Remember When, Chattanooga? The historic Union Depot delivered passengers to the Read House

Photo by Hugh J. Moore Jr. via / This photo of the old Union Depot, with the Read House in the background, was taken in the early 1970s before the train property was leveled to make way for office buildings on Ninth Street (now M.L. King Boulevard).

For more than a century, Chattanooga's railroad history was exemplified by the L&N Railroad's Union Depot, a historic 19th century building that contained a train car shed.

Located on Ninth Street (now M.L. King Boulevard), Union Depot was demolished in the early 1970s to make way for the Krystal (now UBS) and Tallan Financial Center office buildings that occupy the property today.

This photo, with the Union Depot in the foreground, was taken by Chattanooga attorney Hugh J. Moore Jr., who captured the image shortly before the building was torn down.

"There was some controversy regarding its demolition, because of its history," Moore said in an email. "The Civil War engine 'The General' had been under the shed, just behind the brick terminal structure, until the railroad returned it to the state of Georgia in the '60s."

The General was a locomotive stolen by Union spies in Kennesaw, Georgia, in 1862, in an episode that came to be known as the Great Locomotive Chase. The train was abandoned near Ringgold, Georgia, and the Union men were eventually captured by Confederate forces.

"The shed appears in many Civil War photos of Chattanooga," Moore said, "and is perhaps the most recognizable structure in those 1860s photos."

According to newspaper archives, city officials briefly considered an attempt to save the historic structure in 1971, an idea floated by members of a class at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. In July 1971, 10 students from a class called "City in Literature" proposed making the building -- built in the 1850s -- a mid-town mall and centerpiece of downtown rejuvenation, according to a report in the Chattanooga News-Free Press.

Later that year, members of a study committee from the Chattanooga Area Historical Association toured the Union Depot room by room to determine if it might be used as a museum. But, ultimately, developers began clearing the property before the preservation effort could get traction. Soon, the structure was torn down to make way for the office buildings, and a historical marker was placed at the property.

Moore, of the Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel law firm, said the Union Depot handled passenger trains as late as the 1960s.

"I frequently took the train back and forth to Nashville when I was at Vanderbilt (University in) 1962-66," he said.

The station delivered train passengers nearly to the front door of the Read House, one of the city's historic downtown hotels, seen here in the photo.

The photo was among a number of images Moore has donated to, a local website devoted to preserving visual records of Chattanooga's past.

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 nondigital prints taken in the Chattanooga area, contact Sam Hall for information on how they may qualify to be digitized and preserved at no charge.

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"Remember When, Chattanooga?" publishes on Saturdays. Contact Mark Kennedy at or 423-757-6645.