MARTIN HOTEL HISTORICAL SITE
The Martin Hotel boasted fifty "steam-heated" rooms
and a restaurant that served guests and off-the-street customers three
full-course meals a day. Many famous African-Americans stayed at the hotel:
Willie Mays, Satchel Paige, the Original Harlem Globetrotters, Lena Horne,
Cab Calloway, J. Ernest Wilkins (U. S. Assistant Secretary of Labor), and
many, many more. The hotel had its greatest success during World War Two,
when African American soldiers passed through Chattanooga on their way
In 1862, Clark O'Bannard purchased the property from James Fryson, who was the trustee for the estate of Jeremiah Fryson. The property remained in the O'Bannard family until sometime around 1900, when Christian Horman acquired it. He bequeathed it to his widow Amelia Horman, daughter Lenora A. Grayson, and son Samuel H. Grayson. D. P. Montague purchased the property from W. S. Allen, trustee for Amelia Horman, on August 15, 1906. The property then passed to Genevieve Allen Montague, who gave power of attorney to Richard H. Kimball. Robert R. Martin established the Martin Hotel in 1924; he was a former porter for the railroad. His niece, Ms. Mayme Martin, a former school teacher from South Carolina, came to help with the hotel in 1930. In 1933, after prohibition ended, the Martin Hotel was the first African-American business to receive a legal beer license in Chattanooga, charging fifteen cents for a bottle of beer. Kimball later sold the property to Richard Huskey and his wife, Deane Huskey, on September 3, 1934. In 1936, Ms. Martin assumed the management of the hotel after her uncle's death and ran it until 1985. Later, this property was sold to the Wilcox family; they, in turn, sold it to the Times Printing and Chattanooga News-Free Press. On July 19, 1977, the Chattanooga Times became the sole owner of the property, which it later transferred to the city of Chattanooga, and then the City of Chattanooga gave the property to the Martin Luther King Community Development Corporation.
On July 1, 1984, the final business permit was issued to the Martin Hotel. On June 30, 1985, the Martin Hotel's business license expired. In November of that same year, it closed its doors after sixty-one years in operation. After several unsuccessful attempts by the Chattanooga Times to save the building and preserve it, demolition of the hotel began in June of 1986: the Final chapter in the life of the hotel was completed.
On February 19, 1993, the Tennessee Historical Commission designated the site of the hotel as a State of Tennessee Historical Site. The state historical marker was erected in May of 1993, and the site was dedicated on May 27, 1993. The committee handling the dedication ceremony consisted of Leamon Pierce (councilman for Chattanooga City Council District 8), Gary D. Kelley, (chief executive officer of the Martin Luther King Community Development Corporation), Ella B. Bryant (vice chair, Chattanooga Board of Education), Dollie Hamilton (co-owner, Post Mark Business Services Center), Elizabeth Green (retired from South Central Bell Telephone Company and former board member of the Martin Luther King Community Development Corporation), and Ronald E. Brewer (regional manager, Community Diversity Development of Tennessee Valley Authority).
Ronald E Brewer