1907 - The 'W Road' Signal Mountain, TN

SOURCE: Library of Congress Digital Archives


Many people find these hairpin turns intimidating and avoid it. I grew up on Signal Mountain (atop Walden's Ridge) and can navigate the 'W' with ease. I do feel fortunate, however, that I don't have to get out of the carriage due to low horsepower (two) as the well-dressed folks in this photo are doing.


At the outbreak of the Civil War, only a few families lived on Walden's Ridge. One landowner, Josiah Anderson, completed the Anderson Pike as a toll road across the ridge. This gave the people of Sequatchie Valley access to the railhead at Chattanooga. The tollgate, initially located at the top of the "W Road", was later moved to the home of James C. Conner, who built a Toll House in 1858. He was also the first sheriff of Hamilton County. His family operated a tollgate on Anderson Pike until the 1880's.

When cholera struck Chattanooga in 1873, several wealthy families headed for the open spaces of Walden$s Ridge. They found relief in the clear air and pure water and were soothed by the health-giving waters of Mabbitt Springs. Summertown, now part of the Town of Walden, grew from the cabins these families built. One of the homes, "Topside", still stands today. The yellow fever epidemic of the South in 1878 sent more people to Walden's Ridge. By then additional cabins and several boarding houses had been built in the Summertown area.

The 'W Road' today

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