Plaques surface proving Georgia's previous ownership of Chattanooga property

Plaques surface proving Georgia's previous ownership of Chattanooga property

May 1st, 2013 by Pam Sohn in Local Regional News

Greg Ross digs out a cast metal marker which reads "Private Property Owned by State of Georgia Temporarily Used" that he acquired years ago and is now for sale in his eclectic shop Estate of Confusion off of Main Street in downtown Chattanooga.

Photo by Dan Henry/Times Free Press.

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It was 2003 when local officials had the Civic Forum torn down at 10th and Market streets and found - lying in the basement - two long brass plaques bearing this message in all capital letters: "PRIVATE PROPERTY OWNED BY STATE OF GEORGIA TEMPORARILY USED."

The junk dealer hired to clear the basement was delighted, and he was prepared to take them both.

"But then one of the Chamber guys said, 'No. You can have one, but this one's for me,'" said the dealer, Chattanoogan Greg Ross.

Now that one plaque -- between 4 and 5 feet long and 4 to 5 inches wide -- lies at Ross' shop, Estate of Confusion, on Main Street.

It is -- as of now -- the one remaining marker that used to signify Georgia-owned property inside Chattanooga's downtown.

And it carries a triple-digit price tag, because Ross says he puts a really high price on the items he personally likes.

In a previous life, the long plaque was set in pavement across an alley that bisected the block bordered by Market and Broad and 10th and 11th streets. It had been placed there sometime before 1978 when the city finally purchased it from Georgia after many years of trying.

On Monday, Ross read a story in the Chattanooga Times Free Press about the history of Georgia owning land in the city's downtown and a mystery of where street plaques such as his had ended up.

He called the paper to say he knew the whereabouts of at least one.

Billy Cooper, former head of the Chattanooga Housing Authority, was the man who ultimately wrangled the purchases that made Chattanooga's downtown a whole Tennessee entity.

Cooper, on Monday afternoon, also called the paper to relay his memories.

"There were four markers." he said. "I gave one to City Hall and one to the Chamber. CHA kept one, and it was in the basement when I retired. And I halfway believe the contractor [on the Civic Forum property] might have wound up with one."

Time will tell if other markers will turn up.

And there likely were more than four in random sizes and with varying messages if other Chattanooga memories are correct.

Former Mayor Ron Littlefield was pleased when he learned Tuesday that one has survived after Ross recovered it from the Civic Forum.

"That would be the one from the Chamber [that Cooper recalled]," said Littlefield, who had overseen the renovation about eight years ago of City Hall but not seen or heard of a similar plaque found there.

Current CHA officials could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

But Littlefield said he had found the desk of former Mayor Ed Bass in a junk room of City Hall and saved it. Bass in 1926 had extended downtown Chattanooga and Broad Street into what then had been Georgia-owned land in Tennessee on the south side of town.

"It's enormous and beautiful. I had it redone and used it as my desk in City Hall. I had a plaque put on it. It's Andy Berke's desk now, if he keeps it," Littlefield said.

Ed Bass was the Chattanooga Commissioner when he led city workers on a weekend while courts were closed to raze a Georgia building that blocked the way to extend Broad Street from Ninth to Main Street with eminent domain.

As cars drove through the new road past the debris, Bass had a band play 'Marching Through Georgia.'"

Within a year, Bass was elected mayor, and then was re-elected four times.