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This photo from the early 1960s was taken a few years after Highland Plaza opened in 1958. Photo courtesy of ChattanoogaHistory.com

Before there were shopping malls in Chattanooga, there were shopping centers.

Sixty-two years ago, in 1958, Highland Plaza in Hixson opened as Chattanooga's first suburban shopping center.

Located at the intersection of Hixson Pike and Ashland Terrace, Highland Plaza originally had echoes of a downtown shopping district with two five-and-dime stores, two department stores, an auto and housewares store and more.

This photo, which dates back to 1962, is part of the Perry Mayo collection of images at ChattanoogaHistory.com, a website dedicated to preserving vintage documentary photographs of the Scenic City.

Today, Highland Plaza is still an important part of the Hixson retail district, although it now blends into a miles-long commercial corridor that also includes Northgate Mall, which opened in 1972.

Northgate Mall, which is in transition, has been in the news this week as a possible new location for Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts, a Hamilton County public magnet school which may relocate to a vacant Sears store there.

The original tenants of Highland Plaza included Miller Brothers department store, J.C. Penney (which moved to Northgate in 1972), Woolworth's, W.T. Grant Co., Miles Shoes, Gordon's Jewelers, Miller Jones Shoes and Kroger, according to Sam Hall, a local history buff who curates the ChattanoogaHistory.com website.

In the last decade, Highland Plaza has seen major upgrades by the Fletcher Bright Co. In 2015, a Walmart Neighborhood Market opened in an old Food Lion location. Then, two years ago, Farmers Home Furniture, one of the South's fastest growing retailers, opened a 27,000-square-foot store in Highland Plaza.

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Today, Highland Plaza has a Walmart Neighborhood Market, a Farmers Home Furniture store and a Big Lots store. Photo by Mark Kennedy

More info

Launched by history enthusiast Sam Hall in 2014, ChattanoogaHistory.com is designed to preserve historical images in the highest resolution available. If you have photo old negatives, glass plate negatives, or original nondigital prints taken in the Chattanooga area, contact Sam Hall at samhall@chattanoogatn.biz for information on how they may qualify to be digitized and preserved at no charge.

The Dublin, Ga.-based retailer also operates local stores in Jasper and Dayton, Tenn., and in Lafayette and Dalton, Ga., according to Times Free Press archives.

During the last few years, the 174,877-square-foot Highland Plaza has seen upgrades to the parking lot lighting, updated landscaping and new storefront facades. According to the Tennessee Department of Transportation, nearly 50,000 vehicles pass the shopping center every day.

Other present-day tenants include a Tuesday Morning housewares store, a Big Lots discount store, a Dollar Tree store and the Chattanooga Jiu-Jitsu Academy.

Follow remember "Remember when, Chattanooga?" here. 

Contact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfreepress.com.

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