Signal Mountain resident Gary Beene shared this wonderful group photo taken on a Spring day in Alton Park. On the front row – his mother as a young child, along with several other relatives – all part of an impressive sized congregation of Alton Park Baptist, led by Rev. T. J. Smith. Faith was no doubt strong, and needed just 4 years into the Great Depression.
It is not an original 'true photo' – but a digital copy likely made in the 1990s, yet even the lower resolution copy provides interesting details and timeless facial expressions.
4401 Ohls Avenue
The panoramic view was likely taken with a ‘Cirkut Camera’. Released in 1905, the unique and popular camera did what is still technically challenging to do today. A motor would turn in one direction while its film roll pivots in the opposite direction – capturing extremely wide angle photos without distortion.
These photos were the preferred format for capturing large groups and are commonly seen from the 1920s-1940s.
Even today, consumer digital cameras, including iPhones don’t come close to the photo resolution. The 100+ year old film negatives produced a modern equivalent to a gigapixel view.
At the time, Alton Park was a predominately white suburb of Chattanooga. By the 1950s, Alton Park transformed demographically to an African-American community.
Among the congregation - future Chattanooga mayor from 1951-1963 Peter Rudolph "Rudy" Olgiati. At just 6 years-old, his mother moved the family to Alton Park from Grundy County upon his father’s death.
Current view of 4401 Ohls Avenue.
Greater Saint John Missionary Baptist Church