Hotel Spotlight

This Historic Chattanooga Hotel Has Seen It All

by Jeralyn Gerba
The The Read House in Chattanooga. All photos courtesy of The Reed House.

The Read House
Chattanooga, Tennessee
Classic, $$

Neither flood, nor fire, nor bankruptcy, nor war, nor wrecking crew, nor ghost has put an end to the hospitality (173 years and counting) offered at the Old Crutchfield House, now The Read House, in Chattanooga, Tennessee. One of the most renown hostelries south of the Mason-Dixon Line (circa 1847), this place has catered to them all — from politicians to celebrities to mobsters, and even recovering soldiers of the Civil War, when the hotel was enlisted as a military hospital for both sides. Its latest incarnation (circa 2018) came with a 28-million-dollar renovation summoning a 1920s vibe, complete with top-hat-wearing bellmen and cocktail waitresses in flapper dresses. The hotel worked with historians to recreate details from the era, and guests won't miss a beat once they cross the lobby threshold.

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At a Glance

The Vibe: Modern Gatsby — old bones, new tricks.

Standout Detail: The sensational lobby, polished and gleaming like a Prohibition-era jewel.

This Place Is Perfect For: History buffs, ghostbusters, travelers who get down with a Jazz Age theme (and like the idea of packing fringe and a string of pearls).

Rooms: 241 rooms redone in the "Gatsby style" are split into Tower Rooms and Manor Rooms. The Tower selection includes historic deluxe rooms and suites, with turndown service, robes, and plush decorative touches. Manor rooms are simpler, but built for comfort (and include ADA-accessible rooms). One room stands out — number 311 — for its history of paranormal activity and notorious guests, including Al Capone en route to federal trial for tax evasion (it was reported that the ghost haunting the room was not a fan of Capone's cigar smoke). The room is open for tours daily, from noon-2 p.m.

On Site: Indoor pool, fitness facility, valet parking, and lots of event space — including twelve different meeting rooms and the Silver Ballroom, a stately period piece with Waterford Crystal chandeliers and silver leaf moldings.

Food + Drink: The comfy Bar and Billiards Room does lunch, dinner, and drinks with a speakeasy vibe (and, as the name implies, has two pool tables). Bridgeman's Chophouse offers surf and turf and gospel brunch (Sundays) in a handsome setting (dark walls, white tablecloths, blue banquette seating). There's also a Starbucks accessible from the lobby.

What to Do Nearby

Charming Chattanooga has an electric trolley that runs just outside the hotel doors. Hop on it to check out the scene, or roll up to the North Shore dining and shopping district or the Hunter Museum of American Art. A meal at St John's and drinks at The Flying Squirrel make for a perfect evening. At the base of the Appalachian Mountains, nature is real close — like 15 minutes close. Don't sleep on Lookout Mountain, Ruby Falls, and Rock City. And don't forget a last meal of fried chicken at Champy's.

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