Sunday, January 20, 2013

Chattanooga, 21 Feet and the Richmond Family

Picture by Brad Snoke
On Wednesday, January 2, 1929, The Chattanooga Times included a small article titled “Twenty-One Feet on Market Street Sold for $125,000”. The headline intrigued me even though there were tons of other interesting titles, such as “West will hear of Chattanooga” and “Chase ends in wreck; Transporter Jailed”. In a nutshell, the article was about the sale of a former drug store for a large amount of money, $125,000 to be exact, which was a good amount of money for the early days of the Great Depression. I wanted to find out more about the store and its “new” owner.

The article stated the property was located at 803 Market Street. It was 21½ feet wide (front) by 100 feet deep. It had been owned and occupied by Mr. Jo Anderson for five years. The building in which the store set was a two-story building. The Nisely company took up most of the larger building but a portion of it held a candy store owned by Louis Schneider. The store was purchased by Edward Dean Richmond and his sister, Mrs. Ruth Richmond Thomasson for the above mentioned $125,000 (equivalent to $1,682,902.05 in today’s money).

In 2013, 803 Market Street is the home of Kennedy & Associates (lawyers) and is in the same block as Fischer Evans, which was in business at the time of the 1929 purchase, in downtown Chattanooga. The Nisely Company and the candy store have been gone for many years. So the stores have changed and their time has passed, but what about Edward Dean Richmond and his sister Ruth? Who were they?

Well, these siblings had a legacy of successful businessmen in their lineage. Their grandfather, Dean Richmond, was president of the New York Central railroad. While in charge of the New York Central Railroad, Dean constructed the first four-track railroad in America. At his death, he left an estate worth (in 19th century currency) ten million dollars. Their father, Edward Gould Richmond, was a man of many talents and is even credited with bringing manufacturing to Chattanooga. He served as mayor of Bavaria, New York and a bank president in Denver, Colorado. Upon his arrival in Chattanooga, he immediately set about turning Chattanooga into a manufacturing center. He founded the Richmond Cotton Oil Company (a pioneer in southern production of cotton seed oil), Richmond Hosiery Mills, Richmond Spinning Mills and other enterprises. In Americana (American Historical Magazine,) he is described as being one of the South’s leading manufacturers and philanthropists.

According to the magazine, Americana (American Historical Magazine) in the 1914 issue, Edward and Ruth Richmond were the children of Edward Gould Richmond, of Attica, New York and Caroline Pfau of Cincinnati. Edward Dean was born April 7, 1892 and his sister Ruth was born February 12, 1896 in Chattanooga, TN. In 1901, the family moved into one of Chattanooga’s finest homes, former mayor, Edmond G. Watkin’s home (now the Mayor’s Mansion in the Fortwood District).  Edward Dean died unmarried, but Ruth married Eugene Thomasson and would eventually move to Pennsylvania. They would leave a legacy in Chattanooga, though. It was called the Richmond Memorial Room otherwise known as the Children’s Room at the Chattanooga Public Library.

Apparently, Chattanooga owes a good amount to this family. Not only did Edward Gould promote manufacturing in Chattanooga, he and his estate contributed liberally to every organized charity in Chattanooga, according to an editorial in the local newspaper. His wife donated a large tract of land to Hamilton County at Signal Point (Signal Mountain), known as Richmond Park, for a public park. Upon Edward  Dean’s death, following in his father’s steps, he also left many donations to different charitable groups across Chattanooga.

It is amazing to think that a small article in an old newspaper would lead to such an important part of Chattanooga’s history. I will have to keep my eyes open to see if I can find out what happened to the Richmonds’ store.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Two new parks to open in downtown Chattanooga

Chattanooga citizens will have two new parks to play in by spring 2013. They are the Main Terrain Art Park, off of Main Street, and Stringer’s Ridge Nature Park on the North Shore. These two parks will provide a diversity of activities for locals and tourists alike; bolstering Chattanooga’s image as a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and will continue the urban renewal that began over 20 years ago with the opening of the Tennessee Aquarium.

The Main Terrain Art Park will open in three weeks, around January 24, 2013, and is the first downtown park opened in 15 years. It is located at the corner of West Main Street and Broad Street. The park was created from scratch, similar to Coolidge Park which opened in 1997. The area holding this park was just a few years ago an empty grass/rock lot. Now the area is a park that is highlighted by interactive sculptures, exercise stations and an island of green amidst a sea of concrete.  

The second park, Stringer’s Ridge Nature Park is scheduled to open sometime this spring. This park is a collaboration of The Trust for Public Land, the Tennessee River Gorge Trust and the City of Chattanooga.  Almost five years ago, the portion of Stringer’s Ridge that is set to become a nature park was up for residential development. Understanding how important this area was to the history and “greenness” of Chattanooga since it is one of the last completely forested areas in the area, these three groups went together to acquire the property saving it from becoming yet another set of condos.

According to Amber Lanier Nagle in an article published in "Get Out Chattanooga" (April, 2012), the 102-acre park will open in two phases, the first of which will be this spring. Phase one will have around 10 miles of new and enhanced old trails, an overlook area, parking, marked trail heads and trail signs. The finished product will have six trail heads, three have been earmarked for neighborhood access; a fly-over bridge; and a wooden elevated platform for visitors to view the Tennessee River as it flows through downtown Chattanooga. There are plans for integrated seating and interpretive exhibits that will highlight the history of the area. Five types of trails (map of trails) will be available designated by skill level ranging from an all-abilities trail that is family-friendly to am intermediate-level hikers and trail runners trail.  There is also a trail available for intermediate-level hikers, trail runners and mountain bikers.

This area of Stringer’s Ridge has been used for years by mountain bikers, hikers and the homeless alike. Many of the trails incorporated into this park are already in existence and have been “spruced up” for better access. Within the past two years, my husband acquired permission to metal detect the area and we went on a little backpacking trip through there. At first the trail was pretty easy to follow, although we did have to step around someone sleeping across the trail. A little ways into our hike, we came across a “tent city” of homeless individuals and the trails were full of trash.  As we plunged deeper up the ridge, the trails became more difficult to follow but were cleaner. Eventually, we came across the foundations for some old homes and one wooden home that was falling in. I am intrigued to see if these historic sites are a part of the park and, if so, what the planners have done with them. Overall, I enjoyed hiking this area when it was in the rough, and cannot wait for the opening this spring.

Cool Accessories for the hiker and mountain biker in all of us....