'If there's an oceanfront view in Chattanooga, this is it'

Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / Bryan and Angie Marshall at their lakefront home in Harrison.

Having had stone's-throw access to the Gulf of Mexico for nearly 50 years, Bryan Marshall knows spectacular views.

"My parents bought a place in Panama City, Florida, in 1972, and I inherited it," he says. "From the patio, it's literally 75 feet to the water. But I'm a mountain/lake guy, and this is definitely preferable," he says.

"This" is the vista Marshall enjoys from what he calls his Ponderosa-style log cabin in Harrison. James Perry, the Chattanooga-area real estate agent who did the deal for Marshall in 2009, minces no words in describing the 3.5-acre property.

"It's out on a peninsula, really wide," Perry says. "If there's an oceanfront view in Chattanooga, this is it."

But when Perry first showed Marshall the property on Chickamauga Lake, his client wasn't even looking, let alone buying.

"I mean, he's not even getting out of the truck," Perry says. "He's saying, 'Let me save you some time. There's no need to look at this.'"

Marshall could afford to be particular – he owns W.E. Marshall Co., a company his father founded in Atlanta almost 60 years ago. In the process of calling on customers in North Georgia, especially Dalton, in the late 1990s, he often found himself crossing the state line into Chattanooga.

He came to like Chattanooga, particularly its people, so well that, in 2000, he launched a second business, Tennessee Process Pumps, here. He also decided to build a second home in the area – but initially punted Perry's peninsula proposal.

Marshall recalls that his issue was what the property didn't have.

"Trees," he says. "It was a three-and-a-half-acre pasture, just grass. I wanted woods. I didn't want to live in a pasture.

"I told James, 'There aren't any trees, and I'm not going to live long enough to plant trees and see them grown.' I had no intention of buying the place," Marshall says.

A year went by, with no luck. Marshall says Perry pitched the Harrison property once more.

"James is saying, 'This is the lot of lots. This is where you need to build,'" Marshall says. "I told him I still didn't feel warm and fuzzy about it, but to go ahead and offer the seller half price.

"Then James called back to say the owner took the offer, so I thought, 'OK, I bought the lot.'"

There was only one problem, Marshall recalls.

"I came up here, wrote the check for the lot and didn't have enough money to do anything else – let alone build the house I wanted," he says. "So I bought a camper – a used camper – and lived in it for five or six years.

"I'd sit on the rocks next to the lake with Angie, who was my fiancée and is now my wife. I'd say, 'That'll be us one day – riding around in our boats, on our jet skis.' And then it'd be back to the camper.

"I don't want to go into another camper, ever," he says.

Labor Day weekend will be the fifth anniversary of the Marshalls' move into their cabin by the lake – which they're in the process of making their primary residence since Bryan Marshall's sale of his former 10,000-square-foot home in the Atlanta neighborhood of Buckhead.

"Now this is everything I want – and more," he says. "I can't imagine moving from here."


* Return to the riverfront: Millions in new development and more activation planned for Chattanooga sites along the Tennessee River * Water power: TVA dams, riverfront development pay off for Scenic city, spurring business, recreation and tourism * Drawn to the water: Properties on the river and lakes go for a premium, and they're increasingly scarce * A natural attraction: The Tennessee River draws a steady stream of visitors to the Scenic City