Lookout Mountain

Lookout Mountain has been important to the environmental, military, and tourism history of Tennessee. Point Lookout, the extremity overlooking the river valley at Moccasin Bend, has attracted tourists since antebellum days. The 1863 Civil War battle fought on its slope brought additional fame to Lookout Mountain.

In 1818 Elias Cornelius, a cleric visiting Brainerd Mission, the Cherokee school, left the first written account of a tour atop Lookout. In 1838, following the Cherokee removal and the founding of Chattanooga, the State of Tennessee granted James A. Whiteside a large tract encompassing the point. During the 1850s Whiteside built the Lookout Mountain Turnpike from an ancient Indian path leading up the mountain and developed the northern summit. The University of the South's organizational meeting was held at this site in 1857. Whiteside built a resort hotel in the Early Classical Revival style to accommodate visitors. Summer visitors from as far away as Virginia and Louisiana came to enjoy the mountain climate and see the sights. Natural attractions included Rock City, Lula Falls, Natural Bridge, Umbrella Rock, and Point Lookout, which afforded what many regarded as one of the most magnificent views in America.

During the Civil War, the Confederate army held Lookout Mountain until 1863. In November, following the Union's defeat at Chickamauga, General Joseph Hooker's army stormed up the mountainside. Fought in heavy fog, the engagement received the romantic name the “Battle Above the Clouds.” Subsequently, the Union army established a military hospital complex on the summit.

During the 1880s and 1890s tourism flourished on Lookout Mountain. A modern turnpike, two incline railways, and a broad gauge railroad provided transportation to the summit. In 1896 the U.S. War Department purchased Robert Cravens's mountainside property, the scene of the “Battle above the Clouds,” and integrated the reservation into the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park. In 1898 the government purchased the point property from the Whiteside estate and added it to the park system as Point Park.

Tourism and residential development increased during the twentieth century. Ruby Falls and Rock City opened to visitors. To stem the tide of overdevelopment, Adolph S. Ochs, publisher of the Chattanooga Times, led a preservation movement. It eventually brought over two thousand acres under the supervision of the National Park Service. Ochs Highway and Ochs Museum and Observatory were named in honor of the civic-minded publisher. Today, the Lookout Mountain Protection Association and the Lula Lake Land Trust continue similar preservation efforts. Over a million people visit Lookout Mountain's scenic, military, and commercial attractions annually.

Suggested Reading

Gary C. Jenkins, Taking the Old Mountain Road: The Lookout Mountain Turnpike and Its Possessor, Harriet L. Whiteside (1994); John Wilson, Lookout: The Story of an Amazing Mountain (1977)

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Lookout Mountain
  • Author
  • Website Name Tennessee Encyclopedia
  • URL
  • Access Date June 13, 2024
  • Publisher Tennessee Historical Society
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update March 1, 2018