Glitz and Glam

04 Jun 2024

Enjoy 1920s splendor in Chattanooga’s Jazz-era gem

By Carla Beck Photos by The Read House

Summer road trips beckon adventurous souls seeking sights beyond the humdrum of everyday work life. While getting there is half the fun, the final destination provides the ultimate motivation for each mile-marker crossing. Whether it’s a cozy mountain retreat, a beachfront cottage or a unique city loft, accommodations serve two vital purposes: practical places for rest and perfect spaces for rejuvenation. The Read House of Chattanooga, TN, offers travelers classic Southern hospitality intertwined with the Jazz-era grandeur one might expect in a Fitzgerald novel. Established in 1872 and designated on the National Register of Historic Places, The Read House is the longest continuously operating hotel in the southeast. Prominent guests include an eclectic mix of noteworthy personalities, including Winston Churchill, Elvis Pressley, Oprah Winfrey and Ronald Reagan. With a legacy of more than 150 years in the epicenter of Chattanooga’s downtown district, The Read House remains a steadfast and stately icon among the changing landscape of office buildings and chain hotels.

Throughout its various renovations and expansions, The Read House was a political, economic and social hotspot for the local elite. From the Turkish baths of the early 1900s, the modern motor inn rooms of the 60s, to the convenient caffè lattes offered at today’s onsite Starbucks, The Read House amenities reflect the shifting cultural trends of its enduring legacy.

The Read House General Manager Jim Bambrey says the hotel’s “biggest asset is being unique.” Bambrey began management of the property just as Avocet Hospitality Group purchased it in 2016 to create a modern boutique hotel reflective of the luxurious elegance of the 1920s. Working with historians, architects and Chattanooga locals, Avocet took the historic tower “down to the studs,” while curating a diverse collection of period antiques for display throughout the property. From the Russian walnut-paneled main lobby to the silver leaf painted walls of the magnificent ballroom, the meticulous features transport visitors from present to past, inviting them to savor moments, make memories and delight in the details.

Where are the custom characteristics that push The Read House to the top of a traveler’s must-see list? Perhaps the friendly staff dressed in period attire sets the hotel apart from its competitors or maybe the “hidden” billiards room provides the extra charm. Others might prefer the vintage luxury of the lobby library, tucked quietly away for intimate conversations with a friend. All will agree that the premier menu and sophisticated atmosphere of Bridgeman’s Chophouse offer the perfect escape for dinner, drinks and dazzling desserts.

Travelers from the plateau can expect a scenic three-and-a-half-hour adventure which includes sections of the Nantahala and Cherokee National Forests. As a bonus, the drive passes by the Ocoee River, the site of the 1996 Summer Olympic Whitewater Competition. A popular summer destination, the Ocoee River Recreation Area offers a host of outdoor options, such as hiking trails, bicycle paths and picnic pavilions. After a refreshing pitstop at the Ocoee River, road-trippers will be ready for the hour-long last leg of their journey to The Read House where friendly valet parking attendants will welcome them. Guests can choose the contemporary deluxe manor rooms or the stylish upscale historic tower accommodations. Book a getaway in the hotel’s spacious Penthouse suite for the ultimate splendor. However, if what you crave is a one-of-a-kind experience, then check your fall schedule and reserve a night in the most exclusive room in the hotel–Room 311.

According to local legend, Room 311 hosts the spirit of Annalisa Netherly, a 1920s hotel guest who was allegedly murdered while staying at The Read House. Many attest to witnessing paranormal activity while visiting Room 311. Bedecked with original elements from the 1920s, Room 311 lacks the conveniences of modern hotel rooms, but boasts an abundance of history, including antique furnishings and a vintage clawfoot tub. Adding to the mystique of Room 311 is another intriguing resident. While facing federal trial in the early 1930s, notorious gangster Al Capone (“Scarface”) briefly stayed in Room 311. The Read House lobby ambassadors provide entertaining and informative daily tours of Room 311 for those seeking a history lesson with extra flair. Every Saturday in October and on Halloween night, thrill-seekers may contact The Read House reservations to book a fully immersive overnight experience in Room 311.

Mark your holiday calendar for a return trip to enjoy the annual The Read House Holiday Jubilee. A delight for all the senses, The Read House employees transform the property with seasonal smells, holiday music and extravagant decorations. More than 50 fully decorated trees line the hallways where Santa awaits for magical photo ops. Housed in the hotel’s illustrious Silver Ballroom, The Read House Breakfast with Santa and Mrs. Claus should top your holiday to-do list. Closing out the holiday season, The Read House welcomes each new year with a roarin’ Gatsby-themed New Year’s Eve extravaganza, complete with a live band, delectable treats and a midnight Champagne toast.

With comfort, convenience, glitz and glam, The Read House thrives at the heart of Chattanooga’s downtown district. Whatever your upcoming travel plans include, be sure that this hotel “makes the cut.” Nearby attractions include Chattanooga’s Walnut Street Pedestrian Bridge, the popular Tennessee Aquarium and the Hunter Museum of American Art with collections spanning colonial to present day art. Hop onto the electric shuttle just outside The Read House doors for quick access to all the downtown destinations. Check The Read House website and social channels regularly for the latest discounts, promotions and events. Pro-tip–booking directly offers exclusive benefits and priority opportunities you don’t want to miss!

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