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See Rock City Barn Roofs Lead to Chattanooga, Tennessee

Updated on October 15, 2017
Peggy W profile image

I live in Houston, and I have worked as a nurse. My interests include traveling, reading, gardening, cooking, and our wonderful pets.

Rock City Gardens, 1400 Patton Rd. Lookout Mountain
Rock City Gardens, 1400 Patton Rd. Lookout Mountain | Source

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.

Yours truly at Rock City
Yours truly at Rock City | Source

Lookout Mountain

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)

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.

Rock City waterfall
Rock City waterfall | Source

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.

There I am on the swinging bridge at Rock City.
There I am on the swinging bridge at Rock City. | Source

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!

Painted barn advertising Rock City
Painted barn advertising Rock City | Source

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.

Image of my husband posing at Lovers Leap, Rock City.
Image of my husband posing at Lovers Leap, Rock City. | Source

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.

Getting dark as we explored Rock City.
Getting dark as we explored Rock City. | Source

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.

Brilliant foliage at Rock City in October.
Brilliant foliage at Rock City in October. | Source

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)

Rock City Gardens, 1400 Patton Rd. Lookout Mountain
Rock City Gardens, 1400 Patton Rd. Lookout Mountain | Source

Ruby Falls

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!

Sign at Rock City on Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, Tennessee
Sign at Rock City on Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, Tennessee | Source

Have you ever visited Rock City?

See results

Rock City Gardens

A markerRock City -
Rock City, 1400 Patten Rd, Lookout Mountain, GA 30750, USA
get directions

© 2011 Peggy Woods

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    • Peggy W profile image
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      Peggy Woods 17 months ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Susan,

      I'm so glad that you got to view Rock City. Thanks for the correction regarding the Incline Railway. We did not get a chance to take it or view the other sites you mentioned. If ever back in that area I would like to do so. Too bad they do not sell combination tickets for all three. Or perhaps they do? It certainly gives vacationers to that area much to do and see. :)

    • SusanMMacdonald profile image

      Susan M Macdonald 17 months ago from USA

      My family and I just went to Rock City a week or two ago. After decades of seeing all the barns and birdhouses, I finally got to "see Rock City" and it was worth the trip. One thing, though: the Incline Railway does NOT take you to Rock City. It goes up. You get out, admire the view, go to the giftshop, and if you want, walk to Battles For Chattanooga Museum and Point Park (a Civil War museum and a small national park), then go down again. Rock City, Ruby Falls, and the Incline Railway all sell tickets for each other, but the three -- we learned to our dismay -- are not in walking distance of each other.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Phyllis,

      Glad to be able to introduce Rock City and Lookout Mountain to you via this hub. Am sure that if you visit there next summer, you will be pleased to see this site for yourself. Thanks for your comments.

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 6 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      Great hub and photos, Peggy. You make me want to plan a trip there for next summer. Thanks.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Alastar,

      I see that you and my husband agree on that score. Haha!

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 6 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      Peggy, I have never heard of Rock City and Lookout Mountain before -- so glad I cam across this great hub of yours! Beautiful photos, too. Thank you.

    • Alastar Packer profile image

      Alastar Packer 6 years ago from North Carolina

      Yeah, the articles were the best part...haahaa!

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Alastar,

      Too bad some of those old cannon balls were not kept and passed down. Or maybe they ended up in museums?

      My husband had quite a Playboy collection of magazines and many years ago when we were in a clearing out mode...he sold them. Would probably be more valuable today, but unless one has unlimited storage...can't keep everything! He said that he always enjoyed the articles. :))

    • Alastar Packer profile image

      Alastar Packer 6 years ago from North Carolina

      Never saw one so I guess maybe they were left behind when went off to school or WW2. They WOULD be highly collectible now wouldn't they. Once he found out I'd looked over his playboy mags as a young boy and threw em all away...including the first Marylin Monroe one worth several thou now!

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Alastar,

      The swinging bridge at Lookout Mountain did not bother me. Will take note about the jelly glasses and treat them with better respect in the future! Ha! We drank out of similar glasses when growing up...the "waste not, want not" theory. Good sense actually! Does your dad still have those cannon balls? Would probably be quite collectable! Thanks for your comment.

    • Alastar Packer profile image

      Alastar Packer 6 years ago from North Carolina

      How did you like the swinging bridge Peggy. Another good pose with your husband about to take a dive there. And I'm surprised at you, everyone one should know jelly-glasses are prized possessions in Tennessee..lol. Seriously though, what a cool place Rock City is. My father was from Chattanooga and one of the last things he told me was how he wished we could have gone there together. His home was near Lookout Mt. where he would often find cannon and minee balls in the fields. Thank you Peggy, thoroughly enjoyed this visit.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi agusfanani,

      Rock City truly is a beautiful place with all the natural rock formations and the plantings. Am sure that you would make it through Fat Man's Squeeze just fine! Haha! Thanks for your comment.

    • agusfanani profile image

      agusfanani 6 years ago from Indonesia

      Rock City is a very attractive place to visit for its many interesting objects to enjoy and I think the view of the Lovers Leap makes it more special, and The Fat Man's squeeze really makes me curious what it's like.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi JamaGenee,

      Funny you should mention raspberry vinaigrette. We recently bought some raspberry infused balsamic vinegar that we are LOVING at the moment! Great over fresh sliced strawberries and other fruit. Maybe you will still find a home for your jelly! Ha!

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 6 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      Peggy, great idea! Wish I'd thought of it before my son moved out of state! Otherwise, I can't think of anyone to gift with the remaining jelly, but can relate to the raspberry jelly you bought for a certain recipe. A friend and I went ga-ga over Raspberry Vinaigrette one year, so I bought a bottle shortly before it lost its charm for regular use. Finally tossed the still almost-full bottle in a fridge cleaning! ;D

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Hello, hello,

      So glad that you appreciated this look at Rock City. Thanks for leaving a comment.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

      An absolutely amazing piece of nature. Thank you, Peggy for showing this to us.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Patty,

      Thanks for taking the time to read and learn about Rock City. That barn roof advertising works! It got you here! :)) Appreciate the comment and votes.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 6 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      I agree that the photos are fantastic. Rememberng those Rock City signs on barns, I've always wondered about the place. Now I see it! Rated Up and Awesome.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi JamaGenee,

      Oh the things we do for nostalgia purposes! Ha! My mother was a jam and jelly eater and my husband and I rarely touch it...so just recently gave away the jar of strawberry jam that was opened and taking up space in our refrigerator to a friend who has sons who would eat it. If we were ever tempted to purchase some, it would have to be the tiniest jar available. I once purchased an expensive raspberry jelly for a cookie recipe...but had my mother to eat the rest. I was giving the cookies away also. Now I will simply pass on anything that calls for jams or jellies...and/or give the excess away.

      Do you have friends or neighbors who would empty your jelly for you and return your jelly jar? Perhaps that is your answer! :))

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi AliciaC,

      There are many places around the world that I would also never know about if it were not for the terrific HubPage writers sharing information about places near where they live or others they have visited. Makes for some great armchair traveling! Thanks for letting me know that you enjoyed this hub about Rock City in Chattanooga. Appreciate it!

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 6 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      Peggy, you'll probably laugh when I tell you the last time I bought jelly, I picked a brand that comes in the same kind of "glass" we drank milk, iced tea and lemonade from when I was a kid! Problem is, I don't often put jelly on toast or eat many PB&J sandwiches, so it's going to be awhile before that jelly jar becomes a beverage container. ;D

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This is another of your very enjoyable travel hubs which lets me explore places that I'd love to visit but probably never will. Thanks for the interesting information, photos and videos. I've learned about a place which I never knew existed!

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Happyboomernurse,

      When I grew up jelly jars were regularly used as glasses for fruit juice and milk in our house. Those were the days of "waste not, want not." Just did not expect to see that in a rental cottage at Rock City on Lookout Mountain years later...and actually would not have cared. But when it was broken by accident, to learn that we would not be "charged" for it...knowing that essentially it was free to begin with ...that was a laughable moment we will long remember. Ha! Thanks for your comment.

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 6 years ago from South Carolina

      Thoroughly enjoyed this "trip" and all your descriptions, personal photos and the videos. The underground waterfall was amazing and I loved the picture of your husband standing on the lover's leap rock.

      Don't think I could have gotten across the swinging bridge but you looked good on it!

      The jelly jar story made me laugh as I do remember those jelly jars that were meant to be used as glasses.

      Voted up across the board.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi LuxmiH,

      No doubt that string of cottages on top of Lookout Mountain is long gone. Our visit was in 1971...a long time ago. Surely there are much better places to stay when you plan to visit Rock City. An Internet search will be helpful. That did not exist as it does today when we visited...just the AAA and Mobil guides. Thanks for leaving a comment and votes.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Judi,

      Ohh...that would have been nice! A bit late now. If I hadn't wanted to become a registered nurse, I think that becoming a flight attendant would have been right up my alley because of all the travel opportunities. If I had a do-over...hmmmm! Thanks for your comment.

    • LuxmiH profile image

      Luxmih Eve-Lyn Forbes 6 years ago from Fort Pierce, Florida

      Rock City... I've been through the State of TN, but I confess that I was totally oblivious to Rock City.

      Your article has tweaked my interest. Next road trip that way, I will make a point of including that enroute. I don't think I'll be staying in any cottages though, sounds like I could miss that sort of experience. (They may not be under the save management even if they still exist.) Voted up and useful.

    • Judi O profile image

      Judi O 6 years ago from Texas

      Another interesting and beautiful hub. I can't help but wonder what your writings would be like if you worked for the airlines and traveled the world! Thanks for sharing.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi France Travel Inf,

      Aha! I have been to the Biltmore Estate. Did not realize that it was near Grandfather Mountain. It is hilly there! :))

    • France Travel Inf profile image

      France Travel Inf 6 years ago

      When you visit Grandfather Mt don't miss out on a stop at Biltmore.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Darlene,

      Will have to take a look at a map and see in what part of the State of NC Grandfather Mtn. is located. So they have a swinging bridge there also, just like Rock City? If you don't like heights and swinging bridges, you would surely not like the Capilano Suspension Bridge in Vancouver! That is the longest one that I have ever personally walked across. Thanks for your comment.

    • profile image

      Darlene 6 years ago

      Have not been to Lookout Mtn, but visited Grandfather Mtn in NC. Being afraid of heights the swinging bridge there just about did me in. Not a pleasant memory at all.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hello djsky24,

      Hope you get to explore Lookout Mountain and also Rock City someday. Am sure that there must be plenty of rock climbing areas around there. Thanks for your comment.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hello France Travel Inf,

      Glad that this posting about Rock City in Chattanooga, Tennessee could bring back some happy family memories of time spent there for you. Thanks for your comment.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi JamaGenee,

      It was too late to seek other lodgings for the night when we discovered the lack of a lock because of going to Rock City while there was still some daylight left. Oh well...just one of those memorable experiences long remembered and later laughed about. Not so funny at the time, however. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Candie,

      I've missed hearing from you. Hope all is well in your world. Glad you enjoyed this hub about Rock City. We still laugh over our lodging experience there. Thanks for your comment.

    • djsky24 profile image

      djsky24 6 years ago from Colorado

      this was great! looks like another place I want to go climbing has just been added to the map. Great information.

    • France Travel Inf profile image

      France Travel Inf 6 years ago

      Rock City is truly a wonderful place (along with the Incline Railway and the Aquarium) in Chattanooga. Our children ranged from to 13 when we went --- it was one of those places on "Mom's list" and it turned out that the children loved it as much as the adults.

      Thanks for posting!

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 6 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      How interesting! Great photos! Barn roof advertising is used a lot to advertise several caverns and other tourist attractions in Missouri. But I'm 99% certain I've seen ones for Rock City too. Never mind I always thought it was in Missouri. (Who REALLY pays attention to these things these days when whizzing along the interstate at 70 mph?)

      Was nice you weren't charged for the jelly glass "because you mentioned it", but did you also think to ask about the absence of a lock on the door between the rooms? ;D

    • Candie V profile image

      Candie V 6 years ago from Whereever there's wolves!! And Bikers!! Cummon Flash, We need an adventure!

      To one of my favorite travelers! You take us to the greatest places, and give us great stories and some interesting backgrounds of the places you stay! Thanks Peggy for another great hub!