Architect Pics: Reuben Harrison Hunt of Chattanooga

While I was in Chattanooga last week, I decided to see if I could find the gravestone of Chattanooga architect R.H. Hunt, who designed a wealth of landmarks around Mississippi and throughout the Southeast from the 1890s through the early 1930s. I found an extensive obituary from 1937, and it told me that he was buried in Forest Hills Cemetery, south of downtown. Googling the name I was pleasantly surprised to find that the cemetery not only has a searchable database, it also posts detailed maps online that allowed me to find Hunt’s grave virtually in about 5 minutes flat. It’s always so shocking when research doesn’t take nearly as long as you expected.

I was disappointed to find on arrival though that Hunt’s grave marker is overgrown by a bush, and is not what I had hoped would mark the grave of such an important architect.

By my count, Hunt designed at least 100 buildings in Mississippi, almost all of them major landmarks in their communities. He especially influenced the university campuses around the state, including the MUW, MSU, USM (designing both buildings and the campus plan), Mississippi College (also campus plan), and Blue Mountain College. His work extended from small-town banks to massive churches, city halls and courthouses.

Today, I’m posting pictures of just a few of Hunt’s Mississippi buildings, and tomorrow’s post will include pictures from his home base in Chattanooga, where he brought the first skyscrapers to the city, along with many other landmarks (just to whet your appetite: he embraced the Art Deco style late in his career).

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Categories: Architectural Research, Columbus, Cool Old Places, Courthouses, Jackson, Mississippi Landmarks, Natchez, Schools, Starkville, Universities/Colleges

16 replies

  1. Wow… thank you very much for this post, EL. This architect’s work is the landscape of my childhood. I spent summers in Jayess, and have driven past the Lawrence County Courthouse and that Georgetown bank many times, wondering who designed them. Thank you for inspiring me to stop and know our architecture and architects.

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  2. Great buildings!

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  3. Forget all that Modern stuff, these are historic buildings; that’s what I call architecture.

    But Malvaney, no Lee Hall, no Middleton Hall in your fancy slideshow? :-)

    I am not an expert at tombstones and funerary art, but Hunt’s tombstone could be replacement. It seems a little too new, like something that would be placed on someone’s grave in the last 20 or 30 years. Or it could be that he (or someone else) did not spend top dollar on a tombstone he would not personally enjoy.

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    • *sigh*

      There’s no pleasing some people! I pulled the pictures I had, and this is what I had. The day I was at MSU earlier this year, it was raining off and on, so that’s why the Montgomery picture is so dreary (I actually had to boost the contrast to get it to where it is) and the Carpenter shot just magically appeared as I was walking across the drill field and the sun peaked through and I grabbed it. Otherwise, I had no luck getting Lee or any other campus landmark. Sorry to disappoint.

      As for Hunt’s grave marker, I’m pretty sure it’s original, surrounded by several identical ones for other family members. As I’ve been venturing out into the cemeteries looking for architects’ markers, I’ve found that they are much more simple than our friend William Nichols’–sometimes even less information than on Hunt’s. Our architects apparently felt their buildings would speak for them, not their tombstones.

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  4. I toured a great R. H. Hunt building in Milledgeville, Georgia today. Was prolific and did a lot of good work, at least what I’m [now] familiar with, including this:
    Ennis Hall
    and this:
    The Tabernacle

    And – I’m sorry W. White, I don’t think it’s a good idea to “forget” the “Modern stuff,” since a preservationist’s work never ends (and BTW has a sliding window of “significance”).

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  5. Obviously, I agree about preserving both the Modern and the “real historic,” but I still stand by my vow to retire from the field when we start having classes on how to preserve original Dryvit. :-)

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    • One could make the case that you have already traveled part of the way down that road with your post about historic sheetrock, the material that made plaster and lathe passe and helped usher modern (i.e. inferior) materials into architecture. I am not going to make that point because I enjoyed your post about historic sheetrock and apparently sheetrock has been around since the 1910s, making it sufficiently historic for my tastes. I personally prefer plaster and lathe, except when I have to hang something on the wall.

      As for the tombstone, Hunt’s family could have ordered the stones at a later date, which is why they all match. Or, and more probably, Hunt’s family ordered all the footstones at the same time in the 1930s and the large headstone later. My great-grandparent Whites ordered their marble headstone and footstones in 1951, making them rather anachronistically old-fashioned when my great-grandmother died in 1979. Besides, its not Hunt’s marker that looks out of place, it’s the headstone.

      Next time you need a MSU picture, I will lend you a photo or two. You actually have a better Montgomery Hall than I do, none of mine have come out to my satisfaction as the light is usually all wrong for that building.

      I love mentioning Modernism and saying bad things about it. It’s like hitting a hornets’ nest with a stick and running away quickly.

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    • Five demerits for you, W! To quote Admiral James T. Kirk, you of all people should understand the dangers of re-opening old wounds!

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  6. Hi El Malvaney. I am Antonio Henrique . I live in Brazil Rio de Janeiro . Theses days I made a discovery . The Church that I belong was desaing for R.H. Hunt . Is The First Baptist Church in Rio De Janerio . Built in 1928
    You can write me to my email henriquepibrj@hotmail.com . I have some photos.

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  7. I have worked in the Miller Brothers building 7th and Market, Chattanooga, Tn. since 2009. Mr. Hunt built it for the Miller Brothers Dept. Store in 1898. A fire had destroyed the 6 story Richardson Building that had stood on that corner in 1897. Samuel Patton was the architect of the Richardson Building. He lived on the 6th floor. They never found his body. He had declared the building to be “fire proof” a Mr. Ewing also died. He fell six floors off the fire escape to 7th street. The story made the New York Times April 4 1898. “BIG BLAZE IN CHATTANOOGA”

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Trackbacks

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