Remember When, Chattanooga? Ron-Mar Tower Apartments graced Cameron Hill

Contributed photo via ChattanoogaHistory.com / The Ron-Mar Towers apartments on Sixth Street in downtown Chattanooga were opened Oct. 15, 1951, in a former fire hall.
Contributed photo via ChattanoogaHistory.com / The Ron-Mar Towers apartments on Sixth Street in downtown Chattanooga were opened Oct. 15, 1951, in a former fire hall.

In 1951, a former city of Chattanooga fire hall was converted into an apartment complex on Cameron Hill near downtown.

According to newspaper archives, the Ron-Mar Tower Apartments — featuring units with up to five rooms — opened Oct. 15, 1951. The report said the remodeling of the building cost about $150,000 and was paid for by new owner Harry Berke, a Chattanooga attorney.

Records show the building had previously been the city's No. 6 Fire Hall since it was built in 1908, according to Sam Hall, curator of ChattanoogaHistory.com. The accompanying photo is part of a collection of EPB images at ChattanoogaHistory.com, a website devoted to preserving historic photos of the city.

The Chattanooga News-Free Press reported in a business page blurb in 1951 that the apartment "tower" would include 36 apartment units.

Newspaper ads billed the apartments as "all-electric" units at a time when electric home heating was just gaining popularity in Chattanooga. Between 1945 and 1953, the number of homes heating with electricity in Chattanooga jumped from 75 to more than 15,000, according to news reports.

ChattanoogaHistory.com

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.

Late in the 1950s, classified ads indicated that rent in the Ron-Mar building, which featured one and two-bedroom units, started at about $45 a month.

In 1959, Burke sold the tower to the Chattanooga Housing Authority for $155,000, according to a press report. The building was later demolished as part of an urban renewal project that lowered the crest of Cameron Hill.

In the 19th century and part of the 20th century, Cameron Hill was one of Chattanooga's most stylish neighborhoods, and its transformation in the 1950s was somewhat controversial. The hill was recontoured to make room for urban renewal and freeway construction.

To read previous installments in the series, visit ChattanoogaHistory.com or join the "Remember When, Chattanooga?" public group on Facebook.

Remember When, Chattanooga? is published on Saturdays. Contact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6645.

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