Cameron Hill is a significant geographical feature in downtown Chattanooga. Originally having a point mirroring that of Lookout Mountain, only lower, Cameron Hill was the site of Union cannon emplacements and fortification for the defense of Chattanooga during the American Civil War, 1861-1865.
An economic boom witnessed development of Cameron Hill into a social gathering place, with a casino, a German-style beer garden, a scenic overlook and the city's first incline, which followed the path of the present-day Fourth Street ramp onto Highway 27 south.
At the turn of the century, Cameron Hill became one of Chattanooga's premiere neighborhoods with prominent citizens like banker Dwight Preston Montague, constructing some of the city's largest homes.
In 1904, as part of the commemoration of the battles for Chattanooga and the development of the Chickamauga-Chattanooga National Military Park, a section of land was set aside for Boynton Park. The park included cannon emplacements, a pavilion, decorative water fountain, benches and plaques detailing civil war battles.
As Cameron Hill's neighborhood fell into decline with some of the larger homes now used as businesses or divided into rental units, talk of development along Chattanooga's west side began. In 1957, in order to cleanup the city's western entrance, city officials proposed the Westside Redevelopment, which in addition to creating businesses, a school and government housing, proposed to cut off the top half of Cameron Hill. Though opposed by some citizens, the city moved forward with these plans as lower portions of the eastern hillside were removed to make room for construction of Highway 27 and the Olgiati Bridge. In 1962, the southern portion of the ridgeline was lowered and the top half of the hill removed.
The City of Chattanooga sold the northern section of Cameron Hill to Oxford Cameron Development Company in 1974. The company immediately began construction of the apartment complex, which opened in 1975 and still occupies the site.
Who the hill is named for
James Cameron: Originally from Scotland, Cameron arrived in America with his parents in 1833. He studied and practiced art here and abroad, eventually moving to Nashville with his wife in the early 1850s. Soon after his arrival, Cameron met prominent Chattanooga Colonel James Whiteside, who was serving in the state senate. Whiteside offered Cameron the chance to come to Chattanooga where he promised to help him find commissions for his art. In gratitude for his work and donations of landscape paintings to the city, Whiteside gave Cameron land on the hill.
Prepared for BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee by Patrice Hobbs Glass, November 2004.