Shadows of the past linger at The Sheraton Read House. Winston Churchill, Charles Laughton, Tallulah Bankhead, Gary Cooper, Eddie Rickenbacker, and Al Capone are just some of the luminaries who have visited this charming, elegant, and historic hotel. The Read House is the first choice of discriminating travelers to Chattanooga.
The first hotel to occupy this site opened as the Crutchfield House in 1847. The proprietors, The Thomas Crutchfield family, entered the inn-keeping business just as the Western and Atlantic rail lines prepared to link Chattanooga with Atlanta and other commercial centers in the Deep South. The Crutchfields built their inn directly across from the rail terminal, establishing a lively business from the start. The trains arrived in 1850 and brought boom times to Chattanooga.
By January 1861, times were changing and taking on an ominous tone. On his way home to Mississippi after resigning from the U.S. Senate, Jefferson Davis stopped here and at the urging of two local lawyers spoke to the crowd gathered in the hotel lobby. By all accounts, his remarks on the red-hot issue of secession were brief and temperate. However, when Davis finished, William Crutchfield, brother of the owner jumped up on the counter. From his improvised podium, Crutchfield reviled Davis as a traitor and military despot. Audience loyalties were divided and passions flared. Men drew pistols, women screamed and Davis stood ready to demand satisfaction. Bloodshed was barely averted when Thomas Crutchfield, Jr., a southern sympathizer, hustled his brother away in the nick of time.
Not long after this incident, Thomas Crutchfield sold the hotel. The new owners soon had cause to regret their purchase. By 1863 the Civil War engulfed Chattanooga, snuffing out civilian commerce. The hotel was the first building occupied by Union forces and converted into their hospital. The hotel withstood the ravages of the entire war only to burn to the ground in 1867.
The story might have ended there, except for a doctor named John T. Read. In 1871, as the city's economic pulse began to beat faintly, Dr. Read and his son Samuel built anew on the site of the Crutchfield House. Opening for business on New Year's Day 1872, they gave their establishment the name by which it is still known - Read House.
The Reads persevered through reconstruction and after 1879 with son Samuel at the helm, the hotel's reputation grew. Decade after decade, Samuel Read increased the hotel's standing amongst the travelers. The Read House became the address of distinction for out of town visitors.
In the process the Read family gave the city an architectural landmark in 1926; when the present 10-story brick and terra cotta building replaced the original structure. Designed in the Georgian style by Holabird and Roche, it was built with lavish appointments now too costly to duplicate: terrazzo floors inlaid with marble; paneling of quarter sawed black walnut, carved and gilded woodwork, mirrors recessed in massive arches; Waterford chandeliers glittering from the 25-foot ceiling of the Silver Ballroom and a lobby beautifully defined by its soaring columns. In 1977, the Read House was included in the National Register of Historic Places as a prime example of period architecture and decorative art.
Since Samuel Read's death in 1942, the hotel has changed hands. In 2004, the hotel joined Starwood Hotel and Resorts as a member of the Sheraton family. To everyone who has known and loved the Read House, this celebrated hotel still honors the cherished past, while offering the finest modern day comforts and the warmth of southern hospitality. The Sheraton Read House is a unique experience inviting you to add to our history!