In the mid-1970s, Eastgate Center was a shopper's paradise. You could buy a pair of trendy men's shoes for $15 or a Hammond organ for just $440.
The Brainerd Road property, built on the site of a former outdoor movie theater, has been in a state of evolution for almost 60 years. Today, it is a mixed-use complex called Eastgate Town Center that includes state offices, college satellite classrooms, a call center and various administrative offices.
But in 1975, when this photo was taken, Eastgate was at or near the height of its popularity as a retail destination. Some of its anchor tenants in the 1970s were Miller Brothers and J.C. Penney department stores and a Morrison's Cafeteria.
This photo, from the Chattanooga News-Free Press archives, was recently discovered at the 11th Street offices of the Chattanooga Times Free Press in a box of slides taken in the fall of 1975. The slides have been digitized and are on display at ChattanoogaHistory.com.
Chattanoogans of a certain age have vivid memories of Eastgate Center in the 1970s.
In response to a posting of this photo on the "Remember When, Chattanooga?" public group page on Facebook, these were some of the responses:
"I vividly remember when the mall was not roofed and we'd be in there shopping when a huge jet would fly over. The sound was deafening," wrote Jayne Sexton Trapnell.
"I lived about two miles away in East Ridge," wrote Bob Mulkey. "I would walk or ride my bicycle over there. I have a 12-gauge shotgun that I got for Christmas in the early '70s. It was bought at J.C. Penney in Eastgate."
Launched by history enthusiast Sam Hall in 2014, ChattanoogaHistory.com is maintained to present historical images in the highest resolution available.If you have photo negatives, glass plate negatives, or original non-digital prints taken in the Chattanooga area, contact Sam Hall for information on how they may qualify to be digitized and preserved at no charge.
"Went to Woolworth's every Saturday with my momma and grandmomma for lunch," wrote Jaaron Noll. "I'd have the open face roast beef with chips and an R.C. Cola."
According to a history of Eastgate on the property's corporate website, the complex was first developed in 1962 as an open-air shopping center. Miller Brothers occupied a two-story, 60,000-square-foot building.
By the mid-'60s the shopping complex, then called Eastgate Center, had added a cinema along with two more department stores: Loveman's and J.C. Penney. In the 1970s, the center was enclosed and the name changed to Eastgate Mall. It encompassed 550,000 square feet of retail space, making the largest mall in Tennessee for a time, according to corporate records.
In 1975 when this photo was made, the complex was known interchangeably in news stories and advertisements as Eastgate Center or Eastgate Mall. It was often the scene for special events - such as auto shows and flower shows - to attract foot traffic.
In the 1980s, the mall underwent major renovations. During the mid-'80s, Loveman's was renamed Proffitt's, while Miller Brothers transitioned to become Hess's. An indoor fountain was added during this period as well.
Three 1975 Eastgate Center promotions might seem curious to 21st century consumers:
- A photography studio in Eastgate Center called The Children's Photographer offered 5-by-7-inch color portraits of children for 1 cent per pound of the child's weight. So, a photo of a 20-pound toddler would ring up at 20 cents.
- In January 1975, Eastgate was host to a promotion called "Wild, Wild, West Days," which included live Western music, a gun-fighting demonstration and free sheriff's badges to the first 3,000 children.
- The Wig Boutique, a store in the mall, offered customers up to $15 in cash when they traded in old wigs for new ones.
In the timeline of Chattanooga malls, Eastgate Center was constructed in 1962, Northgate Mall in Hixson opened in 1972 and Hamilton Place mall in East Brainerd opened in the summer of 1987.
Follow the "Remember When, Chattanooga?" public group on Facebook.
Contact Mark Kennedy at email@example.com.