by Henrylito D. Tacio
Chattanooga. This is a strange name for a city, and an unfamiliar place of course, particularly to Filipinos. ?Where is that?? I asked my aunt Aida when she told me we were about to visit Chattanooga.
When she replied that it?s located in Tennessee, I started to become very interested. ?Is that near Memphis or Nashville?? Memphis is the birthplace of rock and roll singer Elvis Presley, while Nashville immediately came to mind when I remembered an award-winning film.
My aunt told me it was very far from these two places, but that it would definitely be worth a trip, since according to her, ?the once America?s dirtiest city that?s Chattanooga is now one of the cleanest and most admired for its beauty, nature, and family-fun attractions.?
And so we packed our sleeping bags, clothes, food, and anything we could think of bringing before hitting the road. We left Columbus, Ohio very early in the morning and by noon we were already in Chattanooga.
“A sense of history lives on in Chattanooga,” says the New York Daily News. Indeed, Chattanooga’s history runs deep, involving men and women who lived centuries ago whose legacies are now considered valuable treasures of their descendants.
The name “Chattanooga” comes from the Greek Indian word for “rock coming to a point.” This refers to Lookout Mountain, which begins in Chattanooga and stretches 88 miles through Alabama and Georgia.
The city itself started out with two different names: Ross’ Landing and Lookout City. John Ross, Chief of the Cherokee Indians, established Ross’ Landing in 1816. This area consisted of a ferry, warehouse, and landing.
With the organization of Hamilton County in 1819, Ross’ Landing served not only the Cherokee trade but also as a convenient business center for the county. In 1838, the city officially took the name of “Chattanooga.”
Chattanooga is probably most popular for its fame as a railroad town. During the Civil War, the railroad was of vital importance for bringing in not only supplies to the troops stationed within the city, but also for transporting reinforcements. Four major railways met in Chattanooga: the Western and Atlantic, Memphis and Charleston, Louisville and Nashville, which connected to the Nashville and Chattanooga, and the Virginia and Tennessee Railroads, which went through Knoxville up to Virginia.
In 1908, the Chattanooga Choo Choo Terminal Station was built. Woodrow Wilson, Teddy Roosevelt, William Jennings Bryan and Franklin D. Roosevelt were just a few of the millions of travelers who passed through the city during the 61 years that the depot was in operation. The station still stands today as a testament of the golden age of railroad, with its 85-foot freestanding dome, the world’s largest free-standing dome.
In 1941, the “King of Swing” Glenn Miller released a song composed for the film Sun Valley Serenade. The song reached No. 1 on the Hit Parade and sold more than a million copies as a single. Miller was awarded the record industry’s first gold record for the “Chattanooga Choo Choo.”
Those who share avid interest in history would probably be happy to see the Chickamauga-Chattanooga National Military Park, the oldest and largest of its kind in the United States.
Among the attractions of the park, established in 1890 by veterans of both the Union and the Confederacy, include the Chickamauga Battlefield near Fort Oglethorpe; Lookout Mountain’s Point Park, Cravens’ House, and Sunset Rock; several reservations on Missionary Ridge; Orchard Knob; and Signal Point.
Unknowingly, Chattanooga is home to the world’s largest freshwater aquarium. Seahorses: Beyond Imagination, its newest exhibit, which just recently opened ay, takes you on a quiet journey to seahorse habitats where you’ll find tiny dwarf seahorses, plump potbelly seahorses, and whimsical sea dragons.
Next to aquarium is the Tennessee Aquarium IMAX 3D Theater, where you can dive Into The Deep, enchanting world of swaying kelp forests, glowing coral, sea lions, colorful garibaldi, starfish and even sharks!
Chattanooga is also home to the world’s only tow truck museum and hall of fame, the International Towing and Recovery Museum, as well as the National Memorial for the Unborn, and Dragon Dreams Museum. Each of these is unique to Chattanooga and unique to the world.
Another record holder, which you should not miss is the Lost Sea — another unique natural wonder listed as America’s Largest Underground Lake in the Guinness Book of World Records. Cavern tours include a glass-bottom ride across the incredible lake where giant rainbow trout surface to greet each tour group. Lost Sea has been designated a Registered Natural Landmark by the US Department of Interior.
The history of the cavern dates back to the days when a giant prehistoric jaguar became lost within its boundaries and whose remains are on display at the Museum of Natural History in New York.
America’s Most Amazing Mile is also here. The Lookout Mountain Incline Railway has delighted guests (and that already includes me!) for more than a century. As the Incline climbs historic Lookout Mountain, Chattanooga’s surrounding mountains and valleys come alive. Trolley style railcars carry you cloud high. The breathtaking grade of the track, 72.7 percent near the top, gives the Incline the unique distinction of being the world?s steepest passenger railway.
The heart of the city is nestled among the shores of the Tennessee River. If you want to get a close up, step aboard the Southern Belle, a 500-passenger riverboat that cruises the river in style. Or try something unique and cruise the river aboard the Chattanooga Ducks, an authentic renovated World War II Amphibious Landing Vehicle.
How do you get there? Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport serves the Tennessee Valley and North Georgia area with over 50 daily flights with convenient connections through Atlanta, Cincinnati, Charlotte, Chicago, and Memphis. Several rental car companies serve the airport. First Class Shuttle provides ground transportation to area hotels. Check the airport’s Web site at www.chattairport.com for flight schedules and more information. — ###