Even on the Fourth of July, Chattanooga’s Bluff View Art District was open for business! It’s a place unique unto itself — an artist colony of sorts, offering historic lodging, a noteworthy museum, artists’ renderings, and places to relax and eat inside or out. In fact, all of downtown Chattanooga is unique – an upscale city devoted to renovation, reclamation, and relaxation.
Bluff View Art District is the epitome of quiet elegance in the heart of the city.
My husband and I left Knoxville on July 3rd in time to position ourselves on the Walnut Street Bridge for Pops on the River in Coolidge Park and then watch colorful, dramatic fireworks burst and dance to the music of the night.
But the Fourth was ours for exploring on our own, so we headed to the District.
Near the Back Inn Cafe, a tall whirligig-like sculpture let us know this is no ordinary shopping area. This is as artsy a place in Tennessee as you can find.
Our first stop? River Gallery, in the former Dr. Edward Newell home. We spotted suspended glass orbs beckoning us inside to take a closer look.
Known for showcasing the creative art of some of the area’s finest craftsmen, the gallery offers variety in form, function, and medium.
River Gallery is celebrating 20 years in business with a special exhibit, Collecting Thoughts. Although it runs from August 1 to 31 this year, we were privy to some of the art that day by Nancy Kubale, Roelna Louw, and Susan Parrish. (Here’s where the viewpoints part of this post comes in: It’s not just art . . . these pieces make statements!)
We left River Gallery and walked past other buildings like Renaissance Commons, a stately building now used for private events and the District’s holiday buffets. Originally this was a quadruplex, then a duplex, and now one of the area’s most tasteful examples of urban renewal.
The Bluff View Inn is really a conglomerate of three turn-of-the-century homes repurposed as Bed & Breakfast Inns: the Maclellan House, the T. C. Thompson House, and the C. G. Martin House. An 1889 English Tudor, The Maclellan House offers seven guest rooms, a honeymoon suite, and several original furnishings.
The Bocce Court Terrace, named for the game of bocce brought to America by Italian immigrants, offers unparalleled views of the river and a place to relax.
Built with salvaged architectural elements on the site where another home previously stood, Rembrandt’s Coffee House sells paninis, soups, artfully packaged chocolates, and gourmet desserts. It was definitely abuzz with activity on the Fourth. We took time to relax, have lunch, and meet some of the people out and about that day.
Listed in the Smithsonian Institute’s Archives of American Gardens, the River Gallery Sculpture Garden fascinates young and old with creative pieces that grace the courtyard and the bank below, leading to the river. It’s not unusual to see people looking closely at the sculptures or relaxing in this urban setting so removed from busy city life.
The Bluff View Bakery occupies my favorite structure, the former Powers & Condon building. Even on the Fourth of July, workers baked fresh bread in Chattanooga’s oldest artisan bakery and hand twisted pretzels for the restaurants and B & B’s in the area.
We asked Sharon why they were working on the Fourth, and she replied, We have to get the bread ready to sell at Blue Cross, Blue Shield tomorrow. To the employees.
And so it was, that we, too, had fresh bread to take home that afternoon as one last souvenir from the Bluff View Art District.
You can see Bluff View Art District in a day, including a quick tour of the Hunter Museum, but you may want to spend more time than that. It’s easy to get caught up in the shops, open air sculptures, and the fascinating architecture of the district. So much to see. So many view points.
For a historical overview of the Bluff View Art District and a timeline of the district’s development, click here.
For more on the Hunter Museum of American Art, click here, and be sure to check out my next blog.
411 East Second Street
Chattanooga, TN 37403
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