Most Of R.H. Hunt's Exquisite Buildings Live On

by John Shearer
posted February 22, 2007

With the recent opening of the City Hall time capsule after approximately 100 years, noted architect R.H. Hunt’s name has reappeared.

But many of his buildings have never disappeared.

Even though he died in 1937, Mr. Hunt’s buildings still dominate the Chattanooga landscape almost like Lookout or Signal Mountain.

One is City Hall, and that is why a promotional sheet advertising some of his buildings was among the items pulled out of the time capsule on Feb. 7.

Other local structures he designed are the Hamilton County Courthouse, the James Building, the Maclellan Building, Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences, Second Presbyterian Church, the Chattanooga Bank Building, the Millers Building the Carnegie Library, the covered-up First Tennessee (Hamilton National) Bank building, the Medical Arts Building, and the Federal Building, among many others.

The old First Baptist Church and YMCA on Georgia Avenue and the Pound/News Building on 11th Street are among his more prominent structures no longer standing.

His buildings still dot the skylines of other cities as well. According to some information given to the Bicentennial Library several years ago by Franklin Associates Architects, which has a number of his plans in its archives, he designed at least 400-500 structures around the South.

He also did work in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia. He even designed a Baptist school in China.

Most of his work seems to be churches, some of which he reportedly designed for free. He also did schools, government buildings and other structures out of town.

Among the more interesting ones found on the list include the Huntsville Daily Times building in Alabama, some buildings at Mississippi State University in Starkville and at other colleges, the Bradley County Courthouse in Cleveland, the Polk County Courthouse in Benton, and the Coca-Cola Bottling Co. in Danville, Va.,

Although he primarily did larger structures, he also designed a few residences. The list says that he did homes in Chattanooga for such residents as Thomas Myers, J.C. Henderson, G.E. Henson, son-in-law T.G. Street and Mr. and Mrs. G.W. Bagwell.

The list must not be totally complete, because he also designed the courthouse in his native Elbert County in Northeast Georgia, and it is not listed.

UTC art and architecture professor Dr. Gavin Townsend, who has studied R.H. Hunt in detail, believes that he had one of the largest architectural firms in the Southeast.

“He involved his family in the enterprise, hired scores of draftsmen, and accumulated projects in just about every state from Virginia to Florida and North Carolina to Texas,” said Dr. Townsend. “He had a reputation as a reliable, competent, religious man, and this won him many commissions, especially for churches.”

Evidently, he was as skilled with his mouth as he was with his drawing hand. “He was a very accomplished salesman,” said longtime Chattanooga architect Ted Franklin of Franklin Associates Architects.