The Read House Est. 1872
Photos Courtesy of the Chattanooga Public Library and The Read House
A large brick building constructed in symmetrical Georgian style sits at the corner of Broad Street and Martin Luther King Boulevard, an emblem of Chattanooga history. Established only a half century after the city itself, The Read House has endured floods, epidemics, economic misfortune, changes in ownership, and even an infamous ghost story.
After the Crutchfield House, an 1847-built hotel with Civil War history, burned down, John Read opened a small, 45-room hotel – The Read House – to take its place in 1872. His son, Samuel Read, took ownership of the property 14 years later, expanding the hotel to four times its original size.
Like its predecessor, The Read House was also reduced to rubble, except this time it was intentional. The original building was demolished in 1926 to make way for its current structure, featuring 10 floors and 400 rooms. A gradual removal and construction pace allowed The Read House to remain open every single day of the process.
Since then, the hotel has grown under different leaderships. It has hosted world leaders, presidents, celebrities, and other prominent individuals, such as Winston Churchill, Elvis Presley, Ronald Reagan, and Oprah Winfrey. One visitor may have never left – a woman rumored to have been murdered in Room 311 where her ghostly presence reportedly remains.
Today, The Read House is owned and operated by Avocet Hospitality as a period boutique hotel. In 2016, the group renovated the hotel to restore its original 1926 grandeur while still offering modern conveniences. “We want guests to feel like they’ve stepped back in time,” says Jim Bambrey, general manager of The Read House.
The longest continuously operating hotel in the Southeast and part of the National Register of Historic Places, The Read House’s impressive feats result from generations of investment. Bambrey shares, “Thoughtful care and an understanding of the need for innovation have allowed The Read House to maintain its splendor throughout the decades; the hotel was renovated as needed, but never once closed its doors.”
The Read House is honoring its 150 years of rich history through a commemorative time capsule, dinners featuring historical menu items, antique displays, branded mementos, and more. “The history of the hotel truly stands out and interests all our guests,” observes Bambrey. “Guests can book a stay at a hotel anywhere across the nation, but there is only one Read House.”