Editor's note: This is a press release from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Historic Preservation Division. Though the release lists Covenant College as the "property owner" of the historic hotel, it does not make crystal clear that it uses the building as part of its campus. In fact, when Covenant bought the place in 1964, it was the campus. Covenant has, of course, since expanded into additional buildings.
Lookout Mountain Hotel was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on February 27, 2019. The property is perched atop the western brow of Lookout Mountain in northwest Georgia, just south of Chattanooga, Tennessee. The nomination was sponsored by Covenant College, the property owner, and nomination materials were prepared by the consultants Lord Aeck Sargent.
Built in 1927 and nicknamed the “Castle in the Clouds,” Lookout Mountain Hotel is a five-story grand resort hotel designed in the Tudor Revival style by architect Reuben Harrison (R.H.) Hunt. Lookout Mountain experienced a boom in tourism in the 1920s and the hotel, along with other attractions, such as the Fairyland Inn (1925), Rock City Gardens (1932), and Ruby Falls (1930) were built to support tourism, drawing visitors from great distances. The tourism boom was primarily due to the mountain’s proximity to the Dixie Highway and the 1927 paving of the mountain’s roads.
This new wave of tourism also brought changes to hotel design, such as larger buildings and more amenities; Lookout Mountain Hotel offered a swimming pool, tennis courts, a miniature golf course, croquet courts, horseback riding, and “dancing under the stars,” weekly dances held at The Overlook, hosted by nationally-recognized band leaders supplemented with hired dance stars. Earlier hotels were designed to focus attention on the natural surroundings and offered guests privacy and solitude, rather than entertainment and social functions of the early 20th century hotels.
This trend of bringing amenities commonly associated with urban life to the country is noted in David Stradling’s Making Mountains for creating “an urban atmosphere in the mountains ... [that] did not center on the consumption of nature, let alone wilderness.” Lookout Mountain Hotel, though certainly capitalizing on the natural setting, focused much of its promotion on the ‘scene’ rather than the scenery. Period newspaper headlines frequently indicated the importance of society and socializing at the hotel.
In addition to its significance in the area of entertainment/recreation, Lookout Mountain Hotel is also significant in the area of architecture as a representative example of the Tudor Revival style and the work of prominent local architect R.H. Hunt. Tudor Revival was a romanticized early-20th century style and often features parapeted gables, ornamental false half-timbering, stucco or masonry-veneered walls, and crenellated towers. At the hotel, the style is also reflected in the interior spaces with details such as oversized stone fireplaces, plaster coat-of-arms ornamentation, and rusticated woodwork seen in box beams, brackets, modillions, and half-timbering.
R.H Hunt, a prolific Georgia-born architect, based his practice in Chattanooga and reportedly designed between 400 and 500 buildings during his career. He was recognized as an outstanding craftsman in his field, and a 1980 thematic National Register nomination notes his focus on public buildings and utilization of popular architectural styles of the time. Among many others, he is credited with design of the Tivoli Theatre, Carnegie Library, and Hamilton County Courthouse in Chattanooga, TN, and the Baptist Tabernacle (now a music venue) in Atlanta.