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Photo by Dave Flessner / The new walkway to the mansion at the Hunter Museum of Art was added to provide a more direct route to the museum's newly renovated river terrace where many special events are held on the 80-foot bluff overlooking the Tennessee River.

The Hunter Museum of Art has added a new walkway around its historic downtown Chattanooga mansion and upgraded its River Terrace patio for special events as the museum sees more visitors and special events returning following the pandemic.

Virginia Anne Sharber, executive director of the Hunter Museum, said the $2 million upgrade began in early 2020 to help make needed improvements to the riverfront paver foundation and roof on the River Terrace that was erected in 2005 on the 80-foot bluff overlooking the Tennessee River . The upgrade included a new walkway to access directly the River Terrace special events facility built around the original mansion, which was built in 1904 and designed by Abram Garfield, the son of President James A. Garfield.

"The silver lining in having to do this work at this time is we were able to do most of the construction during the pandemic when we had to initially limit access to the museum and later even when we reopened visitation remained lower than normal," Sharber said.

As the economy and tourism have rebounded this year, more people are visiting the 69-year-old art museum and the renovated River Terrace is getting more bookings and events, Sharber said.

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"We're glad that once we've got this work completed on the River Terrace, we're seeing more interest and visitation again," she said.

With the new walkway allowing some visitors to get closer to the mansion which comprises the oldest part of the Hunter, the museum also has decided to move ahead with renovations to the columns on the historic structure. Scaffolding to support the columns as they are repaired and repainted will soon be going up, Sharper said.

The work was designed by Hefferlin and Kronenberg Architects and is being done by the EMJ Corp.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6340

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