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"See Rock City" Barn Roofs Lead to Chattanooga, Tennessee

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Rock City Gardens, 1400 Patton Rd. Lookout Mountain

Rock City Gardens, 1400 Patton Rd. Lookout Mountain

Visiting Rock City

My husband and I visited Rock City during the first vacation trip we took after we married many years ago. It was not the focus of our vacation which was the Smoky Mountains. After seeing numerous barns and mostly barn roofs advertising this site in many States leading to Chattanooga, Tennessee, we decided to stop and see what the fuss was all about.

I remember hearing my grandparents describe this site on road trips they had taken years earlier. So the words "Rock City" were not new to me.

It was happenstance that we stayed a the lodging on top of Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga. We had made reservations at a place in Chattanooga. After viewing the room, we decided not to stay there. The room was musty-smelling, so we drove on up to Lookout Mountain and fortunately found a place to stay near Rock City, which we wanted to experience.

Fortunate? Well, I'll share our experience, and you be the judge.

Lookout Mountain

This mountain, which at its tallest peak is at an elevation of 2,392 feet (729 meters), is situated in parts of three states. They are Alabama (most of the mountain is there) and Georgia, as well as Tennessee.

Native Americans were the ones who originally populated the areas around and including Lookout Mountain.

During the Civil War, the Battle of Lookout Mountain took place, and there are reminders of this in nearby locations.

Mountains always seem to draw visitors. People enjoy the clean air and fresh breezes. Others like the views. Some like the challenge of rock climbing, and photographers are always interested in the scenery.

Today located in the Chattanooga, Tennessee part of Lookout Mountain is an Incline Railway, the caves of Ruby Falls, a hang gliding school, and the area known as Rock City, which is what we wished to see while there.

Rock City Gardens (Good overview of Rock City)

Frieda and Garnet Carter

To earn money, enabling them to stay and live on the mountain, some early settlers ran places of lodging for rental purposes. The Carters had other ideas.

Frieda Carter had an interest and knack for gardening and. in particular, rock gardening. She worked at developing pathways through the natural surroundings, which already had beauty and interesting rock formations. Adding colorful plants, which had labels as to the type, and adding bits of whimsy such as folklore statues, it became a place that people wished to see.

Frieda's husband, Garnet Carter, developed a miniature golf course on Lookout Mountain. But his most successful idea, which lured people from all over to come and "See Rock City," was the painting of barns and barn roofs advertising the site.

Farmers happily let others paint their barns at no cost, which meant that was one extra job that they would not have to do for themselves. As dozens of painted barns turned into hundreds of barns, all with the advertisement pointing people to See Rock City, naturally, people became interested in finding out more about this site.

Rock City opened to the public in 1932. By the 1950s, barns from the upper midwest, down to Texas, advertised Rock City. It was genius marketing, and as long as the paint held up, it was long-lasting free advertising!

Painted barn advertising Rock City

Painted barn advertising Rock City

Painted Barns

That is undoubtedly what drew both sets of my grandparents to visiting Rock City and why I was familiar with it long before I got to see it in person. I remember hearing their stories about this beautiful and unusual site.

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Remember, in those days before the Internet, word of mouth became some of the best advertising. As my grandparents traveled to and from the South for winter vacations (both living in Wisconsin at the time), it was hard to ignore seeing the numerous barns all advertising this place. Curiosity alone probably would have spurred them to check it out.

Visiting Rock City became a generational thing. First my grandparents, then my parents, and finally my husband and I got to see and enjoy it.

Image of my husband posing at Lovers Leap, Rock City.

Image of my husband posing at Lovers Leap, Rock City.

Since we had no reservations, the first thing we did after driving up the mountain was to secure a place to spend the night. We were happy to discover some little cottages right near Rock City, and after putting our suitcases in the room, we walked over to see it.

It was getting late in the day, and we wanted to see as much as possible before darkness obscured the views.

Getting dark as we explored Rock City

Getting dark as we explored Rock City

It is marvelous how the pathways wind around the natural features, and the gardens were lovely. Frieda Carter spent much time and thought in developing this tourist site.

We made it (I am happy to report) through Fat Man's Squeeze and enjoyed the humor used in labeling the rock formations.

Since we were there in October, the colors of the tree leaves were resplendent.

Brilliant foliage at Rock City in October

Brilliant foliage at Rock City in October

Jelly Glass Incident

It was getting quite dark before we ended our visit and returned to our room for the night. That is when we discovered that there was no lock on a door to an adjoining room!

We rigged up some hangars that would fall if anyone tried opening the door, thinking that would be our warning system. Since it was a one-story cottage, we did not feel comfortable leaving windows open for the night. We live in Houston, the 4th largest city in the U.S., and we are cautious.

In the middle of the night, I accidentally knocked a jelly glass (that was the original purpose) off of the small pedestal sink in the bathroom, and it broke. The bathtub behind the curtain revealed a not-so-clean appearance, so we opted out of using it.

We did not get the best night of sleep and were happy to leave there in the morning. When we reported the broken glass when checking out, the owner told us that she was glad that we told her, and because of that, she would not charge us for the expense.

Expense! It was an old jelly glass!!! I wonder to this day what value she placed upon it?

The name of the place now escapes my memory, but if a nearby motel is still there with cottage units and you check it out, and it looks similar to my description, make sure whatever you do that you do not break her used jelly glasses! There are undoubtedly better accommodations by now. That was almost forty years ago. (Smile)

Rock City Gardens, 1400 Patton Rd. Lookout Mountain

Rock City Gardens, 1400 Patton Rd. Lookout Mountain

Ruby Falls

We did not have the time to see Ruby Falls. Below is a video of this waterfall that is in an underground cavern within Lookout Mountain.

Lookout Mountain Incline Railway

The Incline Railway is another attraction in the Lookout Mountain area. It was built in 1895, and it is reputed to be the World's Steepest Incline Railway with a 72.7% grade near the top.

Because of this, it has been declared not only a National Historic Site but also a National Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark.

You can see terrific views of Chattanooga and the surrounding countryside from the top of Lookout Mountain. The video shows this as well as the journey going both up and down.


Rock City is one tourist spot I would recommend visiting. I wish we had counted the barn roofs advertising this site on our way to Chattanooga, Tennessee. Suffice it to say it was many!

Just like the old saying, "All roads lead to Rome," all (or most) barn roofs lead to Rock City!

Sign at Rock City on Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, Tennessee

Sign at Rock City on Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, Tennessee

Rock City Gardens


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2011 Peggy Woods


Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 04, 2019:

Hi Rajan,

I am pleased that you enjoyed learning about this place and that it reminded you of the rock garden in your city of Chandigarh. That sounds like it would be very interesting to visit.

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on May 02, 2019:

The rock city is beautiful and reminds me of the rock garden in our city of Chandigarh which was developed by Nek Chand, a government official, who for years worked secretly creating a paradise in a gorge in a forest, collecting scraps of all types to build it all alone until it was discovered 18 years later.

Loved the inclined railway video and the other attractions around as well.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 01, 2016:

Hi Susan,

I'm so glad that you got to view Rock City. Thanks for the correction regarding the Incline Railway. We did not get a chance to take it or view the other sites you mentioned. If ever back in that area I would like to do so. Too bad they do not sell combination tickets for all three. Or perhaps they do? It certainly gives vacationers to that area much to do and see. :)

Susan M Macdonald from USA on June 29, 2016:

My family and I just went to Rock City a week or two ago. After decades of seeing all the barns and birdhouses, I finally got to "see Rock City" and it was worth the trip. One thing, though: the Incline Railway does NOT take you to Rock City. It goes up. You get out, admire the view, go to the giftshop, and if you want, walk to Battles For Chattanooga Museum and Point Park (a Civil War museum and a small national park), then go down again. Rock City, Ruby Falls, and the Incline Railway all sell tickets for each other, but the three -- we learned to our dismay -- are not in walking distance of each other.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 30, 2011:

Hi Phyllis,

Glad to be able to introduce Rock City and Lookout Mountain to you via this hub. Am sure that if you visit there next summer, you will be pleased to see this site for yourself. Thanks for your comments.

Phyllis Doyle Burns from High desert of Nevada. on October 30, 2011:

Great hub and photos, Peggy. You make me want to plan a trip there for next summer. Thanks.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 30, 2011:

Hi Alastar,

I see that you and my husband agree on that score. Haha!

Phyllis Doyle Burns from High desert of Nevada. on October 30, 2011:

Peggy, I have never heard of Rock City and Lookout Mountain before -- so glad I cam across this great hub of yours! Beautiful photos, too. Thank you.

Alastar Packer from North Carolina on October 30, 2011:

Yeah, the articles were the best part...haahaa!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 30, 2011:

Hi Alastar,

Too bad some of those old cannon balls were not kept and passed down. Or maybe they ended up in museums?

My husband had quite a Playboy collection of magazines and many years ago when we were in a clearing out mode...he sold them. Would probably be more valuable today, but unless one has unlimited storage...can't keep everything! He said that he always enjoyed the articles. :))

Alastar Packer from North Carolina on October 30, 2011:

Never saw one so I guess maybe they were left behind when went off to school or WW2. They WOULD be highly collectible now wouldn't they. Once he found out I'd looked over his playboy mags as a young boy and threw em all away...including the first Marylin Monroe one worth several thou now!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 29, 2011:

Hi Alastar,

The swinging bridge at Lookout Mountain did not bother me. Will take note about the jelly glasses and treat them with better respect in the future! Ha! We drank out of similar glasses when growing up...the "waste not, want not" theory. Good sense actually! Does your dad still have those cannon balls? Would probably be quite collectable! Thanks for your comment.

Alastar Packer from North Carolina on October 29, 2011:

How did you like the swinging bridge Peggy. Another good pose with your husband about to take a dive there. And I'm surprised at you, everyone one should know jelly-glasses are prized possessions in Seriously though, what a cool place Rock City is. My father was from Chattanooga and one of the last things he told me was how he wished we could have gone there together. His home was near Lookout Mt. where he would often find cannon and minee balls in the fields. Thank you Peggy, thoroughly enjoyed this visit.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 26, 2011:

Hi agusfanani,

Rock City truly is a beautiful place with all the natural rock formations and the plantings. Am sure that you would make it through Fat Man's Squeeze just fine! Haha! Thanks for your comment.

agusfanani from Indonesia on October 25, 2011:

Rock City is a very attractive place to visit for its many interesting objects to enjoy and I think the view of the Lovers Leap makes it more special, and The Fat Man's squeeze really makes me curious what it's like.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 25, 2011:

Hi JamaGenee,

Funny you should mention raspberry vinaigrette. We recently bought some raspberry infused balsamic vinegar that we are LOVING at the moment! Great over fresh sliced strawberries and other fruit. Maybe you will still find a home for your jelly! Ha!

Joanna McKenna from Central Oklahoma on October 25, 2011:

Peggy, great idea! Wish I'd thought of it before my son moved out of state! Otherwise, I can't think of anyone to gift with the remaining jelly, but can relate to the raspberry jelly you bought for a certain recipe. A friend and I went ga-ga over Raspberry Vinaigrette one year, so I bought a bottle shortly before it lost its charm for regular use. Finally tossed the still almost-full bottle in a fridge cleaning! ;D

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 24, 2011:

Hi Hello, hello,

So glad that you appreciated this look at Rock City. Thanks for leaving a comment.

Hello, hello, from London, UK on October 24, 2011:

An absolutely amazing piece of nature. Thank you, Peggy for showing this to us.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 24, 2011:

Hi Patty,

Thanks for taking the time to read and learn about Rock City. That barn roof advertising works! It got you here! :)) Appreciate the comment and votes.

Patty Inglish MS from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on October 24, 2011:

I agree that the photos are fantastic. Rememberng those Rock City signs on barns, I've always wondered about the place. Now I see it! Rated Up and Awesome.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 24, 2011:

Hi JamaGenee,

Oh the things we do for nostalgia purposes! Ha! My mother was a jam and jelly eater and my husband and I rarely touch just recently gave away the jar of strawberry jam that was opened and taking up space in our refrigerator to a friend who has sons who would eat it. If we were ever tempted to purchase some, it would have to be the tiniest jar available. I once purchased an expensive raspberry jelly for a cookie recipe...but had my mother to eat the rest. I was giving the cookies away also. Now I will simply pass on anything that calls for jams or jellies...and/or give the excess away.

Do you have friends or neighbors who would empty your jelly for you and return your jelly jar? Perhaps that is your answer! :))

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 24, 2011:

Hi AliciaC,

There are many places around the world that I would also never know about if it were not for the terrific HubPage writers sharing information about places near where they live or others they have visited. Makes for some great armchair traveling! Thanks for letting me know that you enjoyed this hub about Rock City in Chattanooga. Appreciate it!

Joanna McKenna from Central Oklahoma on October 24, 2011:

Peggy, you'll probably laugh when I tell you the last time I bought jelly, I picked a brand that comes in the same kind of "glass" we drank milk, iced tea and lemonade from when I was a kid! Problem is, I don't often put jelly on toast or eat many PB&J sandwiches, so it's going to be awhile before that jelly jar becomes a beverage container. ;D

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on October 23, 2011:

This is another of your very enjoyable travel hubs which lets me explore places that I'd love to visit but probably never will. Thanks for the interesting information, photos and videos. I've learned about a place which I never knew existed!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 23, 2011:

Hi Happyboomernurse,

When I grew up jelly jars were regularly used as glasses for fruit juice and milk in our house. Those were the days of "waste not, want not." Just did not expect to see that in a rental cottage at Rock City on Lookout Mountain years later...and actually would not have cared. But when it was broken by accident, to learn that we would not be "charged" for it...knowing that essentially it was free to begin with ...that was a laughable moment we will long remember. Ha! Thanks for your comment.

Gail Sobotkin from South Carolina on October 23, 2011:

Thoroughly enjoyed this "trip" and all your descriptions, personal photos and the videos. The underground waterfall was amazing and I loved the picture of your husband standing on the lover's leap rock.

Don't think I could have gotten across the swinging bridge but you looked good on it!

The jelly jar story made me laugh as I do remember those jelly jars that were meant to be used as glasses.

Voted up across the board.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 23, 2011:

Hi LuxmiH,

No doubt that string of cottages on top of Lookout Mountain is long gone. Our visit was in 1971...a long time ago. Surely there are much better places to stay when you plan to visit Rock City. An Internet search will be helpful. That did not exist as it does today when we visited...just the AAA and Mobil guides. Thanks for leaving a comment and votes.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 23, 2011:

Hi Judi,

Ohh...that would have been nice! A bit late now. If I hadn't wanted to become a registered nurse, I think that becoming a flight attendant would have been right up my alley because of all the travel opportunities. If I had a do-over...hmmmm! Thanks for your comment.

Luxmih Eve-Lyn Forbes from Fort Pierce, Florida on October 23, 2011:

Rock City... I've been through the State of TN, but I confess that I was totally oblivious to Rock City.

Your article has tweaked my interest. Next road trip that way, I will make a point of including that enroute. I don't think I'll be staying in any cottages though, sounds like I could miss that sort of experience. (They may not be under the save management even if they still exist.) Voted up and useful.

Judi O from Texas on October 23, 2011:

Another interesting and beautiful hub. I can't help but wonder what your writings would be like if you worked for the airlines and traveled the world! Thanks for sharing.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 23, 2011:

Hi France Travel Inf,

Aha! I have been to the Biltmore Estate. Did not realize that it was near Grandfather Mountain. It is hilly there! :))

France Travel Inf on October 23, 2011:

When you visit Grandfather Mt don't miss out on a stop at Biltmore.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 23, 2011:

Hi Darlene,

Will have to take a look at a map and see in what part of the State of NC Grandfather Mtn. is located. So they have a swinging bridge there also, just like Rock City? If you don't like heights and swinging bridges, you would surely not like the Capilano Suspension Bridge in Vancouver! That is the longest one that I have ever personally walked across. Thanks for your comment.

Darlene on October 23, 2011:

Have not been to Lookout Mtn, but visited Grandfather Mtn in NC. Being afraid of heights the swinging bridge there just about did me in. Not a pleasant memory at all.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 22, 2011:

Hello djsky24,

Hope you get to explore Lookout Mountain and also Rock City someday. Am sure that there must be plenty of rock climbing areas around there. Thanks for your comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 22, 2011:

Hello France Travel Inf,

Glad that this posting about Rock City in Chattanooga, Tennessee could bring back some happy family memories of time spent there for you. Thanks for your comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 22, 2011:

Hi JamaGenee,

It was too late to seek other lodgings for the night when we discovered the lack of a lock because of going to Rock City while there was still some daylight left. Oh well...just one of those memorable experiences long remembered and later laughed about. Not so funny at the time, however. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 22, 2011:

Hi Candie,

I've missed hearing from you. Hope all is well in your world. Glad you enjoyed this hub about Rock City. We still laugh over our lodging experience there. Thanks for your comment.

Nowhere Man from U.S. on October 22, 2011:

this was great! looks like another place I want to go climbing has just been added to the map. Great information.

France Travel Inf on October 22, 2011:

Rock City is truly a wonderful place (along with the Incline Railway and the Aquarium) in Chattanooga. Our children ranged from to 13 when we went --- it was one of those places on "Mom's list" and it turned out that the children loved it as much as the adults.

Thanks for posting!

Joanna McKenna from Central Oklahoma on October 22, 2011:

How interesting! Great photos! Barn roof advertising is used a lot to advertise several caverns and other tourist attractions in Missouri. But I'm 99% certain I've seen ones for Rock City too. Never mind I always thought it was in Missouri. (Who REALLY pays attention to these things these days when whizzing along the interstate at 70 mph?)

Was nice you weren't charged for the jelly glass "because you mentioned it", but did you also think to ask about the absence of a lock on the door between the rooms? ;D

Candie V from Whereever there's wolves!! And Bikers!! Cummon Flash, We need an adventure! on October 22, 2011:

To one of my favorite travelers! You take us to the greatest places, and give us great stories and some interesting backgrounds of the places you stay! Thanks Peggy for another great hub!

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