Lookout Mountain Hotel and the James and Olive Porter House Listed in the National Register of Historic Places

Atlanta, GA


Lookout Mountain Hotel was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on February 27, 2019. The property is perched atop the western brow of Lookout Mountain in northwest Georgia, just south of Chattanooga, Tennessee. The nomination was sponsored by Covenant College, the property owner, and nomination materials were prepared by consultants, Lord Aeck Sargent.  

Built in 1927 and nicknamed the “Castle in the Clouds,” Lookout Mountain Hotel is a five-story grand resort hotel designed in the Tudor Revival style by architect Reuben Harrison (R.H.) Hunt. Lookout Mountain experienced a boom in tourism in the 1920s and the hotel, along with other attractions, such as the Fairyland Inn (1925), Rock City Gardens (1932), and Ruby Falls (1930) were built to support tourism, drawing visitors from great distances. The tourism boom was primarily due to the mountain’s proximity to the Dixie Highway and the 1927 paving of the mountain’s roads. This new wave of tourism also brought changes to hotel design, such as larger buildings and more amenities; Lookout Mountain Hotel offered a swimming pool, tennis courts, a miniature golf course, croquet courts, horseback riding, and “dancing under the stars,” weekly dances held at The Overlook, hosted by nationally-recognized band leaders supplemented with hired dance stars. Earlier hotels were designed to focus attention on the natural surroundings and offered guests privacy and solitude, rather than entertainment and social functions of the early 20th century hotels. This trend, of bringing amenities commonly associated with urban life to the country is noted in David Stradling’s Making Mountains for creating “an urban atmosphere in the mountains ... [that] did not center on the consumption of nature, let alone wilderness.” Lookout Mountain Hotel, though certainly capitalizing on the natural setting, focused much of its promotion on the ‘scene’ rather than the scenery. Period newspaper headlines frequently indicated the importance of society and socializing at the hotel.

In addition to its significance in the area of entertainment/recreation, Lookout Mountain Hotel is also significant in the area of architecture as a representative example of the Tudor Revival style and the work of prominent local architect R.H. Hunt. Tudor Revival was a romanticized early-20th century style and often features parapeted gables, ornamental false half-timbering, stucco or masonry-veneered walls, and crenellated towers. At the hotel, the style is also reflected in the interior spaces with details such as oversized stone fireplaces, plaster coat-of-arms ornamentation, and rusticated woodwork seen in box beams, brackets, modillions, and half-timbering. R.H Hunt, a prolific Georgia-born architect, based his practice in Chattanooga, Tennessee and reportedly designed between 400 and 500 buildings during his career. He was recognized as an outstanding craftsman in his field, and a 1980 thematic National Register nomination notes his focus on public buildings and utilization of popular architectural styles of the time. Among many others, he is credited with design of the Tivoli Theatre, Carnegie Library, and Hamilton County Courthouse in Chattanooga, TN, and the Baptist Tabernacle (now a music venue) in Atlanta.


The James and Olive Porter House was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on January 31, 2019. Originally located on 27.5 acres south of downtown Macon, the house was moved in 2013 to its current location on Tucker Road at the southeastern edge of Wesleyan College’s campus in Macon (Bibb County). The property owner sponsored the nomination, and the Historic Macon Foundation prepared the nomination materials.   

During the summer of 1927, philanthropists James and Olive Porter vacationed in Normandy, France. The couple drove throughout the countryside, marveling at the chateaus, grand estates, and cottages and determined if ever given the opportunity, they would build their own French-inspired house closer to home. Later that same year, the chance arose and the pair consulted with prolific Macon architect, W. Elliott Dunwody, Jr. to design a chateau-inspired “Normandy peasant cottage” on the outskirts of Macon. Dunwody, a Macon native and graduate of the Georgia Institute of Technology, designed many residential, commercial, and institutional buildings in the region and across Georgia.

The Porter and Dunwody consultation resulted in the 1928 James and Olive Porter House. Built as part of a larger country estate, the house was moved to its current location following encroachment of its rural setting by a local church. The house has an asymmetrical, nearly V-shaped footprint consisting of two rectangular wings converging at a corner tower with a conical roof. Clad in a whitewashed brick veneer, the house has a complex, terracotta tile roof with a front-facing gable projection creating a covered porch. Other character-defining features include single and paired three-light casement windows, decorative brickwork, and half-timbering.

The James and Olive Porter House is significant in the area of architecture for its association with Dunwody. Despite a substantial catalog of design employing the various popular styles of the time, this house appears to be his sole documented example of a French-style estate. In addition to being an anomaly in Dunwoody’s design portfolio, the house is also a good example of the French Eclectic style, as defined in McAlester’s A Field Guide to American Houses. The round tower with conical roof, half-timbering, varied hipped roof massing, casement windows, and arched entrance are all indicative of the style.

The National Register of Historic Places is our country's official list of historic buildings, structures, sites, objects, and districts worthy of preservation. The National Register provides formal recognition of a property's architectural, historical, or archaeological significance. It also identifies historic properties for planning purposes, and insures that these properties will be considered in the planning of state or federally assisted projects. National Register listing encourages preservation of historic properties through public awareness, federal and state tax incentives, and grants. Listing in the National Register does not place obligations or restrictions on the use, treatment, transfer, or disposition of private property. 


 #             #             #


For more information contact National Register and Survey Program Manager Stephanie Cherry-Farmer at 770-389-7843 and stephanie.cherry-farmer@dnr.ga.gov.

For press inquiries contact Historic Preservation Division Outreach Program Manager Allison Asbrock at 770-389-7868 and allison.asbrock@dnr.ga.gov