Actually, the advertisement was painted on 900 barns in the Southeast and Midwest United States.
All my life I’ve seen the barns, but never paid any attention to them. Sounded like a tacky tourist trap with statues of rock turtles or something.
But then in July while in Georgia for conferences, I compiled a “Ten things to do in Northern Georgia list,” and everyone kept telling me to SEE ROCK CITY – especially at Christmas when the lights were on.
Well, I don’t think I’ll be in Northern Georgia/Southern Tennessee around Christmas, but I was there last week.
Sue and I were in Chattanooga for a conference and had a couple hours to spare before set up.
Being that Rock City is on Lookout Mountain and Lookout Mountain is in Chattanooga, we decided to satisfy our curiosity and see what Rock City was all about. (Tennessee and Georgia sort of merge together in this area. You zig zag back and forth between the two states.)
Actually, I had no idea. Well … except for that preconceived notion about rock turtle statues.
So, we drove up the mountain to SEE ROCK CITY.
You kind of have to go back to the beginning to get the full story.
In August of 1823, two missionaries came to the area to minister to the Native Americans. One of the missionaries wrote in his journal that there was a “citadel of rocks” on top of the mountain. He described the size of the rocks and that they were placed in such a way to give one a feeling of streets and lanes.
In November of 1863, a Civil War battle took place on the mountain (The Battle Among the Clouds) which was the setup for the later siege of Atlanta.
The area had already been labeled Rock City back in the 1800s because of the “streets and lanes” among the boulders.
Then Garnet Carter purchased 700 acres on top of the mountain and his property included Rock City. His goal was to open a resort/neighborhood. He would call it Fairyland. The name came from his wife’s interest in European Folklore – in particular gnomes and fairies. (I guess Fairyland sounded better than Gnomeland.)
Interesting side note. One of the things Carter wanted to do was build a golf course on the mountain. When the development of the course took too long, he decided to miniaturize golf and instead built the Tom Thumb Golf Course – the first miniature golf course ever. The course was so successful, that he franchised the concept. (For awhile, Hollywood studios refused to allow actors and actresses to play at a Tom Thumb golf course because the popularity of the courses was overtaking the popularity of movies!)
Then the Depression happened and even though he had made more than a million dollars on his golf courses, Carter sold the franchise to Heinz (of pickle fame). With the money, he opened Rock City.