At the turn of the 20th century, Chattanooga was a bustling hub of transportation. Industrial growth in the city led to overcrowding in its train stations, and in 1909, Terminal Station was opened to handle passenger rail service needs.
Built in the Beaux-Arts style and sporting an 85-foot central dome and the “largest brick arch in the world” at the time, Terminal Station was the essence of luxury. At its peak, the station serviced 50 passenger trains a day, and several presidents are said to have walked through its doors.
After World War II, however, passenger rail began to decline in favor of automobiles and airplanes. Fearing that Terminal Station would meet the same fate as many demolished stations around the country, a group of Chattanooga businessman banded together to save the station. Inspired by the 1941 song made famous by Glen Miller, they turned the station into a hotel and entertainment complex and called it the Chattanooga Choo Choo. The new hotel opened its doors in 1973, and in 1974 was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Today, beautiful rose gardens dotted with fountains, gazebos, and koi ponds fill the space where passengers used to board their trains. Shops and restaurants line the courtyard, and an operational trolley from 1924 gives educational tours of the grounds. Most notable are the Pullman train cars where guests can spend the night (though the Choo Choo also features more standard accommodations for the less adventurous).
In 2014 the hotel began another round of renovations, hoping to kick off a second century as grand as its first.