Paul Hiener Story
“A Duty to the Past, Present, and Future.”
Paul Hiener's Story

Brake failure on a used ’73 Buick station wagon resulted in the donation of the largest publicly accessible archive of historic Chattanooga photos.

His daughter described him as a somewhat shy dreamer with many ideas; yet seldom had enough money to follow through with them.

Paul A. Hiener was first and foremost, a printer – by trade for over 70 years. His passion for local history and photography progressively led him to collecting pictures. These interest and talents combined to produce four volumes of Chattanooga photos.

He worked constantly – seven days a week. At age 86, he was on his way to work the morning he died.

Paul A. Hiener (1897-1984)

  • 1930s

    Paul Hiener begins publishing the Northside News - focusing on North Chattanooga, where he lived and opened printing offices in 1923.

  • 1947

    Mr. & Mrs. Hiener purchases an 18-room house on Signal Mountain known as 'The Cliffs'. It burns 2 months after they open as a 'Rest Resort'. The estate had been built on the site of The Cliffs Hotel, which was also destroyed by fire decades earlier.

    Around this time, Paul begins his multi-decade search for Chattanooga photos.

  • 1951, 1956, 1961, 1964

    Hiener Printing publishes Chattanooga Yesterday and Today Volumes 1-4.

  • 3 Feb 1984, 8:46 AM

    Brakes fail while Paul is traveling down Forest Ave. on his recently purchased '73 Buick Station Wagon.

  • Hiener dies from injuries.

    An unavoidable collision occurs with a pickup truck at Frazier Ave. The wreck comes to a rest at the base of the historic Walnut Street Bridge.

  • April 1985

    Hiener's daughter, Minette H. Millwood, donates her father's collection to the public library. "We felt it would be a good place to have them because more people could take advantage of them and use them for years to come." Mrs. Millwood said.
    "We know he would be pleased by that decision."

  • 1989

    News Free Press article reports "Paul Hiener's Historic Photos May Be Available Soon". Library officials report collection in storage is in the process of being cataloged.

  • 2000-2003

    The digitization of the Hiener collection is funded by the Benwood Foundation.

  • 2004-2016

    The department continued building on this project scanning photographs from other collections (Free Press, Picture file, Chattanooga Albums, etc) in the subsequent decades, ultimately scanning and providing access to the more than 10,000 photos available via the online catalog, which was recently upgraded.

39-years after the donation, The Hiener Collection still represents over 25% of all historic photos digitized at the library.

View the Paul A. Hiener Collection at the Public Library

Silver Lining

Such historic photo collections rarely make it to public access. People tend to hold on to them due to perceived value or future plans that never materialize. After death, families are overwhelmed with grief and estate settlement. Those once prized collections are often thrown away or put into storage to begin another cycle of inaccessible slow decay.

It is my belief that Paul A. Hiener’s sudden and tragic death became a catalyst for his family to immortalize his efforts in a way that would be remembered and cherished for generations. With these volumes out of print for over a half-century, I’m using my skills to share these books online. If Hiener had lived to see the internet, I’d like think he’d proudly approve.

Chattanooga is indeed fortunate to have a citizen like Mr. Hiener, whose interest in chronicling the changes in this city led him to publish four volumes of historical text and pictures between 1951 and 1964

Sam Mount, Chattanooga News Free Press
September 18, 1977

Explore all 4 volumes:





Sources utilized for this page.

  • Sedgwick, Jessica. Head Librarian of Local History & Genealogy, Chattanooga Public Library
    "RE: Paul Hiener Collection" e-mail correspondance with Sam Hall, Oct-Nov. 2023
  • Local History File - Chattanooga Public Library
    Shearer, John. "Paul Hiner's Historic Photos May Be Available Soon". Chattanooga News-Free Press, 7-16-1989
  • Local History File - Chattanooga Public Library
    "Historian, publisher Hiener dies of accident injuries". Chattanooga Times, 2-4-1984
  • Local History File - Chattanooga Public Library
    Mount, Sam. "A Duty To The Past Present And Future". Chattanooga News-Free Press, 9-18-1977
    Advertisement for 'The Cliffs'. Chattanooga Daily Times, 6-8-1947
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