Remember When, Chattanooga? East Lake Junior High was a thriving landmark

Photo contributed by / This 1967 photo of East Lake Park and the former East Lake Junior High School shows the hub of one of Chattanooga's oldest neighborhoods.

There's a lot of history in this 1967 photo.

From the archives of, the photo shows East Lake Park in the foreground and the former East Lake Junior High School in the background.

The school, which opened in 1927 according to newspaper records, stood for some 90 years before being demolished a few years ago. As late as a decade ago, graduates of East Lake Junior High School would gather at the park on the first Saturday in October each year to remember their days there.

Several graduates of East Lake Junior High School went on to be local officials, including Jerry Evans (Chattanooga fire chief), Bob Moon (Hamilton County Sessions Court judge), and Carl Levi (Hamilton County trustee), according to news reports.

The park, in the foreground, has an even longer history than the school. East Lake, one of Chattanooga's first neighborhoods, was developed in the late 19th century by Chattanooga millionaire Charles E. James, who was thought to be the first person in the city to amass a seven-figure net worth.

The "lake," really a spring-fed pond that attracted ducks and geese, was built at the foot of Missionary Ridge. It served as the centerpiece of the city's first park, or what was more commonly called a "resort" in the 1880s. James is reported to have named the pond East Lake, and street lights were added around the lake in 1887.

Launched by history enthusiast Sam Hall in 2014, 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.

Newspaper ads in 1889 offered small residential lots in the area for $150 to $250. The dimensions of the lots, 50 feet by 125 feet, were tiny by today's standards but just right for the small homes in the neighborhood that often housed mill workers.

Meanwhile, the park went on to become home of the Oxley Zoo, the city's first formal animal exhibit.

When the school opened in October 1927, a student journalist wrote this report for the "Schools Page" in the Chattanooga Times: "Girls and boys of Chattanooga, I want to tell you about the prettiest Junior High School in Chattanooga, and we're going to make it the best. Our new school is located on 36th Street, between Avenue M and N at the foot of Mission Ridge and faces East Lake Park. ... Our school has 18 rooms in it. We have a large gymnasium and auditorium."

In recent years, East Lake Park has been restored to its former glory as part of a $3 million effort by Chattanooga city government and the Lyndhurst Foundation. The 1.75-acre pond, which had become clogged with algae, was dredged and its water quality was improved. Meanwhile, the surrounding, 18-acre park was refurbished, as well.

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Remember When publishes on Saturdays. Contact Mark Kennedy at

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