A very early view of Chattanooga.

An Early Chattanooga View

SCANNED MEDIA: 8" x 10" Glass Plate Negatives

Shared by the family of Chattanooga photographer Matt L. Brown.

Matthais Livingston Brown was born 26 November, 1893 in St. Elmo. He worked with Will H. Stokes as a photographer, and continued to manage the business after Stoke's death in 1922. By 1942, he had opened his own company; Matt L. Brown & Co. Photography.

Until the older image was paired with the later, I could not be sure this was, indeed Chattanooga. It is a city just recovering from the Civil War; a city only 35-40 years old, and one poised for incredible growth.

Base image: Early 1870s?

Chattanooga - before the iconic old courthouse (built in 1879). In this winter view, the city still appears mostly tree-less after the Civil War stripped it of such resources. Modest shacks dominate the foreground, while larger homes are seen in the distant high-ground featuring 'Second Empire' architecture; the height of modernity in the mid-1800s.

The large square building in the foreground is the Masonic Academy dedicated in 1855. It served a prominent role as the Academy Hospital during the Civil War, and later, in Chattanooga's first school system.

…on the hill southwest of town, The town’s Masonic Lodge had paid for the erection of the building with the purpose of using it for a female school. The square structure had no porches, but a flight of stairs led to the front door.
As the Chattanooga school system was organized in the early 1870s, for the 2nd district the school board took control of the old Masonic Academy on College Hill.

In December of 1874, it served as the first officially organized location of Chattanooga High School.

SOURCE: Chattanooga’s Story by John Wilson

Rapid Growth in Boom Times: 1890-91

By the time the second image was captured, it appears Chattanooga was experiencing an extraordinary economic boom. In 1887, real estate transactions — including 1500 new residences — amounted to over $13 million; over 10x what it was in 1886. In addition, twenty-five new business charters were incorporated.

Several church spires built during around the economic ‘boom’ of 1887, and Grant University in the distance (1886).

The ‘Dome Building’(1892) has not yet made an appearance. And now, a different building appears in place of the ‘Old Academy’.

Second District School on College Hill had been erected on the site of the old Masonic Academy in 1890, but was gutted by a fire on March 6th, 1896. However, this school building was quickly rebuilt. 1

1 Chattanooga’s Story by John Wilson