For seven decades, the municipal Rose Garden at Warner Park near downtown Chattanooga was a city treasure.
Shown here in the late 1950s, the garden existed until 2007, when its remnants were removed as part of a major park renovation. The garden, which had dwindled to just a few rose bushes, was cleared to make way for a stormwater retention pond, according to news reports.
The accompanying image was taken from 8mm film shot by Hixson resident Don Vance and preserved by ChattanoogaHistory.com, a website dedicated to presenting old Chattanooga photographs.
Also in the original frame are the then-studios of WRGP-TV Channel 3 on McCallie Avenue, according to Sam Hall, curator of ChattanoogaHistory.com.
"RGP stood for the owner, Ramon G. Patterson," Hall said in an email. "The station signed on the air in May of 1956. In 1961, the station had new owners, and moved to Whitehall Road under new call letters, WRCB (for) Rust Craft Broadcasting."
According to pre-World War II news reports, the Warner Park Rose Garden literally traces its roots to 1938, when the Chattanooga Rose Society planted 600 rose bushes in a cluster on the park grounds. Members of the Rose Society, along with city workers, tended and expanded the garden for decades.
The Rose Garden was first opened to formal public viewing in the spring of 1938, and members of the Chattanooga Rose Society held a bridge party at the Hotel Patton to raise money for their efforts. Mrs. R.W. Clemons was the first chair of Rose Society's rose garden committee, and members worked in weekly rotations to care for the rose bushes.
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 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.
Originally called Olympia Park when it opened in 1890, the 43-acre property was renamed Warner Park in 1913 after Major J.H. Warner, the city's commissioner of public utilities and a major advocate for the park space, according to old news reports.
Over time, the park, said to be one of the largest urban parks in the nation, has been home to a swimming pool, a zoo, an array of ballfields, a vaudeville theater, a small amusement park, a roller coaster, a horse track, a restaurant, a greenhouse, a dancing pavilion, a bandstand and picnic grounds.
By the 1950s, the Warner Park Rose Garden was said to be "in a class with the principal rose gardens in the country." Constant expansion had resulted in the garden being home to 4,000 plants in 200 varieties, according to a May 9, 1954, report in the Chattanooga Times. It was also a major regional test garden for new varieties of roses.
The 1954 Times article by writer George Hull noted, "Warner Park offers not only splendid examples of landscape planting with roses, but the gardens may also serve as an animated and illustrated catalogue of varieties."