Signal Mountain was founded 100 years ago, and the town is ready for its festive Centennial Anniversary! Now is a great time to reflect on what our beloved town was like in 1919.
What was it like living in coal mining communities on Signal Mountain? There was no running water or electricity in the mining communities, even by the 1920s. Primary schools, located near the mines, provided only basic education for the very youngest children. Far too soon, the young boys went to work in the mines along with their fathers, uncles and brothers. By the age of 40 or 50, most men had developed black lung disease and were too sick to continue working.
What is the significance of Burnt Cabin Springs? D.B. Collins, a prospector, built a cabin near what is now known as Rainbow Lake in 1890. After the cabin burned, the nearby mineral springs were named Burnt Cabin Springs. Many visitors came to the Signal Mountain Inn to drink the “epsomia” water, called the “Queen of all Waters,” from the spring. This water was thought to heal problems associated with the stomach, liver and kidneys.
What was it like staying at the Signal Mountain Inn? When it opened in 1913, it was the latest in a network of luxury resort hotels in the eastern United States. The inn, built by C.E. James, developer of Signal Mountain, was advertised as having hot and cold running water and a telephone in every room. It was located in an area near Signal Point called Signal Mountain Place, and featured a private club atmosphere. Every delicacy known to man was served in the hotel dining room. On the lunch menu, sandwiches included the Signal Mountain Club for $.75, chicken salad for $.50, pineapple for $.30, smoked tongue for $.40, imported Frankfurter for $.40, French sardines for $.40 and caviar for $.50. Some of the drinks included buttermilk, half & half, orange ale, Spanish chocolate and Budweiser, all for less than a quarter. A separate dining room for children was an unusual feature of the Signal Mountain Inn.
What was it like to swim in Rainbow Lake? Rainbow Lake was a short walk from the Signal Mountain Inn. The surrounding terrain was picturesque, idyllic and wild. In some places, the depth was 15 feet, making it a poor spot to bring very young children. Karl D. Hawk and Carl Dixon were lifeguards and saved many people from drowning. It was a wonderful environment for young teenage boys who wanted to live the adventures that they read about in books. They could paddle canoes and build their own rafts to cross the lake.
What was it like riding on the streetcar? The Chattanooga Traction Company’s Signal Mountain Line started in downtown Chattanooga, extended across the Tennessee River and proceeded up Signal Mountain to the Signal Mountain Inn. Some citizens said they could set their watches by the whistle blows at each stop. A couple of interesting features on the streetcar were mint machines and gum machines that were placed alternately at every other seat. There were several flavors of gum, and it was difficult for a child to decide which flavor to choose before putting in the nickel and pulling the plunger.
What was the old Fire and Police station like? The Signal Mountain Inn, built to be fireproof, partially burned in 1924. This event prompted a fire and police station to be built the following year for $6,800. Two years later, the Town Hall, with a temporary jail, was added at a cost of $15,000. Chief Charles Brown sold snacks, cold drinks and gas from two Gulf pumps as a side business. The architecture of the newest Signal Mountain Fire Station on Shackleford Ridge Road is reminiscent of the first fire and police station on Ridgeway Avenue.
What was the old golf course like? In 1918, the Signal Mountain Golf Course was completed and was called “The Links.” This tract of land was originally named “the salting grounds” because farmers from the valley brought their livestock to this area in the spring to fatten them up until fall. Troughs were filled with salt to add to their diets. A clubhouse was built after the course was finished, but it burned. Soon afterwards, the present Signal Mountain Clubhouse was constructed.
What was it like attending the Signal Mountain Grammar School? This school was the continuation of the Signal Mountain School that was started by Mr. Charles E. James. This new building of mountain stone and stucco was constructed when Hamilton County took over the responsibility of the first little Signal Mountain School. First through eighth grades were housed in Signal Mountain Grammar School.
For more information about these topics and others, please go to the website at Signalmountain100.com for times and dates of Centennial activities. The 100th anniversary of the Town is the perfect year for adults and young people to celebrate this important occasion and learn fun facts about the history of our beautiful town!