Day Trippin’: Read House Chattanooga
I just got home from a short 2-day work trip to Chattanooga, and while I’ve visited the area in the past, I really didn’t get the full grasp of all there is to see and do until this trip. Chattanooga is growing into quite the fun little hub for food, drink, retail and entertainment; in fact, many folks I know in Nashville are stealing away there for their weekends when they’re sick of fighting the tourists and traffic of Music City, USA. Being a short 3 ½ hours from the Tri-Cities, it also makes for a great overnight or weekend getaway when you need a change of scenery from the Appalachians in our neck of the woods, and I cannot recommend The Read House Hotel enough for your accommodations. I feel that where you lay your head to rest is the most important aspect of any trip, and in that regard, you will not find more comfortable beds anywhere in the great state of Tennessee than at this historic hotel. This is hands down my preferred place to stay when I travel for work OR leisure because The Read House has it all- history, opulence, indulgence, sex appeal, reported hauntings and bedding that rivals mine at home.
Over the last 150 years as the longest continuously operated hotel in the South, this building has endured the Civil War, historic floods and housed many famous names including Winston Churchill, Elvis Presley, Oprah, Al Capone and multiple pre-presidency politicians. In 2017 the building underwent a major $28 million renovation, restoring it to dazzling jazz-era elegance that would make the Great Gatsby clutch his mustache. Black and white checkered marble floors lay the foundation for oversized emerald green furnishings, massive glittering chandeliers, and rich mahogany walls that stretch to at least 50ft ceilings, while cheerful 1920s jazz is pumped softly throughout the entirety of the hotel’s shared spaces. To the left of the main lobby lies a bar and billiards room, where cocktails waitresses don flapper finery to serve up incredible prohibition style cocktails. If you’re hungry for a more formal dinner, down the hall to the right of the front desk is Bridgeman’s Chophouse, named after Peter Bridgeman who spent almost 5 decades of his life employed at the hotel. As you might expect, steak is the name of the game here, but their sides are incredible as well-don’t you dare pass up the White Truffle Mac & Cheese or Brussels Sprouts. I don’t even care for brussels sprouts, and these are life-changing. Read House has an extensive whiskey portfolio that far exceeds 200 as well as an impressive wine list with offerings at all price ranges. I actually opted for a $48 bottle of Ripasso that was outstanding with my filet; in fact I enjoyed it more than the $20 per glass Bordeaux I was drinking on the first night of my trip.
The hotel has 2 options for rooms: the Historic Tower and the Manor Rooms. Make sure you opt for the Historic Tower, as it seems they spent the bulk of the renovation funds here, while skimping a bit on the Manor. The rooms are massive and each one is designed slightly different, some with French doors leading to the powder room, some with short hallways inside. These rooms are totally sexy- lush, purple drapery is surrounded by framed hands holding smokey cigarettes and studded mirrors. The beds truly are the most comfortable I’ve stayed in during all my extensive travel across the state, being the perfect combination of cloud-like mattress and pillows topped with crisp white linens. The bathrooms have massive walk-in showers, tiled in era-appropriate black and white, with gleaming chrome fixtures at every turn. Considering The Read House offers room service, it’s sometimes extremely difficult for me to find reason to leave the confines of my rented space for the evening. If you do have reason to leave the room and be productive, you’ll be delighted to know in addition to the bar and restaurant, there is also a full-service fitness center, indoor pool, a library and even an in-house Starbucks.
One of the most interesting aspects of The Read House that can’t be overlooked is its haunted history. Room 311 has been the subject of many a ghost hunter, and somehow I missed this eerie piece of information until I was assigned room 312 on this last stay. During a conversation with one of my clients I casually mentioned I was staying at The Read House on this trip and he replied “Ooh spooky. Are you in Room 311?” Which caught me off-guard, as I was in fact staying across the hall in 312. I said “No but are you psychic?” At that point he told me to Google it and I was immediately inundated with thousands of articles, images and videos recounting the haunted happenings surrounding that particular room. Long story short, a woman named Annalisa Netherly was beheaded while in the tub by her jealous lover in 1927 after he caught her with another man. Many people have recounted paranormal activity in the space over the years, and now the room is only rented out around Halloween. When I retired to my own room across the hall for the evening, I noticed that the door to 311 was completely different from all the other doors on the floor, which I’d overlooked on my previous check-in. According to a report from The New York Post, when the new owners did the 2017 renovation, they wanted to appease Annalisa’s spirit as much as possible, so they designed that room from start to finish in 1920s furnishings, which includes an AM radio, a clawfoot tub, an original pull chain toilet and no television in addition to the vintage doorway. You can tour the room virtually on their website if you’re unable to book a stay in fall and still want to check it out.
I’m somewhat disappointed to report that my close proximity to Room 311 did not result in anything going bump in the night, however a stay at The Read House is going to be all treats and no tricks any time of year. Its prime location downtown puts you within spitting distance of the Chattanooga Choo-Choo, the aquarium, ball park, and myriad fine dining and retail experiences. Most places are totally walkable, or a short Uber ride away. I promise you will not be disappointed with your visit to our neighbors in the Southeast if you choose to check out this lovely and storied building.