Ask Hamilton – The Fairyland Club

The Fairyland Club

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Dear Hamilton,
I heard that the Lookout Mountain Fairyland Club is on the National Register of Historic Places. What makes it worthy of such a distinction?
Sincerely,
Wondering Wanderer

Dear Wondering,
Great question! Travel with me back to the 1920s, a great era to be middle class in America. Wages were increasing, working hours were dropping, and consumerism was soaring to new heights. With more time on their hands and money in their pockets, Americans were looking for fun. Between 1919 and 1929, American spending on recreation and leisure almost doubled.
Meanwhile, local movers and shakers Garnet Carter and Frieda Utermoehlen Carter were in the process of developing the 450-acre Fairyland residential community on Lookout Mountain. A business-savvy couple in an era marked by growing demand for leisure, it’s no surprise they saw the advantages of opening a vacation resort at its center. The inn would act as a social and recreational anchor of the Fairyland development. Plus, it would offer vacationers a chance to enjoy cooler weather and expansive views of the valley below amidst a mountain retreat.
Of course, the Carters were a fashionable, clever sort of couple. They didn’t want to build just any kind of inn. First, it should fit with Fairyland’s mythical flavor, whose storybook theme and fairytale street names had been inspired by Frieda’s fascination with European folklore. Second, it shouldn’t disturb the enchanting beauty of the mountain landscape.
So they brought in local architect William Harding Sears, who designed the inn in the Tudor Revival style then at its peak of popularity. They also recruited nationally renowned landscape designer Warren H. Manning, whose plans not only preserved the natural rock formations surrounding the inn, but accentuated them. The result was an enchanting resort that fit organically into the rugged, natural terrain.
The Fairyland Inn opened its doors in June of 1925 with outdoor dancing and dining as well as about 30 guestrooms. An indoor ballroom and outdoor swimming pool were added the following year, as well as a cluster of cottages Frieda dubbed “Mother Goose Village.” Today, these cottages also remain on the National Register of Historic Places.

When the Great Depression hit, the inn closed its doors – but it was converted and reopened as a private club in 1934. The Fairyland Club, still in operation today, has morphed and changed over the years. However, the historic structure that acts as its home base has changed very little. In 2015, the clubhouse celebrates 90 years of operation.

Hope this helps,
Hamilton Bush
Resident History Hound,
Chattanooga, Tennessee

 

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