Through floods, pandemics and near bankruptcy, Read House keeps Chattanooga history and tourism alive for 150 years

The Read House hotel in downtown Chattanooga took on a Great Gatsby-era look on Tuesday with flapper dancers and bellhops wearing 1920s-style derby hats to mark the hotel’s 150th anniversary.

Marking the birthday of hotel founder Sam Read, the owners of the Read House on Tuesday held one of many celebrations planned this year in recognition of the Read House hotel and its predecessor, the Crutchfield House, ML King Boulevard and downtown Broad Street.

The 242-room hotel has been rebuilt and survived floods, fires, pandemics and near bankruptcy over the past century and a half to keep its doors open for overnight guests since 1872.

“There is so much history and so many fond memories in this building that we knew if we could bring back the luster and grandeur it would support downtown Chattanooga, and it does,” Ken said. Markel, senior vice president of operations at Avocet. Hospitality, said at Tuesday’s celebration at the Read House.

(READ MORE: Chattanooga’s Read House celebrates 150 years as the oldest hotel in the South)

Avocet, which owns or buys other historic hotels in Charleston, South Carolina, and Mobile, Alabama, bought the hotel — then a Radisson — six years ago and spent $28 million to restore the Read House as its own independent hotel brand.

Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly, a former downtown car dealership owner and business investor, recalls thinking at the time that such an investment in the then-struggling downtown hotel “was a a little crazy”.

“But as mayor, I am definitely and deeply grateful for Avocet’s vision and generosity in what they have done here at the Read House, and all of Chattanooga is indebted to them for preserving and bringing back to life this great hotel,” Kelly said before presenting the owners with a city proclamation declaring June 14 Read House Day in Chattanooga.

(READ MORE: Read House historian says spirit in room 311 takes a lot of oxygen for a ghost)

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Through floods, pandemics and near bankruptcy, Read House keeps Chattanooga’s history and tourism alive for 150 years

Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger said the Read House, its ballroom and other meeting facilities have been the site of memorable events and personalities throughout its history.

“It’s been one of the building blocks we’ve had for tourism in our community, and it continues to be one of the great assets for our residents and our visitors,” Coppinger said before handing over to the County Distinguished Hospitality Certificate.

Since the original 45-room Crutchfield House was opened by Sam Read on the property across from Union Station in 1872 – and was later expanded and renamed Read House – the hotel has hosted hundreds of thousands of guests. guests. Visitors have included Winston Churchill, Elvis Presley, Oprah Winfrey and several politicians who became President of the United States.

Legend has it that at least one of his guests never left the hotel. In the 1920s, Annalissa Neverly was allegedly murdered in the bathtub by her husband after he found her with a gentleman suitor in room 311. The room which many believe is still haunted is now only rented around Halloween, although tours are regularly offered in the room. where many report seeing Neverly’s ghost in the mirror or witnessing other strange occurrences.

Elsewhere in the Read House, the Silver Ballroom has been the scene of hundreds of weddings, dances and special occasions, while the Green Room has long been famous for its frogs legs, peppermint ice cream and dinner parties specials.

With the help of history students from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, the Read House tries to preserve the memories of those who were married, recognized, or had memorable occasions at the hotel. The hotel is collecting old photos and other memorabilia to put into a time capsule that will be sealed for the New Year’s Eve party at the Read House at the end of the year.

The hotel also recognizes its year-round history with a limited edition of the special brand of Double Oaked straight bourbon whiskey made by JW Kelly, a brand of whiskey named after the Irishman who operated the bar and living room of the Read House when it opened.

Contact Dave Flessner at [email protected] or 423-757-6340. Follow him on Twitter @dflessner1.

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