Image: Margolies, John, photographer. Lookout Mountain Tourist Lodge sign, vertical view, Chattanooga, Tennessee. Photograph.

Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/2017703581/>.

A new reason for people to travel has become popular on the Internet. It’s called urban exploration, or “urbex” for short. From YouTube to personal blogs, you can find hundreds of urban explorers road tripping across America, exploring abandoned man-made structures like mansions, motels, and amusement parks, and documenting them for fun and posterity. What’s more, our own CEO Stephanie Stuckey recently became somewhat of an amateur urban explorer herself on her recent road trip to Lookout Mountain.

A Look at Lookout Mountain

Of course, Stephanie’s not the first to explore the area around Lookout Mountain, located on the northwest Georgia/south-central Tennessee border. The first people to call the area home were the Chickamauga, part of the Native American Cherokee tribe. They called the mountain Chat-a-nu-ga, which would lend its name to the nearby Tennessee city sometime later.

Lookout Mountain Tourist Lodge office ruins.
Image: Stuckey’s Corp. / Stephanie Stuckey

Next came the early European settlers and missionaries who would force the Chickamauga out west as part of what would become known as “The Trail of Tears.” They would take over their land and build a city called Summertown on top of the mountain — an early and aptly named resort where colonists would come to spend their summers.

In 1863, the Civil War would come to the area, and on November 24, 1863, the Battle of Lookout Mountain would be fought about halfway up the mountain in fierce hand-to-hand combat. The Battle is sometimes also called “The Battle Above the Clouds” because on the same day as the battle, a weather phenomenon caused fog to come down from the cooler mountain above, creating an effect that makes it seem that those on top of the mountain are above the clouds.

Boomtown in the Sky

Lookout Mountain Tourist Lodge sign today.
Image: Stuckey’s Corp. / Stephanie Stuckey

The early 20th Century saw a tourism boom at Lookout Mountain when rich businessmen would make the mountain their home, and Lookout Mountain would become a tourist destination year-round. However, no one did more to bring tourists to the area than Garnet Carter, who along with his wife, created the famous Rock City Gardens and its painted “See Rock City” barn advertisements seen hundreds of miles around the popular roadside attraction. (Carter would also create the first mini-golf course he called “Tom Thumb Golf,” which he would sell and later use the money to fund Rock City Gardens.)

With all of those tourists coming to Lookout Mountain to see Rock City, Ruby Falls, and other nearby roadside attractions, they needed a place to stay, and hotels and motels began popping up near every scenic overlook and natural attraction on the mountain. They had names like Fairyland Motel — named so because it was only seven blocks away from the entrance to Rock City which on top of Lookout Mountain. Then there was the subject of today’s story — the Lookout Mountain Tourist Lodge.

Stephanie Stuckey’s Urbex

The Internet doesn’t reveal much information on the Lookout Mountain Tourist Lodge except for a couple of postcards from the 1950s that show a well-landscaped property with between a half-dozen to a dozen rooms in two separate buildings, and an office located in a separate, smaller building at the entrance to the property. The back of the postcard says that the motel was located at the base of Lookout Mountain into Chattanooga, a half-mile from Lookout Mountain city limits on what was once the very touristy Cummings Highway. Each room offered a beautiful view of Moccasin Bend. They also came with all the amenities and comforts that any mid-century, modern road-tripper could expect — private baths, air conditioning, electric heat, Beautyrest mattresses, and a free 21” TV.

Lookout Mountain Tourist Lodge reclaimed by nature today.
Image: Stuckey’s Corp. / Stephanie Stuckey

As you can see, Stephanie’s pictures taken during her urban expedition to the motel belie the true beauty this motel once was. Its well manicured lawn is now overrun with weeds as high as the motel’s windows, blocking any view of Moccasin Bend. Once well-placed trees have since grown tall and fallen over the motel’s roof. The only “air conditioning” now comes from the wind blowing through the broken windows.

The motel has obviously been abandoned for quite a few years, and it’s sad to see what was once one of the finest tourist courts in Tennessee fallen into such disrepair. However, this is what Motel Mondays are about — celebrating motels, including the memories of those that once were.

Stuckey’s – We’re Making Road Trips Fun Again.

www.stuckeys.com