Ask Hamilton – The Incline & The C.B. Robinson Bridge

Greetings Chattanooga!
Hamilton Bush is here once again with a pair of fascinating stories. Listen up for some local lore and enjoy!

Dear Hamilton Bush,
I am intrigued by the story of the Incline. It appears to go straight up the side of Lookout Mountain. One day, I hope to conquer my apprehension and take the ride. How did the Incline come into being?
Sincerely, Lookout Mountain High

Dear Lookout Mountain High, Yes indeed – the Incline is an engineering marvel. Since 1895, “America’s Most Amazing Mile” has carried passengers up Lookout Mountain from St. Elmo to a station near Point Park and back down again. The original impetus for building an incline rail resides in the Yellow Fever epidemic of 1878, which devastated the city. Local residents looking to preserve their health grew interested in the more “healthful” climate of Lookout Mountain, and in response to this demand, groups of entrepreneurs built a number of hotels and resorts on the mountain – and easier ways to access them. The first rail line up the side of the mountain was completed in 1887. In the beginning, it was used to get materials up the mountain to build The Point Hotel. But it wasn’t long until the innovative railway, later christened “Incline No. 1,” started carrying passengers up to the completed hotel, which served as the incline station. A round-trip ticket cost 50 cents and each car could hold up to 23 paying customers. The steepest grade (degree measurement of the slope) on Incline No. 1 was about 33°. Soon enough, competition developed: Incline No. 2 began operations in 1895. Its steepest grade was a whopping 72.7° — more than double that of Incline No. 1. The rivalry grew fierce, and a bitter “Incline War” ensued. Incline No. 2 emerged as victor, driving both Incline No. 1 and the Broad Gauge Railroad that had begun carrying passengers up the Lookout Mountain out of business by April 1900.
After 1910, an effort was made to run an electric streetcar line up the mountain along the tracks of the failed railroad. This idea was abandoned by 1920, however, and  Incline No. 2 endured. Today, “America’s Most Amazing Mile” is operated by the Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority (CARTA). The unique railway has been featured on TV, perhaps most notably on The History Channel’s Only in America in 2011. These days, a round trip is $15 for adults and $7 for children ages 3 to 12.

Dear Hamilton Bush,
I live north of the river and regularly use the C.B. Robinson Bridge on my way to Chattanooga State Community College. Who is C.B. Robinson?
Regards, Here’s to You Mr. Robinson

Dear Here’s to You Mr. Robinson,
Clarence Bernard Robin-son was born in Chattanooga in 1911 and for years represented District 28 in the Tennessee State House of Representatives. A distinguished professional in the field of education and
a champion of civil rights throughout his career, Representative Robinson was invited in the early 1960s by President John F. Kennedy to attend a conference of educators at the White House. He was also invited to attend briefings in Washington, D.C., by Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Jimmy Carter, and he received a distinguished service award from the Chattanooga chapter of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People). He spent 39 years with the Chattanooga City School System as an educator and administrator and 18 years in the state legislature before retiring in
C.B. Robinson also worked in the area as a real estate broker and was an active member of Orchard Knob Baptist Church, where he served as trustee and chairman of the board of directors. The church named a classroom in his honor in 1977. A graduate of Tennessee State University, he received the university’s National and Local Distinguished Service Awards in 1981.
In 1983, Robinson was invited again to the White House – this time by President Ronald Reagan to attend a conference on the aged. A year later, the Institute for the Study of Education Policy at Howard University held a reception in his honor at the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. In 1993, he received the School Bell Award and the Tennessee State University Alumni Award, Chattanooga Chapter.
The dedication ceremony for the C.B. Robinson Bridge was held on May 22, 1981. A number of important public figures made tribute speeches, including current Senator Lamar Alexander, former Congressional Representative Marilyn Lloyd, former State Senator Ray Albright, former Chattanooga Mayor Charles A. “Pat” Rose, and former Hamilton County Executive Dalton Roberts. The first car across the bridge carried C.B. Robinson and members of his family. It was a fitting tribute to a gentleman who had spent a lifetime in service to others.


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