Construction has begun at the rear of the Chattanooga Choo Choo property near Track 29 on Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2017, in Chattanooga, Tenn.

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Terminal tower toppled


The reports of the death of terminal tower — a historic two-story brick building behind the Choo Choo Hotel — may have been exaggerated.

It's true that on Tuesday a construction crew knocked down the building that was built in 1908 and used as the control tower from which trains were switched between tracks.

But the bricks, wood and other salvageable items were hauled off Wednesday so they could be cleaned up and used to recreate the terminal tower at the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum.

That's according to those involved in the effort to clear the land at the Choo Choo hotel complex to make way for Bluebird Row Apartments, a $45 million luxury apartment complex to be built by Birmingham, Ala.-based LIV Development LLC.

"They said they were going to reassemble it. That's what they told me, that they were going to rebuild it," said Blake Stapleton, project manager estimator for Knoxville-based E. Luke Green Co. Inc., who added, "I've never seen a building like that taken down and reassembled."

E. Luke Green Co. Inc. got a commercial demolition permit from the city to demolish the terminal tower, the Track 29 music venue and a long, brick building on the 7-acre site that LIV Development bought in June for $5.25 million from the owners of the Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel.

E. Luke Green Co. removed the asbestos from the terminal tower, Stapleton said.

Then another construction company knocked the terminal tower down Tuesday, he said, and then hauled off the remains Wednesday.

The leader of an ad hoc effort to preserve terminal tower doesn't think that historic structure could be rebuilt.

"You don't preserve something by taking it down with a backhoe. I'm not buying it at all," said Justin Strickland, the author of "Chattanooga's Terminal Station," an Arcadia Publishing local history book about the former train station that's now the Choo Choo hotel.

Strickland thinks a proper way to preserve the building would have been to dismantle it brick by brick. The backhoe used Tuesday broke many of the building's bricks, he said.

"Why wouldn't they have done it the right way? They are not able to rebuild it the way it was, with the rubble I saw," he said. "Good luck [putting] Humpty Dumpty back together again."

Calls weren't returned Wednesday by the railroad museum, LIV Development, or the Choo Choo Partners LP, which owns the Choo Choo Hotel complex.

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at or or on Twitter @meetforbusiness or 423-757-6651.