Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Walnut Street Bridge and an antique carousel

It was lunchtime by the time we finished our exploration of the Chattanooga National Battlefield’s Point Park, and so we drove down from Lookout Mountain, bypassing Rock City. Judging from the parking lot it is an immensely popular destination, but over lunch we decided to skip “seeing Rock City” and instead head towards the riverfront for three reasons: we had already seen some fantastic views of the Tennessee River Valle y from Point Park, we had crossed a waterfall off our list on that trip (albeit underground) the previous day at Ruby Falls, and although reduced for the month of January, the entrance fees were still rather steep for our party of 7 ($15.95/adult and $9.95/child). To See Rock City is still on my Chattanooga checklist – we’ll just have to return someday in the near future.

After eating lunch we walked towards the Hunter Museum of American Art and the Tennessee River. The art museum is perched on an 80-foot bluff with stunning views of the river, the surrounding mountains and the city from the scenic viewpoint.

We descended to the restored pedestrian bridge spanning the river, the Walnut Street Bridge. Built in 1890, it was the first to connect Chattanooga with the North Shore. Historically significant as a long (2,376 feet) and old example of its type, the bridge was eventually closed to motor vehicles in 1978 and sat in disuse and disrepair for two decades before the completion of its restoration in 2010. Walnut Street Bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places on February 23, 1990.

A steady stream of people were out walking, enjoying the sunny day despite the cool temperatures. Pointing out Lookout Mountain to the boys, we also discussed the mechanics of drawbridges, as there is a good view of historic Chief John Ross Bridge, which now handles the vehicular traffic crossing the River.

Having crossed the mighty Tennessee we found ourselves in Coolidge Park. A small part of the urban renewal Chattanooga has undergone in recent years, the park is home to an interactive water fountain, a rock climbing wall, a military memorial and the century old Dentzel carousel.

The 1894 antique carousel was restored by local master wood carver Bud Ellis and his team, providing an afternoon of entertainment with 52 hand carved animals and a calliope band organ. Tickets are $1 per ride, and the carousel is available for birthday parties and family reunions. As I watched the boys (and even grandmother) take a spin, I was reminded of our visit to Jane’s Carousel, in DUMBO, Brooklyn…

Of course the fountain wasn’t operational, but we took a closer look at the animal sculptures that spout water in the summer before climbing the stairs back to Walnut Street Bridge. The view was completely different crossing in this direction, a panorama of Lookout Mountain, the bluffs with Hunter Museum of American Art, and the Chattanooga Skyline accompanying us back to the southern shore.

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