Join Rock City as we celebrate 80 years of creating memories worth repeating! Celebrate all year at our special events and new additions in conjunction with the 80th anniversary including an audio tour, new commissioned art and the return of the gnomes in the new Gnome Valley installation. But much of the attraction remains true to its origins, so the next generation can enjoy what so many around the world have already experienced.

Then & Now Photos

Slide the Gnome to travel through time!

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History

Rock City Garden’s history as a world-famous tourist attraction dates back to the days of the Great Depression, but its history as a geological marvel extends several million years before that. Historical evidence shows that Native Americans inhabited Lookout Mountain, and in 1823 two missionaries arrived in the area and described “a citadel of rocks.” During the Civil War, both a Union officer and a Confederate nurse speculated in separate diary entries that one could see seven states from atop the summit.

In 1924 Garnet and Frieda Carter began developing a residential neighborhood on the top of Lookout Mountain. They named the community “Fairyland” because of Frieda’s interest in European Folklore. Fairyland’s 700 acres encompassed the legendary Rock City, which Frieda set out to develop into a spectacular rock garden.

Frieda marked a trail that wound its way around Rock City’s giant rock formations, ending at the outcropping known as Lover’s Leap. She collected wildflowers and other plants and had them transplanted along her trail. Entrepreneur that he was, Garnet realized his wife had created something there that lots of other people might be willing to pay to see. The rest, as they say, is history.

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Timeline

  • 2011 Rock City, in partnership with Saving Our American Raptors, releases two peregrine falcons into the wild and partners with Amicalola Deer Park to improve the habitat for its white fallow deer. One of the first Chattanooga-area commercial EV charging stations for electric cars was installed in the summer.

    2012 Rock City celebrates its 80th anniversary!

  • 2002 Corn is planted at the foot of Lookout Mountain below Lovers Leap and the Enchanted Maize begins.

    2005 Rock City adds Critter Classroom and a new events pavilion.

    2006 Rock City begins Rocktoberfest celebration in October.

    2007 Shamrock City is celebrated in March at Rock City.

    2009 Rock City holds its first Southern Blooms Festival in May and introduces the pink Rock City Birdhouse in October in partnership with the Scenic City Survivors to promote breast cancer awareness. Rock City works with a local artist, Isaac Duncan, to install the first (of many) permanent art pieces at Rock City.

  • 1991 Seven States Flag Court added.

    1992 Rock City purchases Confederama, a Civil War diorama presentation, then located at the foot of Lookout Mountain. Since, it has moved to the top of Lookout Mountain in the Lookout Mountain Civil War Historical district and has been renamed “Battles for Chattanooga.” Cliff Terrace restaurant and Gift Shop are opened.

    1994 The Enchanted Garden of Lights—Rock City’s holiday spectacular, lights up Lookout Mountain.

    1999 See Rock City Inc. purchases the Grandview Mansion and begins catering to meeting groups, weddings and receptions.

  • 1982 “Chirp” the birdhouse truck is added.

    1983 Mother Goose begins Rock City’s outreach program by visiting schools in the South East teaching school children about the importance of reading and manners, and sharing with them the many wonders of Rock City.

    1980s See Rock City birdhouses are included in the Henry Ford Museum.

    1985 William Chapin (Bill) purchases Rock City from his father, becoming a 3rd generation owner of Rock City Gardens.

  • 1970s Rock City adds Fudge Kitchen.

    1970s The Big Rock Café, a full service restaurant opens at Rock City.

    1970s Rock City’s barn advertisements are placed in the Smithsonian.

  • April 1960 Lover’s Leap was featured on the cover of Life magazine. The foldout panoramic photograph introduced a special section on Southern attractions.

    May 10, 1964 Mother Goose Village is completed and opened.

    June 20, 1964 Frieda Carter passes away.

    1965 Highway Beautification Act is enacted calling for strict regulations on roadside signs. Rock City was forced to reduce advertising on barns. A peak of almost 900 barns was reduced to fewer than 200 by the end of the decade.

  • 1952 Rock City birdhouses are developed.

    June 21, 1954 Garnet Carter passes away. The Washington Post and the New York Times noted his death.

    1950s “Rocky” became the Rock City mascot and The Cornerstone Station (the city fire hall) becomes a part of Rock City and of the Fairyland Community.

  • 1946 Rock City begins billboard-advertising campaign.

    1947 Fairyland Caverns Opens.

    1948 Hundreds of barns in a dozen states now had the SEE ROCK CITY slogan emblazoned on their rooftops.

  • 1930 Workmen begin building a trail of stepping-stones along the path Frieda Carter had created in her mountaintop garden.

    May 21, 1932 Rock City Gardens opens to the public.

    1935 Famous barn roof advertising begins. As Clark Byers begins traveling throughout the United States offering farmers a free paint job for their barn as long as it includes the now world famous slogan “See Rock City.”

    1939 Entrance to Rock City moved from round building to trail entrance building.

  • Nov. 15, 1905 Garnet Carter weds Frieda May Untermoehlen. In 1924 the couple, with O.B. Andrews, option 300 acres atop Lookout Mountain for their Fairyland development. That development is now known as Lookout Mountain.

    April 17, 1927 Concrete Road up Lookout Mountain completed.

    1928 Garnet Carter creates Tom Thumb Golf, the world’s first miniature golf course. He sells all American rights for Tom Thumb in 1930.

  • Legend of Lover’s Leap. Sautee was a brave from a tribe that was feuding with the Cherokee Indians. Nacoochee was the beautiful daughter of the Cherokee Chief. The two met and fell in love. When Nacoochee’s father discovered this love he condemned Sautee to death by being thrown from the precipice of Lookout Mountain. Nacoochee was forced to witness this death and was so distressed that she leapt from the cliff to her death. Since that day forward this cliff has been known as Lover’s Leap. Historical evidence indicates that both Creek and Cherokee tribes inhabited Lookout Mountain prior to the introduction of European settlers to the area.

    1800s Early European settlers began exploring Lookout Mountain and referred to the aggregation of giant unusual-shaped stones as “Rock City”. They observed stones as high as three-story houses and crevices that formed natural streets and lanes.

    Feb. 9, 1883 Garnet Carter was born in Sweetwater, Tennessee.

  • Pre-History
  • 1900s
  • 1930
  • 1940
  • 1950
  • 1960
  • 1970
  • 1980
  • 1990
  • 2000
  • 2010

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