Sophia Scholze Long campaigned to preserve the beauty and history of Chattanooga long before such ideas were fashionable.
Sophia's parents, Robert and Gertrude King Scholze, who were both born in Germany, arrived in Chattanooga in 1870. Joining Chattanooga's post-Civil War industrial boom, Robert established the Scholze Tannery on South Broad Street. As his business prospered, the couple built a stately home on Wauhatchie Pike in St. Elmo.
Known as a successful businessman as well as for his generosity, Robert purchased a debt-ridden Lutheran church (behind today's Choo-Choo) and returned it debt free to the congregation. In the 1890s, when Hamilton County was unable to provide the funds, he furnished the money to build a school in St. Elmo. Gertrude later gave a summer home on Walden's Ridge, "Three Oaks," to the Vine Street Orphanage and also helped build a children's wing at the Pine Breeze Tuberculosis Sanatorium.
Born into the Scholze family of six in 1883, Sophia married land developer Sim Perry Long in 1912. The couple had five children (and 16 grandchildren) and raised them at their attractive home on East Dallas Road.
Designed by Sophia with an English cottage theme, Longholm's interior was decorated with murals painted by Sale Creek native and Chicago Art Institute-trained Robert Patterson. The artist depicted scenes in the dining room from Chattanooga history including the John Ross House, the view from Signal Point before European settlement, Market Street in 1864, and Lula Lake and Falls. Patterson painted scenes in the nursery from Peter Pan and other children's stories.
Sophia created and tended the home's extensive, violin-shaped garden. Termed a "garden amphitheater," it was featured in the July 1934 issue of Better Homes and Gardens. Open to the public on Easter Sundays, the garden was the site of parties, weddings, and Girls Preparatory School's May Day events.
Sophia was president of the Riverview Garden Club and served as the president of the Tennessee Federation of Garden Clubs. Like her parents, she was known for her philanthropy, supporting the symphony and opera associations and serving as president of the Chattanooga Music Club. She also gave to the Children's Home and the First Presbyterian Church, where she was a lifelong member.
However, it was not until the 1950s when Sophia became a leading advocate for preserving the landscape and history of Chattanooga.
Moccasin Bend, with its extensive acreage, was the site of ancient Native American settlements as well as a Union encampment during the Civil War. Numerous efforts had been made since the early 1900s to preserve and industrialize the land. The collapse of a national park effort in 1953 led to new attempts to industrialize the Bend — and the formation of the preservationist-oriented Moccasin Bend Association.
One of its most active members, Sophia brought to Chattanooga several nationally recognized urban planners to develop plans for the historic peninsula. She served as president of the association when it received the deed of ownership to the Bend "on behalf of the citizens of Hamilton County." Sophia's efforts in many ways helped pave the way for the Moccasin Bend National Archeological District becoming part of the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park in 2003.
Cameron Hill had been the site of Union cannons defending Chattanooga during the Civil War and a premier residential neighborhood by the 1880s. In 1957, the city government moved to demolish the homes, lop off about 150 feet of the hill and use the dirt to construct a freeway. Sophia and a number of like-minded citizens formed the Cameron Hill Historical Association and called for a referendum.
Many citizens opposed the destruction of Cameron Hill. She again brought in urban planners to explain the historical and tourist value of the site, but it was obvious by 1961 that the federal government, which owned most of the property, and the city were determined to move ahead with the project. In a last-ditch effort, Sophia stood for a day in front of the bulldozers, temporarily halting the destruction of Cameron Hill.
In 1968, she was honored by the Chattanooga Area Historical Association "for her unceasing efforts on behalf of local historical preservation." The resolution stated, "She has been vocal when many of us were silent". showing "rare courage, sacrificing personal interests to further local preservation of state and national importance."
Sophia Long died on Jan. 2, 1970.
Gay Moore is the author of "Chattanooga's Forest Hills Cemetery" and "Chattanooga's St. Elmo." For more information contact chattahistoricalassoc.org.