Station to mark 100th

Station to mark 100th

November 29th, 2009 by Brian Lazenby in Businesstopstory

Staff Photo by Allison Kwesell James White peeks into a parked train at the Chattanooga Choo-Choo hotel. Mr. White, who is from Chattanooga, says that he remembers riding the trains at the Choo-Choo when he was a child.

Staff Photo by Allison Kwesell James White peeks into...

Standing in the lobby of the Chattanooga Choo Choo last week, Todd Roarkand stared up at the Victorian-era dome ceiling and remarked how the entire city has changed since he moved away 25 years ago.

"It looks like Chattanooga has revitalized over the years," said Mr. Roark, 47, who now lives in Dallas, Texas.

Terminal Station, which celebrates its 100th anniversary on Tuesday, underwent a major renovation in the early 1970s that resulted in the opening of a hotel at 1400 Market St. The project helped jump-start the Southside revitalization that ultimately changed the face of downtown.

"It's nice," Mr. Roark said. "It was kind of run-down."

The former train station and landmark hotel continues to draw visitors to the city decades after the last train pulled into Terminal Station.

"We're known worldwide," said General Manager Jim Bambrey. "It's an icon of the city and the South."

Since Dec. 1, 2008, the Choo Choo has marked the station's 100th year, and the year-long celebration won the Tennessee Hospitality Award for Special Events.

The festivities will culminate Tuesday, the actual centennial anniversary date, with an open house from 5:30 to 8 p.m.

During the past year, the Choo Choo has held a number of events as part of its celebration, including the creation of its very own beer by Big River Brewery. Also, the Choo Choo has held Tennessee Valley Railroad excursions to Grand Junction, and a performance by the Glen Miller Orchestra, which made the station famous with the song "Chattanooga Choo Choo" in 1941.

Mr. Bambrey said the Glen Miller Orchestra will return to the hotel on May 29.

"We plan to make this an annual event," he said.

Bob Doak, president and chief executive of the Chattanooga Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the city is fortunate to have a landmark like the Choo Choo here that is so well known and continues to bring visitors.

"The Choo Choo is such a great brand for our city and represents so many years of family memories," he said. "Visitors either return year after year for the nostalgia or they just come to create memories that they can talk about for years to come."

Pat Roark, 66, a Chickamauga, Ga., resident and Todd's mother, remembers boarding a train at Terminal Station in 1961 that carried her and her senior class at Gordon Lee High School to Washington, D.C., for a senior trip.

The facility brings back a lot of memories for her, and she said she is glad to see it preserved.

As the hotel celebrates 100 years of the Terminal Station, it begins a new chapter in its life by dropping its former Holiday Inn partnership. It began operating this month under the Historic Hotels of America.

"We are excited and looking forward to the next 100 years" Mr. Bambrey said.