John Shearer: 2 Forgotten Photos Of Lyndhurst Mansion Rediscovered

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Over the years, the legend of the Lyndhurst mansion in Riverview seems to have grown.

Built about 1910 and designed by Atlanta architect W.T. Downing, the 34,000-square-foot structure was one of the largest and most elegant homes in the South of its era.

The fact that it was torn down in 1960 for the construction of some mid-century homes added to its mystique, as did the story that it was vacant for nearly 20 years before being razed.

The wealth that homeowner J.T. Lupton had gained from bottling such an identifiable drink as Coca-Cola and the benefiting foundation named after the home have also kept the structure somewhat in the public eye.

While the attention on the home located off Riverview Road just a couple hundred yards north of the current Riverview Park has been great over the years, the number of photographs of it has been small.

Besides a couple of photos taken from the air and one or two taken from the front, few other photographs seemed to have been published in recent decades or are easily accessible to the public domain.

But a recent glance at some old bound volumes of Zella Armstrong’s The Lookout magazine on file at the Chattanooga Public Library uncovered two more.

Suzette Raney from the library staff has tried to go through and index names and references in the volumes of the periodical local magazine published by the noted social writer and historian of the early 20th century, and she found several references to Lyndhurst.

I decided to check through her listings and found two photographs I had not seen before. One, in an April 1923 edition and which ended up scanning in kind of a grainy quality, shows the first-ever close-up of the back of the home I have ever seen.

Virtually every window has an awning over it, perhaps due to the fact that the backside of the home faced the setting sun in those pre-air conditioning days. Numerous fireplace chimneys are also present.

One can also get a feel for what the terraced gardens area in the back must have looked like.

The other, from an April 1931 magazine, shows Mr. Lupton in a Marmon Club Roadster in front of the home. Marmon was a popular higher-end car of the early 20th century.

The Marmon company was known for such innovations as inventing the rear view mirror. A Marmon also won the first Indianapolis 500 in 1911.

The caption below the picture of Mr. Lupton said the car had been displayed in auto shows in New York and Chicago.

Mr. Lupton’s son, Cartter, who in the late 1920s built a nice home a few yards south of Lyndhurst, must have inherited his father’s interest in automobiles. He had a grease bay in his garage and liked to drive the more-modest Pontiacs.

Since this photo was taken apparently not long before the older Mr. Lupton’s death in 1933 and after the Luptons had lived in the residence for more than 20 years, Lyndhurst has a little more lived-in look. The curtain/drapes treatment on one of the windows looks a little uneven, for example.

But most consider Lyndhurst a perfect example of fine residential construction from that era.

Besides visually enhancing the Scenic City through nice homes, the Luptons played a large role in the growth of Chattanooga’s culture and education. That continued through Mr. Lupton’s late grandson, Jack Lupton, who helped revitalize Chattanooga’s riverfront.

And that cultural altruism has continued with his children as well. For example, Jack’s daughter, Alice L. Smith, is being honored this week at the Hunter Museum of American Art as one of the recipients of the Ruth Holmberg Arts Leadership Award. The late musician Booker Scruggs II is also being recognized.

The event is to take place at a facility that includes the former home of another Coca-Cola bottler, George T. Hunter, although the structure was built by Ross Faxon.

The influence of Coca-Cola bottling on Chattanooga definitely did not fizzle out, and now two more photos continue to show its visual and cultural impact in a historical sense as well.

Now all we need are some elusive interior shots of Lyndhurst!

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