Architecture & History | Hunter Museum of American Art 7.0.33-0+deb9u5
WITH THREE BUILDINGS REPRESENTING 100 YEARS OF ARCHITECTURE, THE HUNTER MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART IS ONE OF CHATTANOOGA’S ICONIC LANDMARKS

ARCHITECTURE

THE MANSION

This Neoclassical-style brick building was designed by the Cincinnati architectural firm of Mead and Garfield. Due to the varying architectural features, the mansion encompasses classical revival styles that contain both Georgian and Federal style elements. The fireplaces, hardwood floors, wall moldings and hand-carved woodwork are all original, as are sconces and fixtures over the Grand Staircase. Many of the ornamental details are classical in inspiration, using the egg-and-dart, acanthus leaf, and fruit-and-flower motifs popular with architects of the period.

The 1970s Building – The East Wing

Built in 1975, this solid reinforced concrete building was designed by Chattanooga architects Derthick, Henley & Wilkerson. It reflects an architectural style referred to as Brutalism, which flourished from the 1950s to the 1970s. The structure adjoined the Hunter mansion, leaving the original building intact and complementing it in a way that brought universal praise upon its completion. Designed with a dramatic central atrium space, the building won several prestigious architectural awards. The first addition to the Hunter Museum, it was remodeled in 1997 and again in 2005.

THE 21st CENTURY WATERFRONT THE WEST WING

The Hunter Museum’s 21st century waterfront building was a $22 million expansion and renovation that was completed in April 2005. This project included the addition of 28,000 square feet of new construction, 34,000 square feet of renovation, restoration of the 1905 mansion, the creation of an outdoor sculpture plaza, and a complete reinstallation of the museum’s permanent collection. The dramatic, new zinc-clad building was designed by the Los Angeles architectural firm of Randall Stout and Associates. Stout wanted to be respectful to both existing buildings that preceded him, and ensured that the West Wing of the museum would balance the East Wing to create a frame for the mansion, which would remain the highest point on site.

HISTORY & TIMELINE

1854

An iron smelting plant is erected on the bluff near the present northwestern corner of the museum.

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The plant, known as the Bluff Furnace, was one of the South’s earliest industrial enterprises. During the Civil War, the area was used as a lookout and a garrison by both Confederate and Union forces. Although the Bluff Furnace was destroyed during the Civil War, it is now a site for archaeological research.

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1905

Mansion for wealthy insurance broker Ross Faxon and his family completed. The family lived in the mansion for nine years.

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The mansion was designed by architectural firm Mead and Garfield. Abram Garfield was the son of President James Garfield.

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1920

The home is sold to Anne Taylor Thomas, the widow of Benjamin F. Thomas, one of the founders of the world’s first Coca-Cola bottling company and the uncle of George Thomas Hunter. George Thomas Hunter moved Chattanooga at the age of 17 to work as a clerk in his uncle’s business.

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Hunter soon rose rapidly through the ranks to become secretary, president and finally, chairman of the board, of the company that franchised bottling of Coca-Cola in almost every state in the Union. He became one of Chattanooga’s most respected philanthropists.

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1944

George Thomas Hunter founds the Benwood Foundation, a private charitable trust still in operation today.

1951

Following Hunter’s death in 1950, the Chattanooga Art Association approaches the Benwood Foundation to ask that the Faxon-Hunter mansion be donated to their organization in order to found an art museum.

July 12, 1952

Chattanooga’s first art museum, named the George Thomas Hunter Gallery of Art in honor of its benefactor, opens to the public.

May 1952

The museum celebrates its first acquisition of a major American painting for its collection, The Huntsman’s Door by Richard LaBarre Goodwin.

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Mrs. Otto K. LeBron donated the work in honor of her husband. He had found it, dirty and dust-covered, in an attic, restored it, and for many years displayed it in his local jewelry store, Edwards & LeBron.

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September 1975

A new building and renovated mansion opens to the public with the new name, Hunter Museum of Art. The new building is designed by local architecture firm Derthick, Henley & Wilkerson. A gift from the Benwood Foundation of 33 major American paintings from the Cohen Collection (valuing more than $1 million) is unveiled in the renovated museum.

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After the opening of the 1975 building, the museum grew rapidly. With consistent funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, Allied Arts (now ArtsBuild) and the Lyndhurst and Benwood Foundations, the museum set about to build its collection of works by American artists.

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1980

A collections department with a curator, registrar, and assistant is established, and the Hunter Museum’s collection is professionally documented with a 300-page catalogue.

2002

Chattanooga’s $120 million 21st Century Waterfront Plan is announced.

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The Hunter Museum became an active partner with the City of Chattanooga, the Tennessee Aquarium, and the Creative Discovery Museum to complete this public/private venture in less than three years.

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April 2005

The Hunter Museum portion of the 21st Century Waterfront Plan is completed. This $22 million expansion and renovation project includes the addition of 28,000 square feet of new construction designed by Randall Stout and Associates, 34,000 square feet of renovation, restoration of the 1905 mansion, the creation of an outdoor sculpture plaza, and a complete reinstallation of the Museum’s permanent collection.

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