At first glance, Chattanooga may just look like another beautiful city in Tennessee. Located on the southern edge of the Volunteer State, the city is bisected by the Tennessee River and is home to the renowned Tennessee Aquarium and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
Chattanooga is the 4th largest city in Tennessee, and it was incorporated in 1839. Though its history runs deep in the nation, Chattanooga is also home to one of the most unsettling legends in the state: underground Chattanooga.
Early in Chattanooga's city tenure, the town was flooded nearly every decade. The flooding was severe, and many businesses and manufacturing plants experienced record losses. The worst flood in the area's history was in 1867, just after the Civil War, when four days of rainfall caused the river to rise a whopping 53 feet.
The bridge across the Tennessee River was completely destroyed, and 4,000 people had to be ferried out of the flooding area. In fact, from 1875 to 1938, the river rose above its flood range over 70 times. The people of Chattanooga realized that to continue living in their city something had to be done, and quickly.
Although levees were discussed, like Chattanooga's southern neighbor, New Orleans, the waterfront was considered much too important for commercial imports to impede. The legend goes that the leaders of the city rallied to raise the grade of the streets, which means that potentially 40 blocks of Chattanooga's downtown had to abandon first floors to basements and fill in portions of the street.
The history of the matter is disputed, mainly because the only evidence of underground Chattanooga is sparse. A single newspaper article is the basis for a majority of the tales. Then, of course, there are a few eerie finds in the city's basements...
Here you can see the arches of a window that was potentially covered up. There are a few locations in the city, mainly between Market and Cherry Streets, where you will find covered windows and retaining walls built to submerge the first level of the building into the basement area.
Underground Chattanooga seems to have been a project, if an intimate one, and it did not stretch throughout the entire city. You will find, however, doors leading to tunnels and rooms with nowhere to go. Some entire basements appear to have been first floors, including a few that had storefront windows boarded or bricked up.
Here you can see what once was a stairway. Perhaps a grand stairway from the first floor to the second? Now it has been completely forgotten in a private Chattanooga basement.
Peeling wallpaper adds an extra element of creep. Some folks even say that some residents of Chattanooga chose to live in the dark once their first floors were darkened and built over. How eerie is that?!
None of the city's underground can be found on a map of Chattanooga, though the process of backfilling certain areas of the town can be confirmed due to small hints and clues. Some believe that the city was raised up to 20 feet, burying whatever - and whoever - was below.
What an eerie story! Did you have any idea? Although there is quite a bit of controversy regarding the city's underground, it makes for a neat legend.
What a wild legend! If you’re looking for more creepy stories about Tennessee, make sure you take a look at our definitive guide. With friends, of course. You may have a few chills after reading…
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