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Museum Musings in Chattanooga

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In Chattanooga, Tennessee you will find a wide range of museums, each offering its own unique flavor and flair of the city.

For an in-depth look at the city’s railroad history, check out the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum. Founded in 1961, the museum is really a “moving attraction,” as it offers a six-mile roundtrip ride, generally pulled by a steam locomotive. This makes it the largest operating historic railroad in the southeast, and the only full-size operating railroad museum in the state.

The International Towing & Recovery Museum and Hall of Fame is also a nod to the city’s early history, as it was here in Chattanooga that the towing industry’s first wrecker was fabricated. Exhibits and memorabilia include restored antique wreckers and equipment, photography, antique tow trucks, collectible toys, and a great deal more.

In the art world, the Hunter Museum of American Art is a true city landmark. Located in the Bluff View Art District overlooking the Tennessee River, the museum encompasses three distinctive buildings representing 100 years of architecture: An Edwardian-style mansion built in 1904 for wealthy insurance broker Ross Faxon; a second, concrete building built in 1975, which at that time was lauded as an architectural masterpiece with its dramatic central atrium space and home to an astounding collection of classic American paintings; and a $22 million expansion completed in 2005. The expansion encompasses 8,000 square feet of new construction, restoration of the mansion, and a stunning outdoor sculpture plaza, among other renovations.

What you find today is a truly impressive structure housing the South’s largest collection of American art—from the Colonial period to the present day—including classic paintings, contemporary studio glass, works on paper, contemporary art, sculpture, and more from artists such as Thomas Hart Benton, Childe Hassam, Fitzhugh Lane, George Segal, Winslow Homer, and numerous others.

Situated in a Victorian house adjacent to the arts district of downtown, the Houston Museum of Decorative Arts is another unique city destination. The home, originally built in 1900, is named after and houses the collection of the late Anna Safley Houston. The collection includes what is thought to be one of the world’s finest collections of antique glass and ceramics, the world’s largest collection of pitchers, and numerous intricate and detailed pieces of antique furniture, coverlets, glassware, music boxes, and other fine collectibles.

For the child in all of us there is the Creative Discovery Museum, one of the top children’s museums in the country and one of the premier hands-on children’s museums in the region. Focusing on interactive programs and exhibits to explore art, music, science and technology, the 43,000 square foot facility encompasses exciting permanent exhibits including Lookout Tower, RiverPlay, Arts Alley and the Back Alley Theatre, the Little Yellow House, the Rooftop Fun Factory, Excavation Station and the Inventors’ Clubhouse. There is also a temporary exhibit gallery, 118-seat auditorium, conservatory, museum shop, and café.

This is just the beginning of all the wonderful museums in the city of Chattanooga.

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