Read more Chattanooga History Columns
- Gaston: Paul John Kruesi was Edison's right-hand man
- Robbins: The old Richardson's house and the Civil War
- Gaston: James Williams was a man of the world
- Raney: Mason Evans, the 'Wild Man of the Chilhowee'
- Gaston: The legacy of Adolph Ochs endures
- Martin: Ed Johnson said, 'I have a changed heart,' the day before his lynching in Chattanooga on 1906
- Thomas: The inventiveness of Judge Michael M. Allison
- Moore: Chattanooga's first Chinese community
- Summers, Robbins: Chattanooga's Tuskegee Airman - Joseph C. White
- McCallie: The Civil Rights Act of 1964 says so!
- Gaston: John McCline's Civil War - from slave to D.C. parade
- Raney: Exploring Chattanooga businesses in the Green Book
- Elliott: Remembering the Freedmen's Bureau in Chattanooga
- Gaston: Nancy Ward was a beloved, respected Tennessean
- Martin: Prohibition - the noble experiment
- Elliott: 'A shameful, disgraceful deed': The destruction of the Sewanee cornerstone
- Gaston: Robert Cravens was ironmaster, Chattanooga area's first commuter
- Robbins: Dr. T.H. McCallie's Christmas 1863
- Robbins: Journalist writes of a trip to Missionary Ridge in 1896
- Summers, Robbins: Mine 21 disaster - gone but not forgotten
- Elliott: Collegedale incorporates to avoid Sunday 'blue laws'
- Gaston: 'Marse Henry' Watterson's journalism fame began in Chattanooga
- Robbins: Orchard Knob battle recalled in 1895
- Elliott: Chattanoogans joined in an 'orgy of joy and gladness' on Armistice Day, 1918
- Thomas: Noted service, speakers are marks of Rotary Club of Chattanooga since 1914
- Summers and Robbins: Remembering noted Tennessee author North Callahan
- Raney: 'I auto cry, I auto laugh, I auto sign my autograph'
- Gaston: Sequoyah's alphabet enriched Cherokees
- Robbins: A look at Sam Divine's life during the Civil War
- Robbins: Memories of a Confederate nurse
- Robbins: More notes from Bradford Torrey's 1895 visit to Chickamauga Battlefield
- Robbins: Journalist in 1895 details visit to Chickamauga Battlefield
- Elliott: Telephone exchange firebombing was distraction for grocery store robbery
- Gaston: Worcester brought Christ's message to Cherokee at Brainerd Mission
- Robbins: 1896 travel diary: 'A Week on Walden's Ridge'
- Gaston: Elizabeth Strayhorn, WAC Commandant at Fort Oglethorpe
- Robbins: The history of the Friends of Moccasin Bend National Park
- Moore: Do you own a Sears Roebuck home?
- Summers and Robbins: Camp Nathan Bedford Forrest in World War II
- Gaston: Hiram Sanborn Chamberlain remembered
- Elliott: Daisy the center of tile, ceramic manufacturing in Hamilton County
- Gaston: FDR inaugurates the Chickamauga Dam
- Summers, Robbins: Interned WWII Germans had it easy at Camp Crossville
- Elliott: A war correspondent on Lookout Mountain
- Gaston: Chickamaugas finally bury hatchet in Tennessee Valley
- Gaston: Chickamaugas in Chattanooga
- Robbins: The history of the Riverbend festival
- Raney: Sadie Watson, the first woman elected in Hamilton County government
- Moore: Remembering Chattanooga's Hawkinsville community
- Elliott: Welsh coal miners transformed Soddy after the Civil War
- Gaston: Chattanooga's best-kept secret
- Elliott: Cabell Breckinridge loses his horse
- Raney: Martin Fleming is the people's judge
- Gaston: The amazing career of Francis Lynde
- Martin: Hamilton County's Name Sake: Alexander Hamilton
- Summers, Robbins: The crosses at Sewanee
- Bledsoe: The fiery truce at Kennesaw Mountain
- Moore: Talented architect's life cut short by tragedy
- Rydell: Chattanooga's place in soccer history
- Robbins: Tennessee Coal, member of the First Dow Jones Industrial Average
- Raney: In the barber chair
- Lanier: Becoming the Boyce Station Neighborhood Association
- McCallie: John P. Franklin: Living history among us
- Barr: Chattanooga's first railroad: The Underground Railroad
- Summers, Robbins: Charles Bartlett was a Pulitzer Prize winner, Kennedy confidant
- Rainey: 'We have seen it'
- Elliott: Feinting and fighting at Running Water Creek and Johnson's Crook
- Gaston: The Spring Frog Cabin at Audubon Acres
- Raney: Wauhatchie Pike was moonshine motorway
- Robbins: Oakmont was home of venerable Williams clan
- Summers and Robbins: Rebirth of the Mountain Goat Line
- Elliott: Bad investments led to Soddy Bank failure in 1930
- Summers and Robbins: Pearl Harbor attack left football behind
- Gaston: Jolly’s Island namesake had long ties with Sam Houston
- Return Jonathan Meigs, Indian Agent
- Moore: Did you know about St. Elmo's other two cemeteries?
- Summers: Orme - Marion County's almost lost community
- Davis: Spooky revival at Sharp Mountain in 1873
- Robbins: The story of Longholm
- Raney: Women labored to help the U.S. win World War I
- Even in the city, the 'wheel' changed everything
- Murray: Confederate dilemma after Chickamauga
- J.B. Collins — Newsman extraordinaire
- Robbins: The Story of the Lyndhurst Mansion
- Chattanooga artist and wife lost on the Lusitania
- Chattanooga History Column: Battelle, Alabama and the Battelle Institute
- John Ross, a founder of Chattanooga
- Hamilton County casualties in World War I
- Chattanooga Power Couple
- 'Somewhere in France'
- The Ray Moss family
- Battery B from Chattanooga
- Ulysses S. Grant, Clark B. Lagow, and the Chattanooga Bender
- Songbirds Museum Timeline
- Hamilton County World War 1 roster
- The Soddy Girl and the Memphis Belle
- Blues icon Bessie Smith was the Empress of Soul
- Women's Army Corps at Chickamauga
- Emma Bell Miles' life at the top of the 'W'
- The Tivoli Wurlitzer is one of Chattanooga's priceless assets
- Chattanooga in struggle for freedom during Civil War
- October 1918, Chattanooga paralyzed by Spanish flu epidemic
- Eli Lilly and the Ditch of Death
- One hundred years ago, Chattanooga goes to war
- The legacy of Anna Safley Houston
- Harriet Whiteside was ahead of her time
- Southern Adventist University
- Chattanooga native's writings aided Civil Rights movement
- Zion College, Chattanooga's only African American College
- The North Shore's hidden past
- Mayme Martin -- Businesswoman and community leader
- Thomas Sim's epic struggle for freedom
- Top of Cameron Hill was price of rerouting interstate
- Cameron Hill has rich history
- Temperance movement included Harriman university
- The sweetest music this side of Heaven
- Conquistadors at Chattanooga
- Chattanooga and the 'General'
- Chattanooga's first Thanksgiving, 1863
- Chattanooga's greatest flood caught city unaware
- Opening the Cracker Line
- European trip in 1900 enlightens Sophia Scholze Long
- Sophia Scholze Long spoke out when others were silent
- Little South Pittsburg and its big silent movie stars
- Lot attendant recalls hottest job in Chattanooga
- Chattanooga's Forest Hills is final resting place for known, unknown
- Burritt College -- Pioneer of the Cumberlands
- Chattanooga's nicknames trace city's evolution
- The 25th annual meeting of the Tennessee Press Association
- Clemons Brothers Furniture Store
- The Short Life of the USS Chattanooga
- Ellen Jarnagin McCallie lived a truly remarkable life
- Dr. Jonathan Bachman was a revered city father
- Second guessing the Confederate failure on Missionary Ridge
- Nancy Kefauver, ambassador for the arts
- William Gibbs McAdoo kept his Southern roots
- Chattanooga's Secretary of the Treasury
- Howard Baker remembered as a statesman/photographer who snapped history
- Tivoli's last picture show
- The history of one of Chattanooga's oldest businesses
- Chattanooga's roller derby skaters
- Myths of Coca-Cola in Chattanooga
- Chattanooga's neighborhood grocery stores
- The tale of the Scottsboro Boys
- The people's history of Chattanooga
- Howard School is Chattanooga's reminder of Reconstruction
- Elevator operator, painter, mystery man: meet Rice Carothers
- Raulston Schoolfield made enemies amid his rise to power
- Website lets users peer into Chattanooga's past
- The flood of 1917
- Chattanooga's 'wickedest woman' buried at Forest Hills
- History of Cummings Highway
The front page of the Chattanooga News on Nov. 23, 1922, announced with great fanfare the opening of a six-story furniture store at 730 Chestnut St. The public was invited to an open house to visit and inspect the handsome brick and marble, quarter-million dollar structure that would house the business of the three Clemons brothers.
Terrell, Will and Charles Clemons grew up on a farm in Robinson County outside Murfreesboro, Tenn., and came to Chattanooga in the late 1890s to sell industrial disability insurance for the National Life and Accident Insurance Co., headquartered in Nashville.
Looking for greener pastures, the brothers in 1902 opened a furniture business with a few small pieces in one small room of their house at 610 Pine St. Beginning with $900, part of which was used to buy a horse and buggy, they traveled to homes of potential customers to take orders. Within a few months they had accumulated sufficient capital to move to a 15-by-18-foot room above the Willis Livery Stable. In 1904 the firm turned to 413 West Eighth St. to occupy a one-story 25-by-60-foot building, where they stayed for six years. In 1910 the Clemons built a four-story structure to house one of the most successful furniture stores in the state. The three brothers were known to have pleasing personalities and great energy.
Full page ads for the store's final location in a special section of the newspaper in 1922 described every aspect of the many types of services and equipment needed to furnish a modern home.
Complete lines of furniture from quality manufacturers throughout the country were described in great detail. Living room, reception hall, dining room and bedroom furniture were all noted as being of top quality and affordable to the average family.
Bohn-Syphon refrigerators bearing the Good Housekeeping Seal of approval were available under an exclusive dealership with Clemons Brothers for the Chattanooga area.
In addition to oil heating products, the brothers advertised Coles Hot Blast (coal burning) Stoves with their professional efficiency and economic cost of operation as providing an offset to rising coal prices.
Cedar chests and wardrobes and decorated porcelain dinner sets were also available.
Every vendor, manufacturer and supplier was lavishly praised for helping to supply the 100,000-square-foot, six-story building and large basement.
Each floor had a specialty. Various kitchen appliances were displayed in the basement. The first floor housed the corporate offices, shipping department and showroom space. Rugs, floor coverings and draperies were located on the second floor. Living room furniture was available for inspection on the third floor while dining room and breakfast furniture filled the fourth floor. The fifth floor held bedroom furniture. Surplus of all types was stored on the sixth floor.
Many prominent business and professional men gave glowing endorsements on the front page of the newspaper's 1922 special section. Paul Kruesi, J.B. Pound, Robert J. McClellan, E.Y. Chapin, S.J. McCallie and Mayor A.W. Chambliss released statements in support of this latest addition to Chattanooga's downtown business district.
Following the deaths of Terrell Clemons in 1933, Will in 1943, and Charles in 1945, the business changed ownership several times. Earl W. Winger Sr., co-owner of radio station WDOD, held controlling interest in Clemons Brothers from 1946 to 1956, and Ralph Clemons, son of one of the founders, Will Clemons, served as its president.
In May 1962 the furniture company announced that it was closing as a result of a 50 percent drop in business caused by the razing of the West Side. Several months later, Clemons and Wheeler Inc. became the new occupant of the premises. A year later the business filed for bankruptcy.
At a time when Miller Brothers, Lovemans, Fowler Brothers, Haverty's, The Hub and other retailers were also leaving downtown, the original Clemons building became the property of the BlueCross Blue- Shield and served as one of several office buildings for employees.
With the completion of the modern BlueCross complex at Cameron Hill, the building at 730 Chestnut St. became a surplus property and sat vacant for several years.
Today the Via Nova Development Co. is pumping new life into the well-constructed historic building with the opening of The Clemons Lofts, 54 apartments marketed as "City Living in the Heart of Downtown Chattanooga."
This redevelopment of the Clemons building represents another step in the rejuvenation of downtown Chattanooga in the 21st century.
Jerry Summers is an attorney with Summers, Rufolo and Rodgers. For more visit chattahistoricalassoc.org.