Shout It From Rooftops: Rock City Rocks

Posted July 11, 2007 11:43 a.m. EDT

— Rock City Gardens, a Southern icon advertised on barns and roofs from Chattanooga to Chicago, recently celebrated its 75th anniversary.

Just six miles south of Chattanooga, Tenn., and atop Lookout Mountain in Georgia, the gardens boast hundreds of native plants, caves and soaring rock formations. What was once a distraction during the Great Depression is now a family experience.

"Rock City is ... one of the few remaining roadside attractions that continues to draw families to see the wonders of Lover's Leap, Seven States Flag Court and Fat Man's Squeeze," said Bill Chapin, president of See Rock City Inc. and a third-generation descendant of founders Garnet and Frieda Carter. "Our mission is to create memories that people will want to repeat with their loved ones, and we continue to see that as grandparents bring their grandchildren to experience the wonder that they remember from their own childhoods."

First-generation visitors can tell others the story of Nacoochee and Sautee and how Lover’s Leap got its name. Or they can walk in Deer Park where the rare white Fallow deer -- descendants of species transported here from Europe in the 1930s -- can be spotted in the wild.

Other attractions include the 15-acre preserve’s swing-along bridge that spans nearly 200 feet and a few new things that have been added in a $1 million expansion underway for the Founder’s Day events.

The privately owned destination has come a long way from its beginnings 75 years ago, but the Carters' marks remain. Whether it’s the 400 native plant species Frieda Carter planted to make the garden, or the miles and miles of roadway dotted by Garnet Carter’s ingenious marketing ploy of painting barns, Rock City is the proto-typical American roadside stop.