One-hundred years after Cameron Hill’s namesake took up residence there, final plans were submitted to bulldoze all homes and businesses, and shave off over 150-feet of elevation. In 1957, The West Side Redevelopment Project promised an optimistic outcome of urban renewal.
Landscape painter, James Cameron and his wife fled Chattanooga as the Civil War stripped the once picturesque hill of all vegetation.
They would not return.
This historic place would be razed again – not by the Union Army, but by urban planners and city leaders navigating through challenges of urban decay in areas west of downtown. The US Housing Act of 1954 provided funding for public housing, giving preferential treatment to families that would be relocated for slum eradication or revitalization. The city was also competing to ensure the coming Interstate Highway System would include Chattanooga. The proposed project capitalized on both – as millions of cubic yards of fill dirt would be needed in freeway construction.
Cameron Hill's story would be embellished and romanticized in the decades that would follow. Some are quick to judge the city leaders' actions as being hostile to historic landmarks, or racially motivated. However, the once beautiful homes had slowly devolved into cheap apartments. Black community leaders and proponents of historical preservation alike supported the goals of the project.
Many locations are identified in the interactive view below. Assembled maps from Sanborn Insurance provide points of reference.
MAP Click thumbnails to zoom to buildings
Tony St. Charles shared photos taken by his father, who was hired by the Chattanooga Housing Authority to perform appraisals for the West Side Redevelopment Project. Tony and his father's preservation and willingness to share these historical photos allow us to revisit homes and businesses of the West Side as they appeared the late 1950s.
Pat St. Charles, Jr. was a graduate of Notre Dame High School, University of Chattanooga, and McKenzie School of Law. He served in the U.S. Army as an enlisted man and as a Lieutenant. Pat was a Chattanooga businessman involved in real estate, manufacturing and finance. He was a principal owner of Pat St.Charles Co., Southern Realty Co., Chattanooga Wilbert Vault, and Citizens Savings & Loan.
Another half-century would pass before an impressive $299 Million BlueCross BlueShield corporate campus made its home at 1 Cameron Hill Circle.
The razing of Cameron Hill. ~1961
Far too often, history is lost in settlement of estates or thrown away by well-meaning family members.
Many public institutions and non-profit organizations quickly 'archive' gifted photos to garner donations rather than share publicly.
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