See Rock City Barn Roofs Lead to Chattanooga, Tennessee
Visiting Rock City
My husband and I visited Rock City during the first vacation trip we took after we were married many years ago. It was not the focus of our vacation which was the Smoky Mountains, but after seeing numerous barns and mostly barn roofs advertising this site in many States leading to Chattanooga, Tennessee we decided to stop and see what the fuss was all about.
Actually I remember hearing my grandparents describe this site on road trips they had taken years earlier. So the words "Rock City" were not new to me.
It was happenstance that we actually stayed at a lodging on top of Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga.
We had reservations at a place in Chattanooga but after viewing the room we decided that we could do better and decided not to stay there. The room was musty smelling so we drove on up to Lookout Mountain and fortunately found a place to stay up there near Rock City which we wanted to experience.
Fortunate? Well, I'll share our experience and you be the judge.
This mountain which at its tallest peak is at an elevation of 2,392 feet (729 meters) is situated in parts of three states, those being Alabama (where most of the mountain is contained) and Georgia as well as Tennessee.
Lookout Mountain was originally occupied by Native American Indians.
During the Civil War the Battle of Lookout Mountain took place and there are reminders of this in nearby places.
Mountains always seem to draw visitors. Some like the clean air and fresh breezes. Others like the views. Some like the challenge of rock climbing and photographers are always interested in the scenery.
Today located in the Chattanooga, Tennessee part of Lookout Mountain is an Incline Railway, the caves of Ruby Falls, a hang gliding school and the area known as Rock City which is what we wished to see while there.
Rock City Gardens (Good overview of Rock City)
To earn money enabling them to stay and live on the mountain some of the early settlers ran places of lodging for rental purposes.
The Carters had other ideas.
Frieda Carter had an interest and knack for gardening and in particular, rock gardening. She worked at developing pathways through the natural surroundings which already had a great amount of beauty and interesting rock formations.
Adding colorful plants which were labeled as to type and adding bits of whimsy such as folklore statues it became a place that people wished to see.
Frieda's husband, Garnet Carter developed a miniature golf course on Lookout Mountain. But his biggest idea and most successful one which lured people from all over to come and "See Rock City" was the painting of barns and barn roofs advertising the site.
Farmers happily let their barns be painted at no cost which meant that was one extra job that they would not have to do for themselves.
As dozens of barns turned into hundreds of barns being painted...all with the advertisement pointing people to See Rock City, naturally people became interested in finding out more about this site.
Rock City was opened to the public in 1932 and by the 1950s barns from the upper midwest all the way down to Texas advertised Rock City. It was ingenious marketing and as long as the paint held up it was fairly long lasting!
That is undoubtedly what drew both sets of my grandparents to visiting Rock City and why I was familiar with it long before I got to see it in person. I remember hearing their stories about this beautiful and unusual site.
Remember, in those days prior to the Internet, word of mouth became some of the best advertising. As they traveled to and from the South for winter vacations (both living in Wisconsin at the time) it would have been hard to ignore seeing the numerous barns all advertising this place. Curiosity alone probably would have spurred them to checking it out.
Visiting Rock City became a generational thing. First my grandparents, then my parents and finally my husband and I got to see and enjoy it.
Since we had no reservations the first thing we did after driving up the mountain was to secure a place to spend the night. We were happy to discover some little cottages right near rock city and after putting our suitcases in the room we walked over to Rock City.
It was getting late in the day and we wanted to see as much as possible before darkness obscured the views.
It is wonderful how the pathways wind around the natural features and the gardens were lovely. Frieda Carter obviously spent much time and thought in developing this tourist site.
We made it (I am happy to report) through Fat Man's Squeeze and enjoyed the humor which was used in labeling the rock formations.
Since we were there in the month of October, the colors of the tree leaves were resplendent.
It was getting quite dark before we ended our visit and returned to our room for the night. That is when we discovered that there was no lock on a door to an adjoining room!
We rigged up some hangars that would fall if anyone tried opening the door thinking that would be our warning system. Since it was a one story cottage, we did not feel comfortable leaving windows open for the night. Remember...we live in Houston which is the 4th largest city in the U.S. and we are cautious.
In the middle of the night I accidentally knocked a jelly glass (yes...that is what the original purpose was!) off of the small pedestal sink in the bathroom and it broke. The bathtub behind the curtain revealed a not so clean appearance so we opted out of using it.
Needless to say we did not get the best night of sleep and were happy to leave there the next morning. When we reported the broken glass the next morning when checking out, the owner told us that she was glad that we told her and because of that she would not charge us for the expense.
Expense! It was an old jelly glass!!! I wonder to this day what value she placed upon it?
The name of the place now escapes my memory, but if a nearby motel is still there with cottage units and you check it out and it looks similar to my description...make sure whatever you do that you do not break her cherished used jelly glasses!
There are undoubtedly better accommodations by now. That was almost forty years ago. (Smile)
We did not have the time to see Ruby Falls, but here is a video of this waterfall that is in an underground cavern within Lookout Mountain in case you are ever in the area and wish to see it in person.
Lookout Mountain Incline Railway
The Incline Railway is another attraction in the Lookout Mountain area. We did not take time to do it but after viewing the video, I would be tempted if ever traveling through that area again. Built in 1895 it is reputed to be the World's Steepest Incline Railway with a 72.7% grade near the top.
Because of this it has been declared not only a National Historic Site but also a National Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark.
Terrific views of not only Chattanooga but the surrounding countryside can be seen from the top of Lookout Mountain. The video shows this as well as the journey going both up and down.
Rock City is one tourist spot that because of the natural beauty and setting, I would recommend visiting. I wish we had counted the barn roofs advertising this site on our way to Chattanooga, Tennessee. Suffice it to say it was many!
Just like the old saying "All roads lead to Rome"...all (or most) barn roofs lead to Rock City!
Have you ever visited Rock City?
Rock City Gardens
© 2011 Peggy Woods