|By Mike Pare, Chattanooga Times/Free Press, Tenn.|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Oct. 1, 2004 - After years of partial renovations, a $12 million revamp of Chattanooga's Read House is to be finished this month when the hotel will unfurl a Sheraton flag, officials said Thursday.
"It will bring more recognition to the Read House nationally," said general manager Dean Gerstein about the historic hotel's Sheraton affiliation.
Operators of the 243-room property, under renovation since January, hope to quadruple its business in the coming year. While the standard corporate rate is $104, the hotel also has two high-end presidential suites for $500 per night.
"The renovation is allowing us to add luxurious amenities and personalized service to the hotel's already rich history and breathtaking architecture," said Mr. Gerstein.
Among the amenities are a club lounge on the 10th floor and a new indoor pool, Jacuzzi and work-out center on the ground level.
David Falor, president of hotel owner Falor Companies, said workers gutted the 78-year-old hotel. While preserving its historic nature, the hotel's carpet, beds and curtains were replaced, he said.
"This hotel is going to be second to none," said Mr. Falor.
Katie Loftin, the Read House's corporate sales manager, said the hotel will feature free high-speed wireless Internet access throughout.
Meeting space has increased to 19,500 square feet, she said, including a part of the former Green Room restaurant and one-time retail businesses along M.L. King Boulevard.
"We expect to increase our meeting-room business, and not just local but overnight," said Ms. Loftin.
Earlier, a Starbucks coffee shop and Porter's Steak House opened off the hotel's redone lobby. The former gift shop in the lobby will become a business center, said Ms. Loftin.
Mr. Falor said the hotel's transformation aligns it with downtown Chattanooga's rebirth.
"This hotel has grown with the Chattanooga community," he said.
Tom Pugh, general manager of the nearby Chattanooga Marriott, said it and the Read House will compete on small guest stays, but having more quality rooms is good for the city.
"This will open up more opportunity to have larger groups," he said.
The hotel is built on the site of the former Crutchfield House, which opened in 1847. According to Read House officials, Jefferson Davis stopped in Chattanooga after resigning from the U.S. Senate and spoke to a crowd in the lobby on his way to Mississippi.
The hotel was occupied by Union forces and converted to a hospital in 1863. It burned down in 1867.
In 1871, Dr. John T. Read and his son built a new hotel on the site. In 1926, the present 10-story brick building was constructed, and it has housed such varied guests as Winston Churchill, Eddie Rickenbacker and Al Capone, according to officials.
In 1977, the Read House was included on the National Register of Historic Places.
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