga home showcased benefits of newfangled electricity [photos]

August 1st, 2017 by Tim Omarzu in EDGE

Barbara Blake pulls an old flyer out of her closet Wednesday, July 12, 2017, at her home on Sunset Road in Chattanooga, Tenn. The flyer, which she found in the house after moving in, told the history of her home.

Photo by Erin O. Smith

Gallery: It's Electric

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Fifty-two years ago, when Ed and Barbara Blake bought their two-story, Tudor revival home in North Chattanooga's Riverview neighborhood, the young couple didn't know its whole history.

Then one day, they pulled up the linoleum in an upstairs closet. Underneath, they discovered brochures that explained their Sunset Road house was built by The Electric League of Chattanooga and opened to the public in September 1925 as "The Model Electric Home."

While electricity already was desirable feature to have in a home then, the Model Electric Home took things to another level.

"They did have electricity, but just not as much stuff as this home had," Barbara Blake says. "We had cigar lighters. We had baby bottle warmers. We had a lot of fun things."

The brochure's list of newfangled electric features goes on, including an illuminated house number; a doorbell "on an electric transformer — no need to run batteries;" and an electric log in the fireplace.

While those may sound pedestrian these days, some of the home's features still intrigue. For example, the brochure notes that "the coffee percolator is switched on from the Master's Bed Room and the coffee percolates while you dress."

And through the years, Barbara Blake has enjoyed the switches built into the closet doorways that automatically turn on the closet light when the door is opened.

Some of the features have been removed over time, such as button on the dining room floor meant to ring for the maid or butler.

But the Blakes hung on to a number of original fixtures, including a porch light, the telephone stand in the stairwell and the original doorbell that consists of two long brass tubes that chime on well after the doorbell button gets pushed.

The home was listed in 1993 on the National Register of Historic Places, and there's a plaque to that effect near the front door.

Ed Blake, who worked in banking and then launched a real estate appraisal business, passed away in 2002. Barbara Blake, who taught elementary school at the now-demolished G. Russell Brown and at Normal Park, now a magnet school, appreciates another ahead-of-its-time feature of her Model Electric Home's neighborhood: underground power lines that aren't susceptible to storm-caused outages.

"We don't have near as much trouble because trees don't fall underground," she says.