A Step Back in Time

Revamped for 2020, The Read House Hotel in downtown Chattanooga fittingly resurrects the grandeur of the Roaring 1920s.

By Gina Christman

Photography courtesy of The Read House Hotel


    If you haven’t considered a getaway to Chattanooga, Tennessee in a while, it’s time to go and see what this city’s been up to. The breathtaking beauty of the Appalachian mountains and the expansive Tennessee River are reasons enough to visit, but add in Chattanooga’s history, culture, entertainment and highly acclaimed culinary scene and you’ll find a vacation close to home that feels like worlds away.

    Central to the Chattanooga experience is the historic Read House Hotel. Built in 1847 by Thomas Crutchfield, Sr., the glamorous “Crutchfield House” survived the Civil War (it served as a Union hospital during that time) but twenty years from the date it was built, it was struck by a disastrous fire and burned to the ground. In 1871, Dr. John T. Read and his family took over the hotel, seeing it through a series of additions and renovations, but in 1925 the hotel was demolished and the present 10-story building was built.

    Fast-forward to today, a recently completed $28 million renovation has made this old hotel new again. From the second you arrive at the front door you’ll step back in time. Staff uniforms recall a bygone era and everyone’s jovial personality sets the tone for a throwback experience. Likewise, servers’ outfits and décor at Read House Bar & Billiards are authentically reminiscent of the Roaring 20s, but without being too kitschy.

    The hotel lobby is a virtual gallery of contemporary art and photography set against warm woods and classic architectural details. A clever mix of Art Déco and transitional furnishings brings a freshness to the place and the result is a perfect marriage between rich Old World and chic New World.

    Guest rooms are modern and comfortable, and the huge black-and-white-tiled bathrooms represent the elegance and glamour of interior design in the 1920s.

    Be sure to request a tour of Room 311—it’s allegedly haunted by the ghost of Annalisa Netherly, a guest who was murdered there in the 1920s. The room is designed to look as it would have back then, and the story of the murder casts an eery charm.

    Perhaps the flagship of the hotel is the restaurant, Bridgeman’s Chophouse. Art Déco detailing and a soundtrack from the Rat Pack era (sixties music, sure, but still a perfect fit for the room) and the stage is set for a magical meal.

    The city offers a very accommodating transit system, but Chattanooga is really a walking city. Plan to get your steps in and get some culture, too, by walking from The Read House to the Hunter Museum of American Art, then up a gentle hill to Bluff View Art District. Sip artisan coffees and teas at Rembrandt’s Coffee House and pop in for lunch at the famous Tony’s Pasta Shop. Before heading back, visit the celebrated two-acre River Gallery Sculpture Garden which overlooks the Tennessee River. thereadhousehotel.com