Uncovering the History of the Read House

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CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF) — Our historical adventures continue in downtown Chattanooga.

The Read House has been under reconstruction for months.

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$22 million in improvements are taking place inside a building that has stood the test of time.

The News 12 Now This Morning team explores the history of the Read House in this special report.

A duel, presidents, famous musicians, a ghost and even a former mobster. All spent time here inside the historic Read House. This building dates back to 1926. It has a very interesting history and a few compelling stories of our city that may surprise you.



Wall paper dating back to the 1920’s, a bank book, newspaper articles from the past. History inside Chattanooga’s historic hotel is uncovered.

Jon Weitz, “There has been tons of artifacts found in various locations that really help you date the hotel and see where it was the various phases.”

The glass, moldings and high ceilings in this silver ballroom will take you back in time to the Great Gatsby era. “We really wanted to take it back to its hey day.”

Charleston, South Carolina resident Jon Weitz purchased the Read House in 2016. “Our company is dedicated to renovating old hotels that have an incredible story.”

The first page of the Read House’s story began in the early 1800’s when the Crutchfields built a hotel on this site. Later it was converted into a hospital and burned to the ground. In 1872, the site was purchased by Dr. John Read and another hotel was built. Read’s son took over in 1921.

Jon Weitz, “His son had visions of building the hotel we are sitting in right now.”

John Read’s son’s visions soon became reality. In fact the Read House is the longest continuously operating hotel in the southeast. Currently the hotel is under major renovations preserving the history and paying very close attention to what many consider hidden details. The family crest for both Crutchfield and Read still remains in the front lobby of the hotel. High atop these vaulted ceilings their memories remain.

Jon Weitz, “Restoring the Russian Walnut in the lobby to taking the incredible artisans to touch up every piece of plaster.”

Crews have spent countless hours and millions of dollars to bring this history alive. While learning more about the guests who have graced these walls.

Jon Weitz, “We have had former Presidents stay at the hotel, there was actually a duel in the lobby.”

A duel Weitz says involved Jefferson Davis. “Literally guns were drawn in the lobby.”

That’s not the only strange occurrence that happened inside these walls. Talks of murder and ghosts. Even a famous mobster stayed in the Read House. There is no denying it’s mystery and elegance.

Jon Weitz, “The hotel kind of lost its way over the years and our goal is to bring it back.”

Uncovering the past to preserve for the future with modern conveniences and technology. This updated hotel will soon be ready for future generations to treasure.

The Read House is known for its history and ghost stories. We take you inside room 311 to learn more about some very strange occurrences construction workers experienced during the renovation process in part 2 of our story about the Read House.