Touted as an upscale, $1 million-plus property in the 1960s, the Admiral Benbow Inn off South Market Street was once a magnet for freeway travelers and conventioneers.
But who was Admiral Benbow, anyway?
Well, college English majors may recall the Admiral Benbow Inn was a setting in Scottish novelist Robert Louis Stevenson's "Treasure Island," a coming-of-age tale about pirates and hidden gold.
According to newspaper archives, the Admiral Benbow Inn in the accompanying, undated photo was between East 19th and East 20th streets near South Market Street. The grand opening of the 142-room hotel was in May 1965.
By the mid-1980s, the property was losing money and became a more budget-friendly Days Inn, which charged $25 to $35 a night for rooms, according to a report in The Chattanooga Times. That was about half the price of most downtown hotels at the time, the report noted.
The original three-story Admiral Benbow Inn was built in 1964-65 at a cost of $1.4 million by Blair and Associates general contractors. A second Admiral Benbow location, which survived into the 1990s, was eventually constructed on Ringgold Road in East Ridge.
An article in the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1965 noted the original Admiral Benbow Inn in Chattanooga featured a restaurant and the Red Lion Lounge. The inn was part of a regional chain that was part of the same company that operated Morrison's Cafeterias, according to press reports.
According to the newspaper account, the "design can be described as strictly modern: brick, wood paneling, glass and concrete block being liberally used.
"Unusual treatment is provided in the lobby, the dining rooms and the lounge. The main dining room has a wall-to-wall bright red carpet, ornamental brick work, unusual light fixtures and round tables for groups and conventional ones for four persons each."
The property was built to accommodate small conventions and included the 85-seat restaurant and two meeting rooms that together were capable of handling 175 visitors.
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