Chattanooga in 1870 was merely a village. Just more than 6,000 people lived in the town that had only 58 industries employing 2,100 individuals. Over the next 40 years, the village became a city. Having a population of more than 44,000, the 300-plus industries employed 22,000 people. The Central Passenger Station, which opened Sept. 16, 1888, played a role in Chattanooga’s transformation.
Built in 1870 for freight service, the influx of passengers traveling to the city necessitated change. The owners temporarily closed the station in May 1888. During the ensuing three months, the freight depot became the newest and best passenger station in the city.
As part of the renovations, the owners added a lavish restaurant to cater to the needs of the traveling public. These improvements included $1,000 in linens and $2,000 in fixtures. A "ladies department" was added and required a full-time woman to work there.
An additional enhancement included an "iron shed," which was large enough to cover the station’s five tracks and thereby protect passengers from bad weather.
Initially, only three railroad companies used theses tracks, but a fourth was added shortly after opening. The East Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia Railroad joined the Alabama Great Southern Railway; Chattanooga, Rome and Columbus Railroad; and the Cincinnati Southern Railway in using the depot.
Quickly, the demands of the public outpaced the station’s capacity. By 1900, the Central Passenger Station could not adequately handle the increasing numbers of travelers. By the end of the decade, another station was built.
The opening of Terminal Station brought the end to Central Passenger Station. In just more than 20 years, it went from the talk of the town to a rundown hay and wheat storage facility. During the 1920s, most of the facilities were torn down. However, one building remained. Thought to be the oldest downtown Chattanooga building, the former baggage depot for the Queen and Crescent RR is now Urban Stack.
David Schmidt is an avid history buff. He and his family moved to Chattanooga several years ago. He has fallen in love with the community and its history. You can contact him directly at email@example.com. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.
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